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Pai Gow

– otherwise known in American casinos as Pai Gow poker or double-hand poker – is an Americanized version of the Chinese domino game Pai Gow. The big difference between the American game and the Chinese game is that the American version uses a standard playing card deck instead of Chinese dominoes. This version of the game was invented in 1985 by Sam Torosian, the owner of the Bell Card Club.

Pai Gow is known for its slow rate of play and is considered a low-risk game. This makes it ideal for beginners who are learning the basics of playing poker in casinos.

Rules

Pai Gow is played with a standard deck of 52 cards plus one joker. The joker is semi-wild and can be used as an ace or to complete a flush, a royal flush, or a straight.

The game is played against the dealer. On each deal, every player and the dealer is dealt seven cards and must divide them into two hands. The first hand consists of five cards, while the second hand is made up of the remaining two cards. The five-card hand is scored according to standard poker rules and must be higher than the two-card hand. The two-card hand is usually scored as a pair. Otherwise, only the higher of the two cards is scored.

After all the hands have been dealt, the dealer shows their cards and divides them into two hands. The dealer’s two hands are played against the player’s two hands. If the player wins both hands, they win their bet. If the player wins only one hand, it is a push and no money exchanges hands. If the dealer wins both hands, the player loses their bet.

Unlike most casino games, Pai Gow gives players the chance to bet against each other as well as against the dealer. This is known as “banking,” and it can make for some large pots. It does require the banking player to be able to beat every hand on the table, so most players decline to bank when they have the chance to do so.

The Dealer’s Advantage

In most cases when the dealer plays a hand against the player, one hand will be higher than the other. However, if two hands are equal in rank, the round goes to the dealer. This is known as the dealer’s advantage. This obviously gives the house an advantage when you’re playing Pai Gow in a casino, but in private games, it means that every player should deal an equal number of times during each session.

Strategy

Pai Gow poker is different enough from other poker games to require a slightly different strategy. This can get complicated for novice players, but there are a few tips that will help you when you’re just getting started.

First of all, you should try to bank whenever you can. This seems risky to a beginner, but your odds of winning are higher than anyone else on the table when it comes time to bank. As long as you have a large enough bankroll to cover the other players, try to bank when you can.

Second, avoid playing a full house as your high hand. You might win with this hand, but it doesn’t leave you with any breathing room to make a good two-card hand.

Finally, don’t neglect your two-card hand. Most novice players focus entirely on the five-card hand and dump a low pair into their two-card hand, but experienced players try to balance both hands. You should have a high pair as a two-card hand whenever possible. As long as it ranks lower than your five-card hand, you’ll be just fine.