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Pai Gow Poker Strategy

Since you only play against the dealer and not other players, Pai Gow Poker strategy is not as rich as regular poker strategy. Nevertheless, you will obviously benefit from playing an optimal game.

Pai Gow Poker Tips

Below is a chart of the Pai Gow Poker 'house way', that is, the strategy that must be followed by the house dealer.

It also happens to be the optimal strategy for your own game.

The house way may vary between casinos, but the differences are very small, usually without any importance at all.

Pai Gow Poker – The House Way

No pair

  • Play the highest card in the five-card hand and the next two highest cards in the two-card hand.


One pair

  • Play the pair in the five-card hand and the next two highest cards in the two-card hand.


Two pair

  • Pair of aces and any other pair – always split.

  • Face-card pair and pair sixes or higher – always split.

  • Two pair of sixes or below – never split.

  • Any other two pair – split unless the hand contains an ace, then play the ace in the two-card hand.


Three pairs

  • Play the highest pair in the two-card hand.


Three of a kind

  • Play the three of a kind in the five-card hand except with three aces. With aces, play a pair of aces in the five-card hand and ace high in the two-card hand.

  • Two three of a kind – play the lowest three of a kind in the five-card hand and split the higher three of a kind to play a pair in the two-card hand.


Straight

  • Play as five-card hand.

  • Six-card straight – play the highest card in the two-card hand.

  • Five or six-card straight with a pair – play the pair in the two-card hand.

  • Straight with two pair – follow the two-pair rule.


Flush

  • Play as five-card hand.

  • Six-card flush – play the highest card in the two-card hand.

  • Five or six-card flush with a pair – play the pair in the two-card hand.

  • Flush with two pair – play the two pair rule.


Straight and a flush

  • A flush and a straight with no pair – play the combination that results in the highest two-card hand.


Full house

  • Split except with a pair of deuces or if an ace-king can be played in two-card hand.


Four of a kind

  • 2 through 6 – play in five-card hand.

  • 7 through 10 – split unless a pair or an ace and a picture can be played in the two-card hand.

  • Jack through king – split unless a pair of 10:s or higher can be played in the two-card hand.

  • Aces – split unless a pair of 7:s or higher can be played in the two-card hand.


Straight flush

  • Play in the five-card hand.

  • Split if the hand contains two pair of 10:s or higher, or a pair of aces and any other pair.

  • If the hand contains any other two pair and an ace – play the 2 pair in the five-card hand and the ace in the two-card hand.

  • Play a straight or flush instead of the straight flush if it causes a picture card or higher to be played in the two-card hand.


Royal flush

  • Play in the five-card hand.

  • Royal flush with a pair - play the pair in the two-card hand.

  • Royal flush with two pair - play the two pair rule.

  • Split the royal flush if an ace, king or a pair can be played in the two-card hand while retaining a straight or flush in the five-card hand.


Five Aces

  • Split unless a pair of kings can be played in the two-card hand.


The simplest way to arrange your hand is to click the "house way" button on your screen. This will signal the casino software to organize your five-card and two-card hands in what it thinks is the optimal way, the same way it organizes the dealer's hand.

However, if you don't trust the house way or simply don't find letting the computer organize your hand to be as much fun, follow the instructions above.  


Pai Gow Poker Odds

So what chance do you have of winning in Pai Gow and what’s the house advantage?

A little more than 40 percent of the time, one of the player's hands will beat the dealer/banker and the other will lose to the dealer/banker. This results in a push with no one winning.

The other 60 percent of the time is split fairly evenly.

However the dealer/banker has about a 1.5 percent edge over the player because the dealer/banker wins copies, meaning if two hands are the same (e.g. both players have AA in the front), the dealer/banker wins that hand.

The house may also take commission on winning bets. Sometimes up to five percent. This obviously increases the casino’s edge.

So before you start playing, make sure you find out the rules for the specific casino you’re in, whether online or offline.

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