Pai Gow Poker Game Review and Best Online Casinos to Play at

Pai Gow Poker is a popular casino table game, known for its slow pace of gameplay. The table poker variant produces many pushes, making it a low risk game that can stretch out your bankroll. If you want to know more about the game, then read on for our comprehensive guide.
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On this page, you will find a complete overview of Pai Gow Poker rules, strategy tips and more. We cover all the basics of how to play, including how to place your bets and how to rank hands. You will see the table layout and you will find useful strategy tips to help you boost your odds of winning. We’ll teach you all you need to know to prepare you for playing the game with real money online.

Overview of Pai Gow Poker Rules

The Pai Gow game was invented in 1985 by Sam Torosian, the owner of the Bell Card Club, Los Angeles. The game quickly gained popularity and by the end of the 80’s, it could be found in the casinos of the Las Vegas strip, then worldwide. Yet Torosian got some bad advice from his lawyer, who told him it was not possible to patent the game. As such, as the popularity of the game flourished, plenty of versions started to appear in casinos yet Sam did not earn a penny for his inventive game creation.

Table Layout of Different Pai Gow Poker Games

Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck of cards plus one joker. The joker acts as a wild card, and can be used either as an ace, or to complete a straight, flush or straight flush. The object of the game is to create 2 poker hands from 7 cards, that beat the dealer’s corresponding 2 hands. The 5-card hand must always be higher in ranking than the 2-card hand. The 5-card hand can be referred to as behind, back, bottom, big or high. The 2-card hand is referred to as in front, on top, minor, small or low hand. When played in a land-based casino, players have the opportunity to act as banker. Yet when played online, the dealer is always the banker.

How to Play Pai Gow Online

To play Pai Gow Poker at an online casino, you start by placing a bet on the table. Incidentally, unlike many other casino poker variants, this is the only bet you place in the game. There is no option to raise or fold during the gameplay. Click deal and you will then get 7 cards. The dealer also gets 7 cards which are dealt face down. You then split your cards into a 5-card hand and a 2-card hand. You can select your hands manually or click on “House Way” for the hand to be split according to specified rules.

It is important to ensure that the 5-card hand has a higher poker ranking than the 2-card hand. In some casinos, if you split your cards to create a higher ranking 2-card hand, this will be counted as a foul, and your wager will be forfeited. In other casinos, you will be advised of your foul and prompted to change it.

Once you have set your 2 hands on the table, the dealer will turn over their cards and split them in the same manner. The dealer will split their cards according to the House Way. The two high hands and the two low hands will then be compared. These are the possible outcomes:

Once the results have been determined, and any wins paid out, the round ends. The deck of cards is shuffled before each round.

Ranking of Pai Gow Poker Hands

The 5-card hand is ranked according to conventional poker rules, with a couple of slight differences. In this game, an Ace-2-3-4-5 straight is classed as the second highest straight and is known as “the wheel”. The inclusion of a joker, which can substitute as an ace also means that the highest possible ranking is 5 aces. In this table, you can see a breakdown of the 5-card hand ranking.

Ranking Hand Description Example
1 Five of a Kind A non-standard poker hand consisting of 4 aces and a joker A (Spades), A (Hearts), A (Diamonds), A (Clubs), Joker
2 Royal Flush A hand consisting of 10, J, Q, K, A of the same suit A, K, Q, J, 10 (Spades)
3 Straight Flush 5 cards in a sequence of the same suit 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (Clubs)
4 Four of a Kind 4 cards with the same numerical value K (Spades), K (Hearts), K (Diamonds), K (Clubs)
5 Full House Any 3 cards of the same rank and any 2 cards of the same rank 8 (Diamonds), 8 (Hearts), 8 (Clubs), 5 (Spades), 5 (Hearts)
Straight 4:01 18,653,130,482 1.12%
6 Flush 5 cards of the same suit, not in sequence 2, 5, 6, 10, A (Hearts)
7 Straight 5 consecutive cards of different suits 7 (Diamonds), 8 (Hearts), 9 (Clubs), 10 (Spades), J (Hearts)
8 Three of a Kind 3 cards with the same numerical value Q (Spades), Q (Hearts), Q (Clubs)
9 Two Pair 2 cards of the same rank with another 2 cards of the same rank Ace (Spades), Ace (Hearts), King (Spades), King (Clubs)
10 One Pair 2 cards of the same rank 8 (Hearts), 8 (Spades)
11 High Card Any hand with none of the above-mentioned combinations. A(Hearts), 10 (Hearts), 7 (Diamonds), 5 (Spades), 2 (Clubs)

As for the 2-card, or front hand, the only poker hands that can be attained are a pair or high cards. The best hand is a pair of aces, followed by a pair of kings, all the way down to a pair of 2s. When the 2-card hand does not contain a pair, the highest-ranking high card combo is A-K, followed by A-Q, A-J, A-T, continuing down to A-2, and so on. The lowest possible 2-card hand is a 2-3.

Pai Gow Poker Variants and Side Bets

When you play Pai Gow Poker you may find different variants with various side bets available. They feature most prominently in land-based casinos, but you can occasionally find side bets available in online Pai Gow game also. These optional bets allow you to place an additional wager before the cards are dealt for a chance to win a bigger payout.

One of the common Pai Gow Poker side bets is the Dealer Bonus. This bet is based on the value of the dealer’s 7 cards. The Fortune Side Bet and the Emperor’s Challenge side bets on the other hand pay out based on the player’s 7 card-hand. In the table below, you can see example pay tables for the three side bets.

Hand Dealer Bonus Pays (Dealer’s Cards) Fortune Side Bet Pays (Player’s Cards) Emperor’s Challenge Pays (Player’s Cards)
7-Card Straight Flush 500:1 8000:1 5000:1
Royal Flush plus Royal Match 500:1 2000:1
Wild 7-Card Straight Flush 1000:1 1000:1
5 Aces 500:1 400:1 500:1
Royal Flush 150:1 150:1 150:1
Straight 4:01 18,653,130,482 1.12%
Straight Flush 50:1 50:1 50:1
Four of a Kind 25:1 25:1 25:1
Full House 4:1 5:1 5:1
Flush 3:1 4:1 4:1
Three of a Kind 2:1 3:1 3:1
Straight 2:1 2:1 2:1
9 High in Low Hand 5:1 40:1
10 High in Low Hand 5:1
J High in Low Hand 2:1

Basic Pai Gow Strategy and Tips

If you are eager to find out the best possible Pai Gow Poker strategy, then sit tight and continue to read. The house edge in Pai Gow game partly depends on the skills used to set the 7 cards into 2 hands. The house edge is around 2.85%. Playing with an optimum Pai Gow strategy can reduce the house edge even lower, to around 2.7%.

As you do not lose your money when one of your hands is better than the dealer’s, a popular scheme is to split the hand to make the best possible front (2-card) hand, remembering that the front hand cannot outrank the back (5-card) hand.

However, if you are able to make a strong backhand, such as a straight or better, this is the exception to the strategy. A strong 5-card hand is more likely to win, so you could end up with a push, or even a win if your front hand outranks the dealer.

Check the strategy points below to help you make the optimum move for splitting the 7 cards into the front hand (2 cards) and back hand (5 cards). For reference, a high pair is JJ-AA, medium is 77-TT and low is 22-66.

Top Tip for Beginners – Play the House Way

As mentioned previously, the House Way is a set of rules that dictates how the dealer must split their 7-card hand. It can vary slightly depending on the casino the game is being played at, but the differences are marginal.

When playing online, you can opt to play using the House Way, and your hands will automatically be sorted according to the set rules. Whilst playing following the Pai Gow strategy detailed above can shave a fraction of a per cent off the house edge, using the House Way is a simple way for beginners to play the game optimally.

If you are new to the game, it is also a good idea to play Pai Gow Poker for free online before you play with real money. Our top recommended casinos offer a demo version of the game, which you can try out with no risk involved. This is a great way to get to grips with the rules. You can try playing the House Way or improve your skills by following a basic Pai Gow Poker strategy. With a little practice, you will be able to play the game confidently with real cash.

Developers of Pai Gow Poker Online

If you want to play Pai Gow online, you will find the game featured at many casino sites. The version of the game you play will depend on the developer that powers it. Each developer’s version of the game can differ not only in terms of graphical quality, but also in terms of the House Way rules, the table limits and optional side bets. Here, you can find out about the three leading developers of online Pai Gow Poker.

Top Online Pai Gow Poker Developers
  • Playtech are pioneers of the online casino industry and one of the leading providers of gambling software and games worldwide. Playtech’s casino table game portfolio is extensive, and Pai Gow Poker is featured in the game selection of the best Playtech Casinos. The game has sharp graphics and an intuitive design. It includes a fast-play option, which cuts out dealing animations to provide a faster pace to the gameplay. Opting to sort your hand the House Way instantly plays the hand according to the set rules. This game variant has an RTP of 97.15%.
  • Play’n GO are an award-winning game producer and a leading supplier of land-based and online casino platforms. Their games are ultra-modern and stand out in terms of beautiful graphics and engaging gameplay mechanics. Their Pai Gow Poker variant is no exception. The design is slick and life-like. Plus, when playing the House Way, you can view the hand selection before deciding whether to play by a different strategy. The RTP based on best strategy is 97.27%. The game has been fully optimised for mobile play.
  • Microgaming are one of the most renowned developers in the iGaming industry, with one of the largest casino game selections. Pai Gow Poker from Microgaming features an optional bonus bet which can be placed before the cards are dealt. This side bet pays out according to a paytable when the player’s 7 cards contain a straight or higher ranking. The graphical quality of the game is a little dated, yet the gameplay is player friendly, allowing you to view the House Way before it is played. The RTP ranges from 97.14 – 99.31%.

Pai Gow Poker is a Great Casino Game to Play Online!

Pai Gow Poker is an engaging game that gives you the chance to put your skills to the test. It has a relatively low house edge, and with a little practice, you can reduce this even further by following optimal strategy. The slow pace of gameplay and the many pushes enable you to spend a lot of time playing without spending a lot of money in the process. If that ticks the boxes for you, then you should check out Casumo, our top pick for playing Pow Gai Poker online. If you try the game and realise it is not in fact in your taste, then go for some of the other poker variations, such as Red Dog. Here, you can read more about the game and its characteristics.

Common Queries about Pai Gow Poker

To know everything that you might need for Pai Gow poker is impossible unless you are not a trained and experienced player. On this site, we aim to help out not only the seasoned gamblers but the brand new ones as well. That’s why we crafted the current section, filled with the frequently asked questions about Pai Gow online poker.

What is Pai Gow poker?

Pai Gow is a variation of the standard poker game with which most gamblers are used. It differs in many ways, though. As a starter, while it's played with a 52 card deck, there is one joker added to the mix. And your goal is to have 2 poker hands out of the seven cards that you have.

How to play Pai Gow poker?

Once you are seated on a Pai Gow table, you must place your bet. Then you will be dealt 7 cards with which you must make 2 hands. You will split the seven on five and two. An important rule is that you should have a higher hand in the bigger hand. So if you leave your highest hand in the two cards, some casinos will simply adivse you to change it, while others can break the game, taking your bet.

Where to play Pai Gow poker?

That is an easy one - in the listed top Pai Gow poker sites of course! We checked them for you and they are all licensed and completely secure. Plus, they can offer you amazing bonus offers that might boost your gameplay as well.

When was Pai Gow invented?

Quite recently, actually. Back in 1985, the owner of a club in LA had the brilliant idea to improvise with the poker game and happened to invent the Pai Gow poker. From there on, the game gained popularity and first conquered its hometown, then started spreading on the Las Vegas strip. Now it's present in almost every land-based casino that offers table games.