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A Crash Course in Pai Gow Poker  

As poker fever continues to creep into the minds of people all across the world, many of you have asked us to shed some light on a number of different versions of the game.  After all, Texas Hold’em is only one of hundreds of variants of the game.  In this segment we will take a closer look one of these variations, Pai Gow Poker, and try to answer, among other things, questions such as: what’s behind the funny-sounding name and how do you play this funky-looking variety of poker?  So here goes - we hope you find it useful.

What is Pai Gow Poker?
This version of online poker has its original roots in the ancient Chinese game called Pai Gow, which means "make nine" in that language. It has merged with the basic form of poker to become a very popular and relatively new gambling game. It only entered Vegas casinos in 1987, but was an instant success due to its established popularity in California and surrounding areas with a large Asian population.  The game debuted in Atlantic City casinos the following year, and was greeted with even more fanfare.  Although Pai Gow poker hasn’t gained the notoriety of its famous cousin, Texas Hold’em, the game continues to grow in popularity.


The current game is descended from the aforementioned ancient Chinese game, but the two versions bear little resemblance to one another.  The original Pai Gow is a cryptic and symbolic game, very difficult to learn, and was originally played with dominos. Pai Gow Poker on the other hand is quite straightforward and based on standard poker hands, with very simple rules to follow.

How to Play

In Pai Gow Poker, a 53-card deck is used. The additional card, typically a joker, is a designated wild card.  The wild card may be used to complete straights and flushes, but otherwise it seen as an Ace.  Pai Gow Poker is played on a blackjack table, and up to six players can play at a time.  Similar to Blackjack, the players compete against the dealer. 
At the start of each hand you are dealt seven cards, which you must form into two hands – one with five cards and the other with two.  The object is to win money by beating both the dealer’s high (5-card) hand and low (2-card) hand.  If the player loses both hands, the dealer collects the player’s wager, and if the hand’s are split then the round is considered a push and no money is exchanged.  The only other situation which may arise is when the player and the dealer have identical hands (either high or low).  In this case the tie goes to the dealer, and it’s called a “copy”.
When a player wins a hand, there is usually a 5% commission subtracted from his winnings.  This means that if a player wagers $10, his return on a winning hand will be $19.50.  The dealer’s rake ensures that over time he will have an edge, albeit a small one.

Several online gaming sites offer the chance to play Pai Gow for both practice and for real money. 

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