Learn to Play Pai Gow Poker for Real Money

Play Pai Gow Poker for Real Money at Ignition Casino


What happens when you combine the ancient Chinese game of pai gow with the quintessential American game of poker? You get Pai Gow Poker, one of the most exciting games you’ll find anywhere. Now you can play Pai Gow Poker for real money online right here at Ignition Casino, anytime day or night – and you can play the game with real money at stake. Let's look at the best way to play this poker game online at Ignition Casino or at other casinos. 








This might be the most fun poker table game of them all at casinos online or live. The Pai Gow Poker room is often the liveliest section at bricks-and-mortar casinos across the United States and Australia; the game is just enough of a challenge to keep things interesting without spoiling the fun. This guide will tell you everything you need to play Pai Gow poker games at Ignition Casino including the rules and the best odds online. We’ll tell you about the history of this poker game, the rules, the odds, and how to make the right plays at the table with the right Pai Gow Poker strategy.


What is Pai Gow Poker?

Long before the invention of playing cards, and online games, there were dominoes. These tiles can be traced back as far as China’s Song Dynasty (960-1279), where they were used to play traditional games like pai gow – pai means “tile” in Cantonese, and gow means “nine.” Dominoes would later find their way to Italy in the 1700s, and pai gow has since become a very popular table game; you can still find it today at casinos around the world.


Poker, as we know it, was developed in the United States after early forms of the game were brought in by European settlers in the late 1700s. The modern game uses the standard play deck of 52 playing cards, and sometimes an extra wild card known as a Joker; players try to make the best 5-card play hand possible, betting either for value or as a bluff to get their opponents to fold. Most adults in the Western world have played poker at some point, either for fun or for real money online or free games.


In 1985, Sam Torosian was operating a card room in Bell, California, just outside of Los Angeles, and business wasn’t going so well. Torosian needed a new game. He saw the popularity of pai gow within the Chinese community, and thought he could make it easier and more fun for everyone by graphing it onto poker. Torosian’s hybrid game was an instant success that soon found its way to Las Vegas and across the globe. Sadly, Torosian didn’t have Pai Gow Poker patented (costing him an estimated $100 million and counting), and after a brief uptick in fortunes, the card room was closed down.




Getting Started with Pai Gow Poker

No need to feel too badly for Torosian – he was comfortably well off after retiring from the casino business. Meanwhile, the rest of us are free to play Pai Gow Poker online anytime we like. This game uses the 52-card play deck plus the Joker; you (the poker Player) and the casino Dealer each get seven cards, and you split them up into two play hands: one with five cards, and the other with two cards. Then you and the casino Dealer compare your hands to see whose are better.


The poker Player goes first. After you place your bet, you receive your seven cards, face-up. Next, you decide which two cards you want in your 2-card play hand (also known as the front hand or the low hand). The remaining five cards go in your 5-card play hand (aka the behind hand or high hand). This is the part of the poker game that’s similar to pai gow. Then the casino Dealer gets their seven cards and does the same, using a pre-determined set of rules known as the casino house way to decide how to split their hands.




Now it’s time to see who wins each of these games. The standard poker hand rankings are used to determine the strength of your 5-card play hand – with a few twists. The Joker is a semi-wild card that can only be used to complete straights and flushes; otherwise, it counts as an Ace. That leads to the following rankings:


Five of a Kind (As-Ah-Ac-Ad-Joker)

Royal Flush (As-Ks-Qs-Js-Ts)

Straight Flush (Ts-9s-8s-7s-6s)

Four of a Kind (Ks-Kh-Kc-Kd-3c)

Full House (7s-7c-7h-As-Joker)

Flush (Qh-Th-6h-3h-2h)

Straight (As-Kh-Qc-Joker-Tc)

Three of a Kind (5s-5h-5d-Jh-Jc)

Two Pair (3s-3d-2c-2d-Ks)

Pair (8h-8c-Kd-Td-2d)

High Card (Qs-Js-Ts-7h-Joker)


If two play hands have exactly the same strength, the poker winner is determined by who holds the highest-ranking cards. For example, a pair of Aces is the highest pair possible, followed by Kings, Queens, and so on. If both poker players happen to have a pair of Aces, the winner is the player with the highest-ranking unpaired card, known as a kicker; Ace-Ace-King-Five-Deuce beats Ace-Ace-Queen-Jack-Ten. If both poker players have exactly the same hand strength all the way down to the kicker, it’s a tie. The suits don’t have any specific value in poker – a Royal Flush in Spades doesn’t beat a Royal Flush in Diamonds.

One other important twist to keep in mind among all the other rules: In Pai Gow Poker, the Five-Four-Three-Deuce-Ace straight (also known as the wheel) is the second-highest straight possible instead of the lowest. As for your 2-card play hand, the only possible rankings are Pair and High Card – it doesn’t matter if your cards are suited and/or connected. When you split your hands, your 5-card hand must be stronger than your 2-card hand, or it’s a foul. You’ll get a do-over at Ignition's online casino if you foul your hand, but if you play Pai Gow Poker live, you’ll lose your bet.

There are three possible casino outcomes in the online play version of Pai Gow Poker. If both your hands are stronger than the casino Dealer’s (comparing the high hands against each other, and the low hands against each other), you get paid out at even money, minus a 5% commission. If both the casino Dealer’s hands are stronger, you lose the bet. If you have one stronger and one weaker hand, it’s a push – all monies returned. In the rare event of a tied hand, the Dealer’s is considered to be stronger. Once the hands are compared and any payouts awarded, the cards are shuffled, and it’s time to place your next bet.





What Are the Pai Gow Poker Odds?

The beauty of Pai Gow Poker is the single decision point that needs to be made: How to split your seven cards into your high hand and your low hand. Knowing the odds helps determine how you should do it. Here are the chances of making any particular 5-card hand strength from the seven cards you’ll be dealt:


Five of a Kind: 0.00732%

Straight/Royal Flush: 0.137%

Four of a Kind: 0.199%

Full House: 2.71%

Flush: 4.00%

Straight: 7.29%

3 of a Kind: 4.85%

2 Pair: 23.1%

Pair: 41.7%

High Card: 16.1%


Note that it’s harder to make 3 of a Kind than a Straight in Pai Gow Poker. That’s because you get to choose which five cards out of the seven you want in your high hand. And we haven’t taken into account your low hand yet; the way you choose to split your cards will determine your actual chances of getting any specific outcome for either of your two hands.




Understanding the Casino House Edge in Pai Gow Poker

Your Pai Gow Poker strategy (and the casino house way) will also wind up determining the casino house edge for this game: how the rules work. If you play an optimal strategy where every decision you make is the best one possible, you can expect to win about 29.2% of the time, lose 30.3%, and push the remaining 40.5%. Factoring in the 5% commission on payouts, that leaves a casino house edge of 2.51% for Pai Gow Poker. That’s a little bit less than what you’ll find when you play European Roulette (2.70%).


Pai Gow Poker Strategy

Figuring out the right strategy for Pai Gow Poker is much the same as it is for Video Poker. You can use a simplified strategy that will narrow the house edge pretty close to 2.51%, or you can go for the gusto and try to learn the more complicated optimal strategy. We recommend starting with the simplified approach; if you want to become a Pai Gow Poker expert, you can build on what you’ve learned with your simplified strategy, and deviate accordingly when the right situations come up.








You can find online versions of these Pai Gow Poker strategies on the internet – as always, get yours from a reliable online source. The general idea is to take your seven cards and see whether a straight or a flush is possible, then categorize your cards based on how many of them match, and split according to the recommendations for that category. For example, with only Pair or High Card available for your high hand, you just make the best low hand possible (without fouling) and leave it at that.

You’ll get dealt Pair or High Card 57.8% of the time, so right away, you already know what to do most of the time when you’re at the Pai Gow Poker tables. And now that you’ve read this guide, you know a bit about the history of the game, what makes it so fun, and how to become a better player. Give Pai Gow Poker a try using the Practice Play option at Ignition's online casino, then switch to real money when you’re ready to show the world what you’re made of.


Play Pai Gow Poker for Real Money at Ignition Casino