Pai Gow Poker

Pai gow poker is a favourite of ours here at and we can't understand why it isn't more popular.

While the game does have 'poker' in its name, it has almost nothing in common with the typically played Texas Hold'em. In fact, the only real link is the fact that poker hand rankings are used to determine the winner.

The game is played with a single deck of cards plus a joker. The joker is used either as an ace or to make a straight or a flush. Seven cards are dealt to both the dealer and the player, with the hand that features the best five-card and two-card hand winning.

  • The aim of pai gow poker is to create a better five card hand and a better two card hand than the dealer's.
  • To win, both of your hands must be better than the dealer's. If only one is, it's a tie and your money is returned.
  • Hands are judged according to poker hand rankings.
  • Pai gow poker house edge is a very manageable 2.85%.
  • The game was created by Sam Torosian who lost out on all the royalties from it after being told he couldn't patent it.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker

The object of pai gow poker is to beat the dealer's hand with both your five-card 'high hand' and your two-card 'low hand'.

Five Card Hand

The five-card hand must always outrank the two-card hand (hence the names 'highest'/'high hand' and 'low hand'). The five-card hand is ranked as in poker, except that an A-2-3-4-5 straight is the second highest straight.

Two Card Hand

The two-card hand can be either a pair or individual cards. The highest two-card hand is a pair of aces and the lowest is a 2-3.

Winning and losing pai gow poker hands are determined solely on the value of the cards initially dealt. The positioning of them by players into a high hand and a low hand is really more of a formality. In fact, most games provide a house way button that does your work for you.

In order to win at a payout of 1:1, both of your hands must beat the dealer's. If only one does then it's a tie and your bet is returned. If neither does, then you lose.

Playtech Pai Gow Poker Playtech Pai Gow Poker after the split - this example includes a straight on the high hand.

Missing Out on the Money

As you may have guessed from its name, pai gow poker's origins are from China. In fact, the game was originally just called pai gow but the 'poker' was added when the game was changed slightly in order to fit into Western casinos.

The change in question is a move from using tiles to cards. Original pai gow games used tiles with Chinese symbols which represented various things to do with the army. This original form of the game is still played in China, although only really on the street among friends rather than in the casinos.

Once this tile game had made its way to the US it was changed by a man named Sam Torosian. The first ever hands of pai gow poker were dealt in 1985 in the Bell Card Club in Los Angeles – a club that Torosian owned.

Pai Gow Tiles

Having bought the California Bell Casino a year earlier, Torosian had decided that he needed to freshen up the card game offering there in order to attract new customers. He did so after hearing about a game called puy soy. This game sparked the idea to turn pai gow – which was already offered in the casino – into a card game.

By doing this Torosian had managed to combine the Eastern and Western worlds to create a game that appealed to all. Pai gow poker has continued to grow in popularity and is often described as 'a modern game in Asian clothing'.

Online Pai Gow Poker

It's hard to say how playing pai gow poker online differs from doing so in a land-based casino. The main reason for this is that it's so hard to find the game out in the real world – certainly none of us at have ever come across it in a casino.

Availability is therefore the biggest benefit of playing pai gow poker online as you can actually play it. Not only that, but pretty much every mainstream online casino offers a pai gow poker version meaning that you don't even have to look that hard to find it online.