Online Pai Gow Poker Casinos, Rules, and Strategies

Pai Gow Poker - Complete Guide

Online Pai Gow Poker is based on the old Chinese game which was played with dominoes, but is played with a deck of cards while using poker combinations instead. For those familiar with the rules of poker, the game will be a bit easier to grasp - but don't let that put you off if you aren't.

With the help of our complete guide, anyone can play Pai Gow Poker - just take your pick from our list of recommended Pai Gow online casinos and give it a try!

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Pai Gow Online Casino: The Benefits

Think of Pai Gow Poker as the powerful yet quiet high achiever, the Mark Zuckerberg of the casino games. It’s more slow-paced, perfect for those who prefer the more tranquil and quiet environment to think of gameplay strategy.

Pai Gow is played with up to seven players, with each player playing against the banker, who can be either a casino dealer or another player.

It is not always easy to get into the slower, tranquil pace and appropriate head space to play Pai Gow game within the noisy walls of land-based casinos. When you play Pai Gow online you can afford to take your sweet time analysing the cards and thinking of your next move.

It’s really one of those games that transfer perfectly to the online environment as the nature of the game is slower and quieter. 

Best Pai Gow Online Casinos

Here at CasinoGuide, we've reviewed all the best Pai Gow online casino options for you. As this game is slowly gaining more popularity it is becoming available in more and more online casinos - our recommendations above all offer Pai Gow along with highly generous bonuses just for signing up!

Most online casinos will offer at least one variation of the Pai Gow Poker. But you don’t have to waste any of your precious time searching around for which casino may or may not be offering it, as we have all the best ones listed for you - doesn’t come easier than that.

Each Pai Gow online casino we list has been reviewed on the basis of numerous factors, including customer service, payout speed, game selection, and more.

Even better, if you choose to play Pai Gow at one of the online casinos that take PayPal, you will benefit from enhanced security and faster payouts when you win!

How To Play Pai Gow Online

Pai Gow is a game which is based on poker play but there are some essential differences which set this game apart. Like many other casino games online, you play against the banker and not your fellow players. This is also the case when playing Caribbean Stud Poker online.

First of all, each player is dealt seven cards instead of five. Once dealt you have to take a look at them to separate them into two hands: a 5-card 'back hand' and a 2-card 'front hand', where the 5-card hand has to be higher than the 2-card hand. If you don’t want to arrange this yourself, you can click 'house way' and your cards will be arranged for you.

The 5-card hand is compared to the dealer’s 5-card hand, and the same goes for the 2-card hand. The objective of this game is to win both hands against the dealer’s two hands.

Pai Gow Poker Gameplay Step By Step

Feeling confused? If so, here is how playing a game of Pai Gow Poker online will work, one step at a time:

  1. Choose your bet amount and place your bet
  2. Players are dealt a total of 7 cards, face up
  3. The dealer will deal his 7 cards face down
  4. Split your cards into 2 hands, and arrange your cards according to the rankings described above (or have it done automatically)
  5. Compare hands with the dealer to determine the winner.

What happens to the bet?

  • Player wins both hands: the bet is matched
  • Player and dealer win one hand each: a Push occurs (the bet goes back to the player)
  • Dealer wins both hands: the player loses his bet.

When the dealer and the player have the same hand it's a tie, but the dealer wins and claims the player's bet - this is where the House advantage comes from. Therefore:

  • Player wins one hand and ties the other: a Push occurs
  • Player loses one hand and ties the other: the dealer wins, player loses their bet.

Pai Gow Poker Hand Rankings

pai gow poker hand

This is an example of a 5-card and a 2-card Pai Gow poker hand.

When it comes to the 5-Card Hand, Pai Gow Poker follows the same card values as regular poker and Video Poker, with a few minor variations. Most notably, the second highest type of Straight Flush is an A-2-3-4-5; this ranks between A-K-Q-J-10 and K-Q-J-10-9.

The other main difference is the use of the Joker; it acts as a wildcard only if you are to use it as an Ace (this applies to the 2-Card Hand as well), to complete a Straight, a Flush or a Straight Flush. No suit has a higher value than another.

5-Card Hand Ranking

In case you need to refresh your memory, these are the Pai Gow Poker hand rankings, in descending order:

  1. Five Aces (A-A-A-A-Joker)
  2. Royal Flush (A-K-Q-J-10) – highest ranked cards with the same suit (all Hearts for example)
  3. Straight Flush (A-2-3-4-5) – unlike regular poker, this is the second best type of straight flush in Pai Gow, ranking ahead of 9-10-J-Q-K suited
  4. Straight Flush - numbers in a sequence with the same suit, for example, 8-9-10-J-Q of Diamonds
  5. Four of a Kind - four cards with the same face value, for example, Q-Q-Q-Q-2
  6. Full House - three cards with the same number, and 2 cards of another same number, for example 6-6-6-8-8
  7. Flush - any grouping of five cards all of the same suit, for example, 2-4-7-9-Q of Clubs
  8. Straight - five numbers in a sequence regardless of suit, for example, 3-4-5-6-7
  9. Three of a Kind - three cards of the same value, for example, 8-8-8-2-6
  10. Two Pair – two pairs of cards of the same value, for example, 7-7-3-3-2
  11. Pair - two cards of the same value, for example, 4-4-9-5-10
  12. High Card - if you have none of the above, your hand takes the value of your highest card, for example 2-4-7-9-A

2-Card Hand Ranking

There are two categories for the 2-card hand: either a pair or no pair. The pairs are worth more than the unpaired cards. The best outcome for the 2-card hand is a pair of Aces, then Kings, Queens, and so on in descending order.

Of the unpaired hands, the best outcome is Ace-King, then Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack, Ace-10, and so forth, finishing with 3-2 as the lowest. The pairs and unpaired value system is the only one which governs the two-card front hand in Pai Gow Poker.

So all you have to do is memorise these combinations in order to know how to order your cards. However if you'd rather not do that, when you play Pai Gow Poker online you may opt to have your cards organised for your automatically, so you really don’t even have to know the card values off by heart!

Pai Gow Online: Basics To Remember

pai gow poker online

An example of a winning hand at a Pai Gow online casino.

Pai Gow Poker often seems like a complicated game to play at first. From the outset, it looks as though it's a game for only the most experienced players, or for expert poker players looking for a change or challenge.

This misconception is based on the fact that two hands are played simultaneously, which makes it seem a lot more complicated than it actually is. All you really need to know is the hand values, and when you play at a Pai Gow online casino, you don't even have the pressure of time working against you.

Most importantly, you need to have an understanding of the aim of the game, which cards are used and how they are played.

Pai Gow Poker In 6 Points:

  • Pai Gow Poker is played with 53 cards; a standard 52 card deck + 1 Joker card. 
  • The Joker must be used to complete a Straight or a Flush, otherwise it functions as an Ace.
  • Both player and the dealer receive 7 cards. Players cards are face up, and the dealer’s cards are face down.
  • Pai Gow is played with two hands: one 2-card hand called the front hand and one 5-card hand known as a back hand. 
  • The ultimate aim of the game is to beat the dealer’s two hands. 
  • The 2-card hand must have a lower value than the 5-card hand.

In order to determine who wins each hand, just remember the four possible outcomes:

  • If you win both the 5-card and 2-card hand against the dealer you get your bets paid out.
  • If you win one hand, but the dealer wins the other hand this is known as a 'Push', and neither you nor the dealer wins.
  • If the dealer wins both hands then you have lucked out and the dealer takes the stakes.
  • If you tie on either the 2-card or 5-card hand, then the dealer wins the hand.

Differences between Standard Poker and Pai Gow Poker Rules 

The main difference between the two games is how the Joker card is used. In standard poker, the Joker is used as a wild card, and in Pai Gow Poker, the Joker functions only as an Ace, or to complete a Straight or Flush.

The second big difference is that standard poker uses a 5-card hand, whereas in Pai Gow Poker you have two hands; the 2-card front hand and 5-card back hand.

For those who are keen to really get into the complexities of the game by understanding the more intricate rules and learning Pai Gow Poker strategy read on as these are addressed below.

If you are a complete poker and Pai Gow newbie you may also want to play some free Video Poker first to get used to the basic rules, before learning to play with an additional hand in Pai Gow Poker.

Pai Gow Poker Strategy

Pai Gow Poker strategy revolves around knowing how best to separate and organise your cards into two hands, in order to lower the house advantage as much as possible.

The first thing you have to do is look at all seven cards together. Do you have any Pairs, a Full House, Flush, or any other winning sequence? Once you know exactly how many combinations and sequences you have, the next step is to determine which ones to play, and where to place them - in the front hand, or the back hand.

An easy point to remember when you are arranging your cards is that cards from 2-6 are considered to be low-value cards, 7-10 are in the middle somewhere, and all others are considered very good cards. When you play online you can have your cards arranged automatically. 

The Most Profitable Pai Gow Poker Strategy

No Pair

In the unfortunate event that you don’t have any Pairs, a Straight, or a Flush, then put the highest card you have in the five-card hand, and the two highest cards after that should be placed in the two-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

One Pair

If you have only one Pair, then keep the Pair in the 5-card hand, and then similarly to No Pair, move the next two highest cards to the 2-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

Two Pair

The situation is more complex when you have two pairs in your cards, which occurs more often than any other combination. There are many different Pai Gow Poker strategy options regarding how to play two Pairs. You may either split your cards or keep them all in the 5-card hand, depending on the value of your cards and also the value of your remaining three cards - ideally you need to make your two hands the strongest they can be.

As a general rule of thumb, if you have two Pairs of low value and side cards which are higher in value, keep your pairs together in the 5-card hand. However if you are given pairs of high value, then you split them.

The following strategies may apply to the different Pair combinations you can have:

When you have a Pair of Aces and another Pair, you should split the Pairs between your two hands, leaving the highest Pair in the 5-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

When you have two Pairs, and an Ace or King as one of your side cards, then put the Ace or King in the 2-card hand, and keep the two Pairs together in the 5-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

Always split a face-card Pair and a Pair of 6s or higher.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

Three Pairs

Organise your cards by their ranking, and then put the Pair with the highest value in the 2-card hand, and leave the other two Pairs in the 5-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

Three of a Kind

When you have Three of a Kind, put these cards in the 5-card hand. Then place your next two highest cards in your 2-card hand. However if you have three Aces, place two of them in the 5-card hand, and the third Ace in the 2-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

Straight or Flush

When you have a Straight or a Flush, your strategy will depend on how many cards you have in your Straight and whether you have Pairs or not. Below we have outlined the possibilities and the strategy to play for each one:

  • If you have a Straight with two Pairs, follow the strategy for the two Pairs and disregard the Straight.
  • If you have a 5-card Straight place the remaining two cards in your 2-card hand, and play the Straight in your 5-card hand. 
  • If you have a 6-card Straight plus one other card, place your two highest cards in the 2-card hand and the remaining Straight in the 5-card hand. 
  • If you have a Flush plus two pairs, then play by the Two Pair strategy outlined above and take no notice of the Flush.
  • With another Flush play the two highest cards in the 2-card hand keeping the Flush, and the remaining Flush in the 5-card hand. 
  • With a Straight Flush, determine the strength of your 2-card hand and follow the same strategy as a normal Straight or Flush.

Full House

When you have a Full House, the Pair should be in the 2-card hand, and the Three of a Kind should remain in the 5-card hand along with your remaining two cards. However if your Pair is very low in value, then you may want to just take a risk and keep the Full House in the 5-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand
 K-K-K-4-4-9-10K K-K-4-49-10

Two Three of a Kinds

When you are given two Three of a Kinds pick the highest Pair in the 2-card hand, and then use the lowest Three of a Kind in the 5-card hand.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand

Four of a Kind

You will want to split or keep your Four of a Kind depending on how high the cards are. If you have a high Four of a Kind (7,8,9 or 10), then split your cards. However, if you have an Ace or face cards as well as a 7,8,9, or 10 Four of a Kind, then prioritise placing the Ace or face card in your 2-card hand.

If you have a low Four of a Kind (2,3,4,5 or 6), keep them together in the 5-card hand. If you have a J,Q or K, or Ace in your Four of a Kind also split these as Pairs between the hands.

Example5-Card Hand2-Card Hand


Pai Gow Terms Glossary

If you are the kind of person who gets their head in a spin at all the words thrown around during a game, we've got you covered here at CasinoGuide with our comprehensive Pai Gow Poker glossary - so you can speak about the game like a pro and be on the ball while you’re playing.

  • Back Hand: This is the 5-card hand, called a back hand because it is placed behind the 2-card hand on the Pai Gow Poker table.
  • Banker: This is the player who is against all of the other players at the table. The banker normally changes player with every turn, or two turns, depending on the casino. The banker has the house advantage so it’s beneficial for the player to be the banker.
  • Co-banking: In some casinos, there is an option for the player and the House to be equal partners as the bank. Check with the Pai Gow online casino whether this is an option.
  • Copies: Another word for a tie between player and banker, when they have identical cards. When this occurs, the hand is won by the banker and the player’s wager is lost.
  • Copy Hand: See Copies
  • Dragon Hand: Pai Gow Poker is played with seven players, including the banker. When there is an empty seat (i.e. there are fewer than seven players), a hand is dealt for the empty seat. Depending on the Pai Gow online casino, you may be allowed to play the dragon hand as well.
  • Flush: Five cards of the same suit (all hearts, all spades, all clubs, or all diamonds).
  • Four of a Kind: Four cards of different suits that contain the same card value.
  • Foul Hand: This is the term used when a player does not arrange their cards according to House Pai Gow Poker rules. When a Foul Hand is called, the player loses their wager. The most common foul is when the 2-card hand has a higher value than the 5-card hand. This term is used more often in land-based casinos as in Pai Gow online the cards can be split automatically.
  • Front Hand: The term for the 2-card hand, which is placed above the back hand on the Pai Gow Poker table.
  • Full House: When you have three cards all of the same value, and another two cards which have the same value (for example three Kings and two 7s).
  • Hand Behind: (See Back Hand)
  • Hand in Front: (See Front Hand)
  • High Card: This is the card of the highest value that a player is dealt and which is played. For example, if you have a pair of Kings and a pair of 3s, the King would be the high card.
  • High Hand: (See back hand, or hand behind)
  • House Way: A set of pre-determined rules for the way for a dealer sets their cards. Players should split their cards according to the house way.
  • Joker: The Joker acts as a semi-wild card in Pai Gow Poker. It can only be used as a wild card in the following ways; to complete a Straight, a Flush, or a Straight Flush. It will function as an Ace in all other circumstances.
  • Low Hand: (See front hand or hand in front)
  • Pair: Two cards of the same value, for example, 7-7.
  • Push: The result of a tie between the player and the dealer. A Push can occur when you and the dealer win one hand, and lose another. Wagers are returned to the player in the case of a Push.
  • Rakeback: The percentage the House takes whenever you win a Pai Gow Poker hand. This is necessary in order for the casino to operate as a business.
  • Random Number Generator: This is the software used by a Pai Gow online casino in order to deal the cards to players in a random and fair way.
  • Royal Flush: A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit, i.e. all Diamonds, all Spades, all Clubs, or all Hearts. It is the highest value Pai Gow Poker hand.
  • Straight: Five cards in sequential order regardless of their suit. For example 3,4,5,6,7.
  • Straight Flush: Five cards in sequential order of the same suit. For example 3,4,5,6,7 of Diamonds.
  • Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same value. For example, K-K-K.
  • Three Pair: When you are handed two cards of the same value three times in one hand. For example 2-2, 9,9, Q,Q.
  • Two Pair: Two sets of two cards of the same value. For example, Q-Q, A-A.
  • Wild Card: This is the name attributed to the Joker card (see Joker). In Pai Gow Poker the wild card has limitations on how it can be used.
  • Wheel: A-2-3-4-5: the second highest straight and hand in Pai Gow Poker.

Pai Gow Poker History

pai gow classic

Playing 'Classic' Pai Gow, using dominoes in place of the tiles used in the past.

Alongside Keno, Pai Gow stands as China’s largest contributor to the casino industry. As card games go, Pai Gow Poker initially seems quite complex to understand.

Pai Gow was first created in China about a century ago, and the game quickly grew in popularity. Originally, up to eight players would organise four tiles into two different groups, a ‘front’ and a ‘back’ hand. This symbolised military and civilian units which drew on China’s highly militarised civilisation.

The main aim in the game back then strongly resembles the objective in the modern day version of Pai Gow; the player must beat the banker’s respective hands. Participants who were lucky enough to win were paid out at odds of 1:1.

In the early version of the game determining a winner was indeed a very complex process, hence this is perhaps the main reason why the game took a while to catch on in Western societies. 

Pai Gow Goes West

As years rolled by, Pai Gow continued to evolve as it eventually found its way to the United States in the 1980s. The game was first seen to be played in the State of California at the Bell Card Club, where a lot of the Chinese community in America had decided to settle down and make a home.

The owner, Sam Torosian, had been aiming to find a way in which to bring rich Asian gamblers to the tables of his casino and decided to merge the ancient game of Pai Gow with the basic rules of Poker. In Torosian's version of the card game, a deck of 52 cards which incorporated a Joker as a ‘wild card’ began to be used. 

The Pai Gow Poker Revolution

As a result of the game's makeover, Pai Gow fascinated its punters with its unique combination of ancient Chinese origins and American Western-themed poker showdowns. Upon its introduction, the Bell Card Club dedicated two tables on a Friday Night exclusively to Pai Gow Poker.

After just a week, the owner of the club decided to dedicate 30 tables to Pai Gow Poker, such was the interest it gathered amongst gamblers. However, the creator Sam Torosian never actually patented Pai Gow - some gambling experts believe that he lost out on over $100 million as a result.

Due to its tremendous popularity, the modern Pai Gow game was also introduced in other casinos such as the Bicycle Club, which at the time was the biggest card club in the world. Later on, it started appearing in the casinos of Las Vegas, Atlantic City and eventually landed in overseas in the likes of Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo and the U.K.

The newer version of Pai Gow also circulated back to its country of origin, China, where was embraced by casinos in Macau - bringing the story full circle.

Pai Gow Online

Today, Pai Gow Poker lives on and is popular worldwide. It’s not only played in brick and mortar casinos as much but due to its revamped rules and low house edge, Pai Gow Poker has become popular on online casino sites.

The game’s odds are quite similar to the French game of Baccarat. This is due to the fact that players are able to place wagers at one-to-one odds meaning that the player doesn’t win or lose much in the short term.

Play Online Pai Gow And Win Big!

Now you understand the main differences between regular poker and Pai Gow Poker you’re ready to test your skill and enjoy winning whilst playing this captivating and intriguing game.

Claim your exclusive casino bonus by taking your pick from one of our top Pai Gow casinos!

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