Pai gow poker, or double-hand
poker, is an Americanized version of Pai Gow, in that Pai
Gow Poker is played with playing cards using poker hand rankings
while Pai Gow is played with Chinese dominoes.
The game is played with a standard 52-card deck,
plus a single joker. It is played on a table set for six players
plus the dealer.
Each player is playing against the banker, who
may be the casino dealer or one of the other players at the
Object of the Game
The object of the game is to create two poker hands out of
the seven cards in your hand: A five-card poker hand and a
two-card poker hand. The five-card hand must rank higher than
your two-card hand. The two-card hand is often called the
hand "in front" or "on top", and the five-card
hand is called the hand "behind" or "bottom",
as they are placed that way in front of the player when he
is done setting them.
The cards are shuffled, and then dealt to the table in seven
face-down piles of seven cards, with four cards unused, regardless
of the number of people playing.
Betting positions are assigned a number from
1 to 7, starting with whichever player is acting as banker
that hand, and counting counter-clockwise around the table.
A random number from 1 to 7 is determined (either electronically
or manually with dice), and the deal begins with that assigned
position and proceeds counter-clockwise.
One common way of using dice to determine the
dealer starting number is to roll three six-sided dice, then
count betting spots clockwise from the first until the number
on the dice is reached.
If a player is not sitting on a particular spot,
the hand is still assigned but then placed in the discards
with the four unused cards.
The only two-card hands are one pair and high cards; no straights,
flushes, and so on. The joker plays as a bug: that is, in
the five-card hand it can be used to complete a straight or
flush, if possible; otherwise it is an ace. In the two-card
hand, it always plays as an ace. Five-card hands use standard
poker hand rankings, with one exception: in most Nevada casinos,
the hand A-2-3-4-5 ranks above a king-high straight, but below
the ace-high straight A-K-Q-J-10. In California & Michigan,
this rule doesn't apply. The A-2-3-4-5 is the lowest possible
Determining a Win
If each of your now-separated hands beats the banker's corresponding
hand, then you win your bet. If only one of your hands beats
the banker, then you push. If both of your hands lose to the
banker, then you lose.
On each individual hand, ties go to the banker
(for example, if your five-card hand loses to the banker and
your two-card hand ties him, you lose). This gives the banker
a small advantage. If you foul your hand, meaning that your
low hand outranks your high hand or that there are an incorrect
number of cards in each hand, there will be a penalty, either
re-arrangement of the hand according to house rules or forfeiture
of the hand.
In casino-banked games, the banker is generally
required to set their hand in a pre-specified manner called
"house way", so the dealer does not have to implement
any strategy in order to beat the players. When a player is
banking, he is free to set the hand however he chooses. However,
the player has the option of "co-banking" with the
house, and if this option is chosen, the player's hand must
also be set the house way.
California casinos typically charge a
flat fee per hand, such as 5 cents or one dollar, to play,
win or lose. Other casinos take out of winnings a 5% commission.
While this seems high, it should be noted that a hand of Pai
Gow poker takes a long time to play compared to, say, blackjack,
and there are many pushes, so the house doesn't collect that
5% as often as it would collect the house percentage on other