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Pai Gow Poker Rules - How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Want to learn how to play Pai Gow Poker? If so, get cracking by reading our article on Pai Gow Poker Rules which will explain all you need to know!

Distinguishing between Classic Poker & Pai Gow Poker

learn how to play pai gow poker rules

Pai Gow Poker Online stems from its classic counterpart Poker. Although the two casino games bear much similarity, there are some differences which distinguish the two in terms of play.

These include the following:

The Rules - The Ins & Outs of How to Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is a great alternative to play at a casino instead of its classic counterpart; Poker. This is especially true for gamblers who feel far more at ease playing a game which has a bit of a slower pace. This particular table game is played using a French deck of 52 cards plus one joker and incorporates rules from both the Chinese game of Pai Gow as well as Poker. If you’re under the impression that this casino game is difficult to play, it’s not as hard as you think. Let CasinoTop10’s experts explain how to play pai gow poker and you’ll be well on your way to playing the game for real money.

  1. On loading your game of choice from one of our online casinos above, you’ll be able to see two buttons called ‘Deal’ and Split’ along with betting chips and your total bankroll. Before the dealer gives out the cards on commencing the game, you’ll have to place a wager. Wagers can be as low as $1 and as high as $500. But this will vary from casino to casino. Ultimately, how much you choose to wager is up to you; the ball is in your court. Once you’ve placed your bet, the amount will be deducted from your bankroll.
  2. After you’ve successfully placed your bet, there’s no going back. The next step you’re required to take is to press ‘Deal’. This will initiate the dealing of the cards to both you as a player and the dealer. Your 7-cards as well as those belonging to the dealer will be dealt face down. So, only you will be able to see your cards.
  3. Once you’ve taken a look at your cards, you’ll then have to rearrange your 7-card Poker hand into two Pai Gow Poker hands that are known as the front hand and the bottom hand. The front hand must always consist of two-cards and the bottom hand must consist of 5-cards.
  4. When you’ve decided on the two cards you’d like to split from the rest of the cards, you can then press ‘Split’. Upon performing this manoeuver, the winning outcome will be displayed.
    • Provided that your two hands are better than the dealers, you’ll win. Bear in mind that when you do win a hand a a 5% commission will be taken by the house.
    • If only one of your hands is better than the dealer’s hand this will result in a push. Hence, you will get back every single cent that you’ve wagered.
    • If both of the dealer’s hands are better than yours, this will result in a win on the dealer’s behalf. Thus, the wagered amount will go to the house.
    • If you happen to tie with the dealer’s hands, the dealer will automatically win the game.
  5. Once you’ve determined if you’ve won or lost, you can go ahead and either click ‘Rebet’ to wager with the same amount or choose another amount.
18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply
18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply
18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply
18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply

Hand Rankings in Pai Gow Poker – How to Set Your Hands

Probably what confuses players most when setting their hands in Pai Gow Poker is how to set them in order to win bag a win whilst playing this slow-paced casino game. Two questions that might pop into your head are ‘Which hand must rank higher, the bottom or the front hand?’ and ‘How are hands ranked?’ Well, if you’re confused, let our experienced Pai Gow Poker players help you out. As a rule of thumb, the 5-card poker hand, known as the bottom hand, must always rank higher than the front hand.

Front Hand Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings

The best front hand you can possibly have is one that consists of a pair of aces or a two-card hand that doesn’t allow flushes. However, provided that you don’t have a pair to place in your front hand, you can also form a hand with a high card and another card. In the front hand, or two-card hand, a pair of aces is the nuts. Second best hand is K-K followed by Q-Q down to 2-2. A-K is the best unpaired hand followed by A-Q, A-J and so on down to A-2. Take a look at the table below to discover which two-card hands beat what.




Ace - Ace A pair of Aces 1st
King - King A pair of Kings 2nd
Queen - Queen A pair of Queens 3rd
Jack - Jack A pair of Jacks 4th
10 - 10 A pair of 10s 5th
9 - 9 A pair of 9s 6th
8 - 8 A pair of 8s 7th
7 - 7 A pair of 7s 8th
6 - 6 A pair of 6s 9th
5 - 5 A pair of 5s 10th
4 - 4 A pair of 4s 11th
3 - 3 A pair of 3s 12th
2 - 2 A pair of 2s 13th
Ace - K An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a King. 14th
Ace - Queen An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a Queen. 15th
Ace - Jack An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a Jack. 16th
Ace - 10 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 10. 17th
Ace - 9 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 9. 18th
Ace - 8 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 8. 19th
Ace- 7 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 7. 20th
Ace - 6 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 6. 21th
Ace - 5 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 5. 22th
Ace - 4 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 4. 23rd
Ace - 3 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 3. 24th
Ace - 2 An unpaired hand consisting of two high cards; an Ace and a 2. 25th

Below that, king-high hands is best, then queen high and so on down to three high, which obviously is the worst front hand you can have.

High Card Ranks in descending order:

A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,4,3,2.

Bottom Hand Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings

If you’ve played Pai Gow Power before, you might have realized that the bottom hand, or the five-card hand, almost follows regular poker hand ranking – the same as in five-card draw, seven-card stud or Texas hold’em. The only difference is that the wheel – straight from ace to five – is considered the second best straight. Consequently, the three best straights are:




Also, Pai Gow is often played with a regular 52-card deck plus a joker. This joker is semi-wild and can be used to complete straights and flushes. If that’s not an option, it becomes an ace. Therefore, having five aces is a (rare) possibility and is the best hand you can have in Pai Gow. Apart from this, the hand ranking should look familiar to most of you. Have a look at the table below to get to know the hand rankings:





5 of a Kind (Non-Standard Poker Hand) A hand which consists of four aces plus a joker.

A ♠, A ♥, A ♦, A ♣, Joker

Royal Flush A hand that consists of a 10,J,Q,K,A of the same suit. Ace ♠, K ♠, Q ♠, J ♠, 10 ♠ 2nd
Straight Flush Five cards of the same suit in a sequence. 3 ♥, 4 ♥, 5 ♥, 6 ♥, 7 ♥ 3rd
4 of a Kind Four cards that are in the same sequence. 4 ♦, 4 ♠, 4 ♥, 4 ♣ 4th
Full House Three cards of a kind, plus a pair. 2 ♥, 2 ♦, 2 ♠, 4 ♥, 4 ♠ 5th
Flush Five cards which belong to the same suit. 2 ♦, 3 ♦, 4 ♦, 5 ♦, 7 ♦ 6th
Straight Five cards which are found in a sequence. 3 ♥, 4 ♣, 5 ♥, 6 ♠, 7 ♦ 7th
3 of a Kind Three cards of the same rank. A ♥, A ♠, A ♦, 5 ♣, 2 ♣ 8th
2 Pair Two pairs of cards which are of different ranks. 4 ♠, 4 ♣, 2 ♥, 2 ♣, 5 ♦ 9th
1 Pair Two cards of the same denomination. K ♦, K ♥, 4 ♣, 9 ♠, 10 ♦ 10th
High Card Five cards which are neither of the same suit or of the same denomination but which rank high when alone. A ♥, K ♠, 10 ♦, 5 ♣, 3 ♣ 11th

Still Unsure of how to set your hand? - Use the House Way

If you’re still unsure about how to rearrange your hands, you should go ahead and use the House Way instead. Clicking the ‘House Way’ button will allow you to organize your two hands in a way which has been preset by the house to be the most beneficial. This proves to be profoundly conventient for players who haven’t played the game too many times. Yet, we will say this about the option; setting your own Pai Gow Poker hands is part of the thrill of playing this casino game. So, perhaps it will be more rewarding if you just rearrange your cards yourself!

The House Edge in Pai Gow Poker

One advantage of learning how to play Pai Gow Poker as opposed to other online casino games is the fact that on playing it you’ll be able to enjoy a low house edge. In fact, the house edge is typically about 2.9% at casinos. However, this typically varies from casino to casino. Although this already quite low, you’ll be able to reduce the house edge by following a simple strategy.

Payouts & House Commission in Pai Gow Poker

If you happen to be playing Pai Gow Poker and find that lady luck is on your side, you’ll be glad to know that players are paid 1:1. However, 5% of the total winning amount is usually taken as house commission. So for example, if you’ve bet $500 and managed to beat both of the dealer’s hands, this will result in a win on your part. Thus, you’ll be able to leave with the cash provided that you give them 5% of your total winnings.

Pai Gow Poker Terms


Ante: The initial bet you place during your Pai Gow game is called an Ante.


Banker: The person who takes bets for the hand is called a banker. In brick-and-mortar casinos, the players typically take turns being the banker. However, in online casinos, the dealer is always the banker.

Back-hand: A back-hand is the rem which describes a 5-card hand after the 7 card-hand is split into 2. One hand consists of 2 cards (this is the front hand) and the back one will consist of 5 cards.

Betting Spot: A betting spot is where you as a player place money during a game.

Bankroll: The money you’ve dedicated to playing Pai Gow Poker is called your bankroll. You can learn more about how to manage your money by reading CasinoTop10’s article on Pai Gow Money Management.


Copy Hand/Copy: A copy hand is a hand that ranks the same as the dealer’s hand. In this case, the house would always win.

Co-Banking: This particular option is available at some land-based casinos, but not all. Co-banking occurs when the house and the player are 50/50 partners.


Dealer: Whilst playing Pai Gow, like most other table games, your cards will be dealt by the casino’s dealer.

Dragon Hand: This type of hand occurs as a result of the dealer handing out cards in empty spots around the Pai Gow table. If this occurrence arises when you’re playing the game, any player at the table can opt to bet on the hand and play with two hands. Yet, if nobody bets on the hand, the cards will be removed by the dealer.


Front Hand: The name of the two-card hand which is typically placed in front of the 5-card hand called the backhand. This is also sometimes referred to as the Low hand.

Flush: A hand which consists of any five cards that are all of the same suit.

Four-of-a-kind: A hand which contains four kinds of the same value.

Full House: A full house consists of three cards of a kind plus a pair.

Fouling your Hand: This occurs when the front hand outranks the backhand.


High-hand: A high-hand, which is also known as ‘Hand Behind’ or ‘Bottom Hand’, is the 5-card hand which is found behind the Front Hand that consists of 2 cards.

House Edge: The house edge is a term that is used to describe the mathematical advantage the house has over the player in a particular casino game.

House Way: A prearranged strategy that is used by a dealer when setting their hands. When playing Pai Gow Online you as a player will also have the option to use the ‘house way’.

House chips: Instead of money, casino chips are used instead in order to represent your bankroll which is similar to other table games.


Joker: A card that works as a ‘wild card’ in Pai Gow. This can be used to substitute a particular card in order to form a winning hand.


One-Pair: Two cards of the same denomination are called a pair.


Pair: Two cards that match in rank are called a pair. For example, A King and a King would be a pair.


Royal Flush: When you acquire a 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace which happen to be of the same suit.


Singleton: A card that is not identical in rank to any other card. In effect, it does not form a pair.

Shoe: The shoe is the place the cards are dealt from. Typically, Pai Gow is played by using a deck of 52 cards plus one joker which is used as a wild card.

Split: This refers to the action performed in separating you’re the 7 cards a player has been dealt during the first phase of the game. Once the player has selected the two cards to be split from the rest of the cards, they will be split into a front hand from a backhand.

Straight: A hand with five cards in a sequence regardless of suit is called a straight. For example: 9-8-7-6-5


Three-of-a-kind:  A hand that has three cards that are all of the same ranking.

Two Pair: A hand which consists of two pairs is called a two pair. For example, having two Kings and two Queens would be considered 2 pairs.


Win:  A win in Pai Gow occurs when a player has both a high hand and low hand which beat that of the dealer.

Wild Card: See Joker. Only one is available in each deck of cards.

Follow the Pai Gow Poker Rules and Start Winning BIG

Now that we’ve managed to break down the rules for you, you can actually recognize how simple it really is to learn how to play Pai Gow Poker! Practice playing the casino game before depositing your bankroll to an online casino. If you’ve experienced playing the casino game for real-money before at brick-and-mortar casinos and you’ve acquainted yourself with all the differences in the online version of the game, you can go ahead and start placing your chips on a digitalized version of a Pai Gow table and rearranging your poker hands to your benefit. Sign up to one of our ranked and reviewed online casinos from our comprehensive list and get ready to be in the running of winning huge amounts of cash which you can use to splurge on yourself or another fun-filled trip to the casino!

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