Pai Gow poker rules

Pai Gow poker

There is a common perception that Pai Gow poker originally hails from China because its origin is associated with the ancient Chinese game of dominoes. However, that's not exactly true. Pai Gow poker was invented and patented in the United States in the 1980s by Fred Wolf.

This format is one of the many varieties of poker. Pai Gow rules are very different from the classic poker version. Its key advantage is that the player needs to outplay only one rival represented by dealer, whereas in a traditional format you should play against several opponents. This feature made the game much easier and more popular. So, it won’t be a problem to learn how to play Pai Gow.

Pai Gow rules

  1. In the game, it is applied a deck of 52 cards and 1 joker. Each participant is dealt seven cards and only the player can see his cards.
  2. Then, the player should divide these seven cards into 2 holdings. The first high hand includes 5 cards, and the second low one – two cards. But along with this, the combo of the low hand should not be stronger than the high one. Otherwise, you will automatically lose.
  3. The cards are revealed.
  4. Dealer also divides his cards into 2 hands and shows them to his opponent.
  5. Combinations of both hands are compared. If your both hands are higher than the dealer ones, then you win with a chance of 1 to 1 (due to casino commission). If only one hand is stronger, then it is considered a draw and the bet is returned to the player. If both hands are weaker, the casino takes the bet.
  6. Joker can complete such combinations as royal flush, straight flush, flush, straight. If there are no such combinations, joker acts as an Ace. In the low hand, the joker is always considered an Ace.

This game is a great opportunity to have a good time playing cards without worrying about your playing skill. Luck plays a key role.

New players are even able to ask the dealer for advice about Pai Gow hand, but this is only allowed at the beginning of the game. The dealer will definitely help. In this game, only one thing matters – whose cards are stronger.

Pai Gow hands probabilities

Before start playing, you should first understand the probabilities and advantages of the casino in this game. The percentage probabilities clearly show where's the punch line:

  • Draw: 41%
  • Player’s victory with both hands: 29%
  • Dealer’s victory with both hands: 30%

Another thing you should consider is the likelihood of certain hands. Since the player and dealer receive seven cards, there is a high probability of hitting a pair or two pairs with these seven cards.

One pair: 41,7%Two pairs: 23,1%High card: 16,1%
Straight: 7,3%Three of a kind: 4,8%Flush: 4%
Full house: 2,7%Four of a kind: 0,2%Straight or royal flush: 0,137%

The table shows that the odds for a good holding are quite good, and the probability of winning is much better than in other casino games, even without applying strategies. For instance, the chance of four of a kind in Texas Hold'em is 1: 4000 or 0.00025%.


You were dealt 6-7-8-9-10-A-A. You move Aces to low hand (which form a pair). 6-7-8-9-10-A-A (which form a straight) move to a high hand. The dealer was dealt 2-2-2-A-K-4-5. He moves Ace and King to a low hand, but 2-2-2-4-5 (three of a kind) – to a high hand. In this situation, you have an advantage in both hands, so you win this battle.

Combination rank is determined in the same way as in traditional poker, except that straight A-2-3-4-5 is ranked lower than A-K-Q-J-10. The only real difference between Pai Gow poker rules and traditional poker is the presence of five-card hand (royal flush of five aces), when the fifth ace acts as a joker. This combo is the highest one. By the way, the best combination in a low hand is a pair of aces.

Pai Gow card ranking

Five of a kindFour aces and Joker
Royal Flush5 same-suit consecutive cards lead by Ace
Straight Flush5 consecutive cards of the same-suit
Four of a Kind4 cards of the same number
Full House3 cards of the same number and a pair
Flush5 cards of the same-suit
Straight5 consecutive cards of any suit
Three of a Kind3 cards of the same number
Two Pairstwo sets of 2 cards of the same number
One Pair2 cards of the same number

If you want to get acquainted with Pai Gow rules once again, we offer you to watch the following video:

As you can see, Pai Gow is not a difficult game, especially since it has the main advantage – you need to play against only one opponent. Those who want to win really big money in this poker format, it is better to study Pai Gow strategy. Good luck everyone!

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Sunrise Editor
Cardmates journalist, news editor and translator since 2016. Specialization: poker news and review of events.
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