optimal strategy to win at pai gow poker

Can You Identify The Best Strategy to Win at Pai Gow?

Play Pai-Gow Poker like a pro with the Optimal Strategy.

Pai-Gow Poker, a variation of the Chinese domino game pai gow, is a popular casino game thanks in part to it being a low-risk game, and the fact it is easy to learn optimal pai-gow poker strategy.

Another reason for its popularity is the player compete against the same house hand, which means they often win and lose together, which lends itself to being a sociable game.

Pai-Gow Poker Strategy: The Basic Rules

Pai-gow poker is played with a 53-card deck consisting of the standard 52-card deck and a single joker. This joker can be used to complete a straight, flush, straight flush, royal flush, or be used as an ace.

Once placing the wager, players then receive seven cards, which need to be separated into a five-card high hand, and a two-card low hand – the high hand must be of a higher poker value than the low card.

The dealer then sets his hand in a similar fashion to predetermined rules, and the hands are compared, and the highest poker value hand wins. If a player wins both the high and low hands, they win even money on their bet (less a 5% commission charge), if they win the high but lose the low (or vice versa) the bet pushes. In the event of a tie on both high and low hands, the dealer wins.

Pai-Gow Poker Strategy: Setting Your Hand

By adopting an optimal pai-gow poker strategy, you will see the house have and advantage of approximately 2.5 percent, which is at the lower end of the scale when it comes to casino games.

If your seven-card hand doesn’t even have a pair in it, something that will occur approximately 16 percent of the time, playing the second and third highest cards as your low hand is usually the best pai-gow strategy to adhere to.

Often, you will find yourself with a pair in your hand (41.6 percent of the time), which you should use in your high hand, and choose the two highest kickers for the low hand. For example, you are dealt As-Ac-Kd-Td-6h-5h-2h, you should put the Kd-Td as your low hand and use As-Ac-6h-5h-2h as your high hand.

Approximately 23 percent of the time you will have two pairs in your seven-card hand. Optimal pai-gow poker strategy dictates that you should first look at what the best low hand that can be made by playing both pairs in the high hand. Then you can assign a point value to the two pair and use the list below to determine your action. For example, a pair of queen and sixes would have a point value of 12 + 6 therefore 18.

• 6 points or fewer: play two pairs in the high hand with a queen-high kicker, otherwise split the pairs
• 7 to 11 points: play the two pair with king-high or better, otherwise split the pairs
• 12 to 16 points: play the two pair with ace-high, otherwise split the pairs
• 17 or more points: split the pairs

Due to being dealt seven cards, it is possible to be dealt three pair. When this happens, play the highest pair in the low hand, while with three of a kind you should play the two highest kickers in the low hand unless you have three aces, then you should play an ace and the highest kicker in the low hand and have a pair of aces as your high hand.

You have probably spotted a trend in the optimal pai-gow poker strategy by now, and it continues when you have three of a kind with one pair, two pairs, or two three of a kinds. In this scenario, in order as described, pai-gow strategy dictates that you should play a pair in the low hand, the higher pair in the low hand, and a pair from the higher set in the low hand.

Although you will only receive four of a kind around 0.2 percent of the time, it is worth looking at what to do with them. While you should never split four of a kind deuces, threes, or four, you should split quad fives if you do not have a ten-high or better low hand. Likewise, split sixes if you don’t have a queen-high or better low hand.

Furthermore, the optimal pai-gow strategy for four of a kind sevens and eights are to split them if you don’t have king-high or better as a low hand, split nines, tens, or jacks if you do not have ace-high or better in the low, and to always split queens, kings, or aces.

The only time you would deviate from this pai-gow poker strategy is if you also had a pair to go with your four of a kind. In this instance, use the pair as the low hand and keep those all-powerful quads!

As you can see, pai-gow poker strategy is quite straightforward as its goal is to maximise your chances of winning both the high and low hands, and therefore win the hand without pushing. You will push, a lot, in pai-gow poker, but that is half of the fun.

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