Pai Gow Poker is an ancient game introduced to the U.S. with the influx of Chinese laborers in the early 19th century who played the game with tiles, similar to those used in the game of Dominos. Eventually, the game was adapted into a form of poker, with playing cards substituting the traditional tiles.
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The object of the game of Pai Gow Poker is to make two separate winning hands from a total of seven cards dealt to each player, a high hand and a low hand. The high hand must be comprised of five cards, and the low hand of the remaining two cards. The game is played with a standard 52-card deck and one Joker, which is a sort of “wild card”, meaning it can be used as an ace – four aces and a joker are ranked as a five ace hand – the highest hand in Pai Gow, even topping a Royal Flush, or the Joker can be used as a wild card to make a straight or flush. All other hands are ranked the same as in traditional poker.
The player wins only if both hands are higher than the dealer’s. Conversely, the dealer wins if both of his hands are higher than the player’s hands. If the player should beat the dealer with only one hand, or vice-versa, no one wins. This play is called a “push.” If both the player and the dealer (or banker) have equal hands, the dealer wins. Any hand that does not contain at least one pair is called a “Pai Gow.”
Before playing, a newcomer to the game should familiarize oneself with the house rules of a particular casino. Some casino rules may be slightly different then others, such as rules governing the splitting of two pair, etc. As for online play, many internet poker sites have added Pai Gow to their choice of games as the game’s popularity continues to grow.
Many online poker rooms have added live chat to their Pai Gow games which can include up to five players per “table.” Players can even reserve a particular table at some Pai Gow sites in order to select with whom you want to play. Bet limits can range from $5 – $100 to combinations of up to $1000. To make playing Pai Gow even easier, most online poker rooms will offer the option of arranging the player’s cards automatically. Just click on “House Way” to access this feature.
Pai Gow winning combinations ranked in descending order are:
- Five Aces (includes Joker)
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Three of a kind
- Two Pair
- One Pair
Pai Gow’s popularity really grew when introduced into the card rooms of California in response to the game’s popularity among the State’s large Asian populations, and the game continues its migration through the internet and into land-based casinos.