Pai Gow Poker is a poker based casino game played against the dealer. It’s played with a 53-card deck – the standard deck of 52 cards plus one Joker. On each deal, you and the dealer each receive seven cards, which must then be split into two hands, one 5 card hand and one 2 card hand. Then your two hands are played against the dealer’s two hands to determine whether you win, lose or tie (push).
Pai Gow Poker is one of the most popular casino games in the US mostly because it requires some strategy and skill but is still very easy to learn and master and US players love these features. Fans of the game also like the fact that you can spend a lot of time playing with a limited bankroll, as there are lots of pushes which prolong the game.
You receive 7 cards to start the game. You then split the cards into 2 hands – one of 5 cards and one of 2 cards. Once you’ve done that, your 5 card hand plays against the dealer’s 5 card hand, and your 2 card hand plays against the dealer’s 2 card hand. If both of your hands are better than both of the dealer’s hands, you win. If one of your hands is better but the other is worse, it’s a tie (Push). If both the dealer’s hands beat yours, you lose the game.
To determine a winning hand, the standard poker hand rankings apply. For your 5 card hand, the best possible hand is 5 Aces (using the Joker as an Ace). While for your 2 card hand, the best possible hand is a pair of Aces (Flushes and Straights aren’t possible with the 2 card hand, as you need 5 cards to complete Flushes and Straights).
It’s a rule of the game that your 5 card hand must rank higher than your 2 card hand. So if you are dealt only one pair, for example, that pair would have to be kept in your 5 card hand when you split your cards.
In Pai Gow Poker, the deck contains one Joker. That Joker can only be used to complete straights and flushes. Otherwise it counts as an Ace. And if you and the dealer each have an identical hand, the dealer wins that hand.
The Dealer has a “house way” of splitting their cards. They don’t modify their split based on the cards you receive, or based on any changing strategy. They always split them using the same strategy every single hand.
Your 5 card hand must rank higher than your 2 card hand. So if you only have one pair in your 7 card hand, for example, that pair would have to be kept in your 5 card hand when you split. If you have 2 pairs in your hand, you could split your hand so you have a pair in each hand. But if you do that, the higher pair must be part of your 5 card hand.
To start the game, select and amount to bet, then hit the “Deal” button. You’ll receive 7 cards. To Split your hand, click on the two cards you wish to use as your 2 card hand, then click the “Split” button. At that time, the dealer’s cards will be revealed and you’ll win, lose or tie (Push).
You win when your 5 card hand outranks the dealer’s 5 card hand AND your 2 card hand outranks the dealer’s 2 card hand.
The dealer wins when his 5 card hand outranks your 5 card hand AND his 2 card hand outranks your 2 card hand.
One of your hands wins against the dealer, while the other loses.
To determine which hand wins, a standard poker rank of hands applies, with one exception – the Ace-2-3-4-5 straight is the second highest straight in Pai Gow Poker.
The basic Poker strategy for this game aims to set both your hands so they have the best chance to win. You want your 2 card hand to be as high as possible, without weakening your 5 card hand more than necessary.
If you do not have any winning poker hands (besides a high card, of course), you should keep your highest card in your 5 card hand and use your 2nd and 3rd best cards for your 2 card hand.
If you have one pair, keep it in your 5 card hand, and put the best two remaining cards in your 2 card hand.
Always split the two pairs into your two hands, unless:
If you have three-of-a-kind, keep it in your 5 card hand and use your next 2 highest cards as your 2 card hand. The exception to this rule is if you have 3 Aces. In that case, use one of the Aces, and your next highest card as your 2 card hand.
If you have a full house, you should always use the three-of-a-kind in your 5 card hand, and the pair as your 2 card hand.
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