Pai Gow Poker
If you are the type of person that enjoys falling or flying through the air like a bird then Pai Gow really isn’t your game and you should stick with craps. However if you’re the type of person that enjoys bird watching with your feet firmly planted on the ground then Pai Gow is more your speed.
Pai Gow is based on the Chinese tile game of the same name (Pai Gow means “make nine”), Pai Gow poker is leisurely, surprisingly challenging game that gives the astute player a decent shot at making some money in the short run and not facing to o much damage in the long run. Players face a house edge of approximately 2.5 percent if they play the game correctly and do not act as the banker. A typical Pai Gow poker dealer can go through 60 hands per hour at full speed, but approximately 41 percent of hands are ties which means most players are exposed to 30 to 36 decisions per hour. A $5 or $10 player on a short bankroll can last a long time player at this rate. Since Pia Gow requires intense concentration, the time should pass rather quickly.
The Rules of Pai Gow
A standard 52 card deck with one joker is used for Pai Gow. The joker can count as an Ace or as a wild card to complete straights, flushes or straight flushes. The game starts with the dealers dealing out seven seven-card hands in front of the chip tray and then discarding the four remaining cards. To determine who gets which hand the dealer casts three dice and adds up the total. Then starting with himself the dealer counts out the total found on the three dice working clockwise around the table. The player in the position designated by the dice gets the first hand and the rest of the hands are handed out to the other players in a counter-clockwise direction.
Unlike American poker, players do not compete with one another. In Pai Gow poker the players compete with the bank. The bank can be the house or another player at the table. All players are given the opportunity to be the bank. Being the bank has one obvious stipulation, the banker must be able to pay off all the wagers. If you do not wish to be the bank you can pass up your turn and then the next player has the option of banking the round. If no one wants to bank, the house will bank all the games. When the dealer isn’t banking, he still plays his hand for the house against the player who is banking that round.
After the players look at the seven cards they were dealt, they must then make them into two separate hands: a five card high hand and a two card low hand. The high hand is ranked the same as in regular poker except five aces beats a royal flush.
Low hand ranks are very simple. The highest ranking low had is a pair of aces followed by a pair of kings. This continues on down the line until you reach a pair of 2s. If the low hand is not a pair then the ranking is based on the higher card. Again Ace is the highest card and the lowest is a 2.
Setting the Hands
The high hand must always be greater than the low hand, so if you have a pair of aces and a pair of kings and you decide to split the pairs then the Aces must be in the high hand. If you accidentally make the low hand higher than the high hand (aces vs. kings) then you automatically forfeit the hand, even if you beat the bank.
After all the players set their cards, it’s the bankers turn to arrange their two hands. When the banker is done arranging their hands they compare their high and low hands with the player’s hands. The banker starts with the player that received the cards first. In order to win the hand, a player’s high and low hands must beat the bankers high and low hands.
If the banker and a player have identical high and low hands, it is called a copy. The banker wins copies. If the player wins one hand and loses the other then the hand is a tie. No one wins or loses a tie.
The banker, whether he is the dealer or a player, is responsible for paying off all of the winning bets, but the house takes a 5 percent cut of each winning bet. If on the other hand the banker wins the round they must also pay a 5 percent commission to the house on their winnings.
It is possible for a Pai Gow player to have a slight edge over the house if he can manage to bank approximately 10 times the amount of money he wagers when he isn’t banking. This is assuming that he is an expert at setting his high and low hands. Be warned however, that the fluctuations in a bankers bankroll can be tremendous, since it’s not unheard of for a banker to lose to every player at the table.