Each player is initially dealt 7 cards, as well as the dealer. The ultimate goal of Pai Gow is to beat the dealer by making the best 5-card 2-card combinations from the 7 cards you are dealt. In the event that each of these 2 hands are both good enough to beat the dealer’s combination, then you win the round.
Once the game is signaled to start, you will have the opportunity to put out a wager before any of the cards are dealt. This can be a very small bet of 1-2 dollars worth of chips, though can also be rather substantial. Betting high amounts of money can be considered risky, although players will always have a 50/50 chance of winning, giving them relatively good odds that a large bet will pay off.
Once you have received all 7 cards face down, it’s important to remember that your 5-card combination must be better than that of the 2-card combo. Upon deciding which cards will make up your 5-card and 2-card hands, you will then choose to “split”, which officially separates the cards. Both of your hands must be better than the dealer’s 2 hands in order to win. If only 1 of them is, then your bet will be returned to you and the round will be considered a push. Unfortunately, should you tie with the dealer, they are considered the winner.
In general, the card combinations and values are similar to that of typical poker. Players will attempt to earn a high card or pair for their 2-card hand, while the 5-card hand can consist of any number of card combinations, the rarer the combination, the higher a chance the player has to eventually beat the dealer. These include 2 pair, 3 of a kind, straight, flush, full house, 4 of a kind, straight flush and royal flush. As in poker, Aces are high and the royal flush consists of a 10, jack, queen, king and ace.
The way in which Pai Gow differs from poker is that the highest possible winning card combination is not a royal flush, but rather what is known as a 5 of a kind. This rare and exceedingly difficult hand to obtain is comprised of four aces and a joker. Players that find themselves with this hand will automatically beat whatever hand the dealer has, as there is only 1 joker included with this deck.