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Get to know Pai-Gow Poker Rules

Now it’s time for my page all about pai gow poker rules. As you may have read on some of my other pages, the rules for this interesting card game owe a lot to its ancient Chinese ancestor, the domino game of pai gow. There are also many rules that are steeped in tradition, this being such an old game. And there are also a couple of pai gow poker rules that are a little different than regular poker. With this game being a descendant of such an ancient Chinese game, there are sure to be some things that are different from traditional poker, but if you know anything at all about poker, you won’t have a very hard time with the rules to this game.

One thing that is different is that pai gow poker is played with a Joker in the deck. Keep reading, and you will see how this affects the two hands. To begin a hand of pai gow poker, you are dealt all 7 of your cards immediately. Pai gow poker rules state that the object is to divide your seven card hand into a five-card (“Highest” or “back”) and a two-card hand (“2nd Highest” or “front”). The five-card hand must always outrank the two-card hand; this is where the terms “Highest” and “2nd Highest” originate. The reasoning for talking about the front and back hands is immediately apparent when you start playing the game, as the two-card hand is laid out closer to the dealer (front) and the five-card hand is positioned closer to you (back). Both of the hands are ranked the same as in traditional Poker, except that with pai gow poker rules, there is a Joker that acts as a wildcard, and an A-2-3-4-5 straight is the second highest straight; which means that it actually outranks a King-high straight. The two-card hand can only consist of a pair or individual cards. The highest two-card hand is a pair of aces and the lowest is a 2-3. If you’re playing pai gow poker online, it’s possible that the software will have an option for dividing up your cards the “House Way”. This means that, just like a Blackjack or Baccarat dealer must follow certain rules about how they must play their cards, the dealer in pai gow poker must follow strict rules for dividing up their cards into two hands. Most online pai gow poker games will have an option for automatically divide up your cards using the same rules as the dealer. This can be very useful when you’re first learning the game.

As stated above, there is a joker included in the deck when playing pai gow poker. Pai gow poker rules say that the joker can only be used to complete a straight, a flush, or a straight flush (in the 5-card hand), otherwise it is always treated as an ace. In fact, when included in the front hand, it is always considered an Ace. Below are some of the most common pai gow poker rules that are used by the House. Keep in mind that every casino has its own version of these rules, so don’t count on this being the case wherever you choose to play.

If the dealer’s hand has:
  • No pair, they will put the highest card in the back and the next two highest cards in the front.
  • One pair, they will put the pair in back and the next two highest cards in the front.
  • Two pair, they will put two pair in back, but will split them based on the rules for the particular casino.
  • Three pair, they will put the highest pair in front.
  • Three of a kind, they will put three of a kind in back, but may break up three aces.
  • A full house, they will usually split it, putting the pair in the front.
  • A full house with three of a kind and two pairs, they will put the highest pair in front.
  • Three of a kind twice, they will always put the highest pair in front.
  • Any straights, flushes, straight flushes, or royal flushes:
    • they will always put the straight or flush in the back hand but will sometimes play as two pair, depending on the card ranks.
    • with a six or seven card straight or flush, they will put the highest possible hand in front while maintaining the straight or flush in back.
    • they will usually play a straight or a flush over straight flush to improve the front hand.
    • they will usually play a straight or flush over royal flush to improve the front hand.
  • Four of a kind, they will play according to the rank of the four of a kind, using rules particular to that casino.

Having said all of that about pai gow poker rules, there is only one thing remaining to say. How do you know if you won? This is a very simple matter to decide, especially since neither the player nor the dealer may draw any more cards after the initial deal. Once you have decided on the setup of your two hands, the cards will be turned over, and if both of your hands beat the dealer’s, you are the winner. Keeping in mind that only a front hand can beat a front hand; the same with the back hands. The opposite also holds true with pai gow poker rules; if both of the dealer’s hands beat the player’s, the dealer wins. The only option remaining is that of a tie, or “push”. If one of the player’s hands beats the dealer’s and the other doesn’t, then it is considered a tie, or push, and you get your bet returned. And remember that you can visit my learn to play pai gow poker page for more info on the rules of this fantastic game.

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