Playing Pai Gow online is just as exciting and rewarding as playing it live.
But did you know that playing paigow poker online gives you a bit of an advantage?
We’ll show you how, plus a few other winning tips.
What Is Pai Gow Poker?
Pai Gow Poker is played with a 53-card deck (the typical 52-card poker deck plus a joker). In both online and land casinos, the dealer plays against the player. Seven cards each are dealt to the player and the dealer. Both try to form the best two-card and five-card poker hands they can from the seven cards.
The best poker hand you can make with a two-card hand is a pair of aces. The best poker hand you can make with a five-card hand is, of course, a royal flush. If the dealer wins both the two- and five-card hands, the player loses the bet. If the dealer wins one hand and the player the other, it’s a push. If the dealer loses both hands, the player wins the bet minus a 5% commission.
Top Pai Gow Poker Tips
Pai Gow strategy is based on splitting your hand. Chance alone determines your initial seven-card hand. How you split them determines whether you win or lose.
Without any strategy, your best strategy is to play the house way.
The house way consists of strict rules that the game always follows when splitting the dealer’s hand. If you split your hand the house way, those same rules will be used to split your hand.
Why not do it yourself?
The house advantage, given the 5% commission on player wins, is 2.8%. However, that’s true only for skilled players following the same splitting tactics as the dealer. In other words, using the house way.
The vast majority of players are not skilled, so the house advantage is considerably greater. For the most reckless players, it could climb as high as 90%.
If you split using the house way, there is no tactical difference between you and the dealer in the game. You’re now playing a game of pure chance. But you’ve reduced to house advantage to its advertised minimum: 2.8%.
Needless to say, you should always play an online Pai Gow game that allows you to split your hand the house way. Some versions, such as Real Time Gaming’s Pai Gow poker, use a house way so sophisticated they don’t offer it to players.
Unlike regular poker, your main objective is not to play the strongest high five-card hand. Rather, the goal is to play the strongest high AND low hand.
Winning tactics in Pai Gow often involve sacrificing the strength of your high hand to increase the strength of your low hand. After all, a full house in your high hand is a push if you lose your low hand.
By using a basic strategy based on the seven-card hand you’re dealt, you can easily shave the house advantage by a couple tenths of a percent.
You will find yourself splitting your hand the same as the house the vast majority of the time. Those few times you don’t, however, will make you a winner over the long term.
Here’s the basic Pai Gow house strategy most players use:
When you’re dealt only a high-card hand, split the highest card into the high hand and the next two highest cards into the two-card hand. This is the universal house way to play the hand. You gain no advantage over the dealer.
Put the pair in your high hand and the two highest cards remaining in the low hand. This, too, is the house way and confers no advantage.
As a basic tactic, keep both pairs in the high hand if they’re low pairs (2’s to 6’s) or medium pairs (7’s to 10’s), and put the highest card remaining in the low hand.
If you have two high pairs (J’s to A’s) or a high pair and a medium pair, then split the pairs into both your high and low hands. Put the highest pair in your five-card hand.
You will find some minor variations in the house way, but almost all the time you’ll be splitting your hand using the same rules as the dealer.
If you’re dealt three pairs, always put the highest pair in the two-card hand and keep the remaining two pairs in the high hand. This is the house way everywhere and confers no advantage.
THREE OF A KIND
Play three of a kind in your five-card hand UNLESS you have three aces. In that case, split one of the aces to the low hand and play the remaining pair of aces in your high hand. Again, this is the house way nearly everywhere.
STRAIGHTS, FLUSHES, STRAIGHT FLUSHES, ROYAL FLUSHES
Straights and flushes are the only hands that allow you to outplay the dealer by not following the house way.
Normally you should play all straights and flushes in your five-card hand and play the remaining cards as your low hand. While your high hand will be nearly unbeatable, your low hand could be too weak to prevail.
However, if you can make two high pairs out of the hand, then split the high pairs between the two hands.You will be sacrificing the straight or flush for a one pair high hand and a one pair low hand.
In the highly unlikely event you have a six-card straight or flush, and you can make a pair without losing the flush or straight, play the pair in the low hand. Otherwise, split the highest card of the six-card straight or flush into your low hand.
Always split a full house so that you have three-of-a-kind in the high hand and a pair in the low hand.
If you have a full house with two pairs or you have two three-of-a-kinds, then put the highest pair you can in the low hand.
Again, this is universally the house way played by all RNG games.
If you don’t have a pair and the four-of-a-kind is low, play the four-of-a-kind in the high hand and the next two highest cards in the low hand.
If you’re holding a medium or high four-of-a-kind, split the four-of-a-kind so that each hand has one pair. However, if you’re holding four aces, play one of the aces to the low hand and play the three-of-a-kind in the high hand.
If you’re holding FIVE aces (because you have the joker), then split them into a three-of-a-kind for the high hand and a pair of aces as a bullet-proof low hand
Again, you’ll find nearly every RNG Pai Gowuses a similar strategy for splitting four-of-a-kind.
If you use a specific hand-by-hand Pai Gow poker strategy, rather than the house way or a basic strategy, you can reduce the house edge by several tenths of a percent. With a little bit of luck, you can now beat the house at online Pai Gow.
A hand-by-hand strategy governs how you will split each and every hand to maximize your advantage over the dealer.
You can find hand-by-hand strategies for Pai Gow everywhere: in books, magazines, and plenty on the Web.
The good news is that online Pai Gowpoker allows you to use a hand-by-hand strategy cheat sheet. That’s your main advantage playing online versus casino Pai Gow. If you restrict your play to RNG rather than live dealer games, you’ll gain enough time to consult your cheat sheet before splitting your hand each and every time.
Lastly, Pai Gow side bets promise some big payouts, but in general they’re sucker bets with a high house edge of 8% or more. If you must play, you’ll find the lowest house edge (about 8%) in the Dealer’s Bonus and Fortune bets, which pay out based on the highest five card hand possible in either the dealer’s or player’s seven-card hand.