Pai Gow – The Rules and the Hand Rankings

Pai Gow tiles

Do you prefer playing Pai Gow Tiles or Pai Gow Poker? Pai Gow Tiles is played with dominoes and Pai Gow Poker is played with playing cards. Pai Gow tile is slow in comparison to Pai Gow Poker. But playing with tiles has its own charm, uniqueness and experience. Here you will find the hand rankings of Pai Gow Tiles and Pai Gow Poker.

Pai Gow Tile

Recall the Basics

Before you understand the rules and hand ranking just recall the Pai Gow Tile game.  There are 32 dominoes used in Pai Gow, which are mixed or shuffled by the House Supervisor.  The dominoes are placed in eight stacks of four each. The Player/Dealer and up to seven players are dealt one stack (four dominoes). The object of the game is to set the dominoes into two hands (front and back, two dominoes per hand) for the best ranking combination. If they are lower, the Player/Dealer wins. When the Player/Dealer and players have the same ranking combinations, the Player/Dealer is the winner.

Rules Of Pai Gow Tiles

  • The game is played with 32 dominoes, each with two sets of dots. Some dominoes, such as the 3:6 and 2:5 (“top:bottom” format), appear only once. Others, such the 6:6 and 1:5 appear twice. Even though some dots are red while others are white, the color is irrelevant.
  • The goal of Pai Gow Tiles is identical to the goal for Pai Gow Poker: to beat the dealer (or technically, the banker when the dealer isn’t banking).
  • At the beginning of a hand, the banker will mix the 32 dominoes and arrange them in 8 stacks of 4.
  • The players (up to 7 besides the banker) will choose their bets.
  • Then, dice are rolled to determine the distribution of the 8 stacks of tiles – each player receives 1 stack.
  • Your job is to arrange your 4 tiles into two hands. Each hand will contain 2 tiles. Each tile (or domino) has a value based on its two sets of dots.
  • If both of your hands beat the banker’s hands, you’ll win and your bet is paid even money.
  • If both of your hands lose against the banker’s hands, you’ll lose your bet.
  • If you win one hand while the other hand loses, you’ll push and your bet is returned to you.
  • If you win both hands, the banker will collect 5% of your winnings as a commission. This is one of the reasons it’s an advantage to act as the banker.

Hand Rankings

Pai Gow tiles

Hand values are calculated by adding the dots on the dominoes and dropping the tens place. As an example a hand comprised of 3:4 and 4:5 would be scored as “6”. Here’s the math: 3:4 equals 7 and 4:5 equals 9. 7 plus 9 equals 16. Drop the tens place digit and you’re left with 6.
A nine is the best hand possible (with a few exceptions )

Days, Teens, Gongs, and Wongs

A 1:1 tile is called a Day.
A 6:6 tile is called a Teen.
If you pair up either of them with an eight (i.e. 2:6, 3:5, 4:4, etc.), the resulting value is 10, not zero. The hand is called a Gong and outranks a nine.
If you pair up either with a nine (i.e. 3:6, 4:5, etc.), the resulting value is eleven, not one. The hand is called a Wong. It too, outranks a nine.
A 1:2 tile and a 2:4 tile are both known as Gee Joon tiles. They can represent a value of 3 or 6, depending upon which yields the best score. For example, suppose that you have a 1:2 tile paired with a 4:5 tile. Normally, with the 1:2 tile representing 3, the hand would be scored as 2 (3 plus 9 equals 12, drop the tens place digit). However, because the 1:2 is a Gee Joon, it can represent 6, giving the hand a score of 5 (6 plus 9 equals 15, drop the tens place).

The Pairs

Among the 32 Pai Gow Tiles, there are 16 possible pairs (as example, a hand comprised of a 2:3 tile and a 1:4 tile). A pair always beats a non-pair hand, regardless of the dots. The ranking of pairs is as follows, starting from the highest score to the lowest score:

  • 1:2 and 2:4
  • 6:6 and 6:6
  • 1:1 and 1:1
  • 4:4 and 4:4
  • 1:3 and 1:3
  • 5:5 and 5:5
  • 2:2 and 2:2 (vertical)
  • 2:2 and 2:2 (horizontal)
  • 5:6 and 5:6
  • 4:6 and 4:6
  • 1:6 and 1:6
  • 1:5 and 1:5
  • 4:5 and 3:6
  • 2:6 and 3:5
  • 3:4 and 2:5
  • 2:5 and 1:4


Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings

Pai Gow Poker

Most Pai Gow Poker hands are ranked according to traditional poker rules.  You’ll remember that the game is played by splitting 7 cards into two separate hands: a 2-card hand and a 5-card hand.

  • The 2-card hand- The best hand you can have is a pair of Aces (or an Ace and a joker). From there, pair rankings descend to a pair to 2’s. If your 2-card hand does not contain a pair, a high card wins. A pretty easy to rank your pai gow poker 2 card hand.
  • As you probably realize, flushes are irrelevant within your 2-card hand. In descending order of value
  • The best 5-card hand you can have is 4 Aces and a joker (which is the same as 5 Aces).
  • You can also have a royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house flush, straight, 3 of a kind, two pairs, single pair and high card.
  • There is one notable exception to traditional poker rankings. Pai Gow Poker hand ranks distinguish an Ace-K-Q-J-10 as a higher-ranking straight than an Ace-2-3-4-5. From there, the highest card of a straight determines its value. For example, a Q-J-10-9-8 outranks a 9-8-7-6-5.
  • Five Aces – A-A-A-A-Joker
  • Royal Flush – 10-J-Q-K-A of the same suit
  • Straight Flush – Five cards of the same suit ranked in order (for example, 5-6-7-8-9 of clubs)
  • Four-of-a-kind – Four cards of the same rank (for example, 7-7-7-7) The highest-ranked cards would win should the dealer and player both have four-of-a-kind.
  • Full House – Three-of-a-kind and one pair. Ties are broken by the highest-ranking three-of-a-kind (for example, Q-Q-Q-7-7 beats a J-J-J-10-10)
  • Flush – Five cards in the same suit, regardless of ranking (for example, 3-6-8-10-J of diamonds)
  • Straight – Five cards of different suits ranked in order (for example, 5 hearts – 6 clubs – 7 diamonds – 8 hearts – 9 spades)
  • Three-of-a-kind – Three cards of the same ranking (for example, 5-5-5)
  • Two Pair – Two sets of pairs (for example, 10-10 and 4-4)
  • One Pair – Two cards of the same ranking (for example, 3-3)
  • High Card – If no one has at least a pair, then the highest-ranking card wins (for example, A-10-5-4-2 beats Q-10-7-4-2)


Some Pai Gow Poker Examples

If you are dealt an Ace of Hearts, Joker, Queen of Hearts, 9 of Clubs, 10 of Clubs, Queen of Diamonds and King of Hearts, here are some hands to think about:

  • Highest hand: A/Hearts-Joker-Q/Hearts-Q/Diamonds-9/Clubs (Two Pairs)
    Second highest: K/Hearts-10/Clubs (High Cards). With this example, the chances of beating the dealer’s highest hand are great, but maybe not the second-highest hand. This results in a push, or tie, which extends your playing time.
  • Highest hand: A/Hearts-Joker-9/Clubs-10/Clubs-K/Hearts (One Pair)
    Second highest: Q/Hearts-Q/Diamonds (One Pair). With this example, the highest hand would probably not beat the dealer’s, but the second-highest hand probably would. Again, another push, but nothing lost.
  • Highest hand: 9/Clubs-10/Clubs-Joker-Q/Diamonds-K/Hearts (Straight)
    Second highest: Q/Hearts-A/Hearts (High cards). The Straight would almost certainly win, and there is a good chance that a Queen and Ace as the high cards would beat what the dealer has for the second highest hand.

You  need to compare both of your hands to both of the dealer’s hands to determine whether you’ve won, lost, or pushed.