The game of Pai Gow Poker is quite new, but gaining a lot of attention. In fact, the Bicycle Hotel and Casino has had a numerous requests to have the game added to their casino, as have a number of other casino hotels. Essentially, the game requires a standard deck of 52 cards and joker. Players place their bet, and seven cards are then dealt, face down, to each player.
In the game, someone has to use their seven given cards and create two individual poker hands from them. One hand has to be five cards, and the second has to be two cards, with the latter ranking lower than the first. If both hands beat the dealer, even money is won. If one hand beats the dealer, there is a push. If the hands are equal, the dealer wins. In Pai Gow, a 5% commission on winnings is taken by the house.
The cards and sets are exactly the same as in Poker. However, jokers can be used only to complete straights or flushes, and are classed as an ace in all other situations. The second highest straight is the straight flush on A-2-3-4-5. The highest is 10-J-Q-K-A. In this, the house edge is around 1.46%.
Playing Pai Gow the Asian Way
Pai Gow is an ancient game, meaning “make nine”. It is one of the oldest Chinese gambling games, having been played for thousands of years. Originally, it was played with dominos, which is still done in many Asian casino. It is quite a complex game, which is one of the reasons why few American casinos offer it at present.
In the Asian version, 32 dominos are used, which is the “Woodpile”. Players place their bets and eight rows of four dominos are then created. The order of play is decided, and the dealer hands four tiles to each player, face down. Again, two hands have to be made, but of two tiles each. The Front is the lower value hand and the Rear is the higher one. Even money is won if the total of the two beats that of the bank (minus 5% commission). A push happens if one hand loses and one wins. A tie leads to the highest single value tile to win. The banker wins if they equal zero.
A nine is generally the best hand, because that is the highest possible number (two digits are added up together to form a single one). However, the exception is in Wongs and Gongs, which happens in complex combinations that include a double six or double one tile. And then there are Gee Joon tiles that are wildcards, which further complicate the matter. The edge here is around 1.5%.
Clearly, those casinos that have started to offer Pai Gow do so with a deck of cards, rather than the domino tiles, or at least they do so in this country. Whether the game will truly take off is anybody’s guess.