The next time you are in a casino, you might consider playing a funky little card game called Pai Gow poker, an adaptation of the Chinese domino game Pai Gow. Unlike three card poker, the player must make and win on two hands instead of just one, and unlike blackjack, no one’s hand can bust. Pai Gow poker also has a small house edge when played with the standard rules of most casinos.
As in many other gambling games, Pai Gow poker pits the player against a banker, who is normally the housse-backed dealer, although the role also rotates among the players. A standard deck of 52 cards is used, with a single joker added; the joker is usually an ace but can be used to complete a straight or a flush. The order in which players receive their cards changes each round, based on a randomly generated number or a dice roll. Players make their wager and receive hands of seven cards, with the goal being to make the best two poker hands – a two-card hand and a five-card hand. The two-card hand can only be a pair or two high cards, while the five-card hand uses standard poker rankings. Remember, the five-card – or ‘behind’ hand – must be the higher of the two, so if you are dealt one pair and nothing else of value in your seven cards, the two-card – or ‘top’ – hand cannot contain the pair.
After the players have arranged their hands, the banker arranges his cards “the house way.” Then, each player’s hand is compared with the banker’s. If both of the player’s hands win, the wager pays even money, if only one is a winner, the bet is a push, and if both lose the wager is lost. Note that since the house has an edge on being the banker, it is in your best interest to be the banker yourself as much as possible.
The high number of pushes in Pai Gow poker results in a slower game where one will rarely see his or her bankroll be washed away in a quick series of bad hands. If you prefer fast-paced, ‘action’ gambling, like roulette and craps, this game might not be for you, but if Texas hold’em is your game of choice, or you prefer a little deliberation in your gambling, give Pai Gow poker a whirl the next time you want to play at the tables.