Pai Gow Poker - Strategies

Universally recognized as good Pai Gow Poker strategy is to be the banker as often as you can, because ties always go to the banker and therefore, the banker has a statistical edge. Even though it is the banker who must pay a 5 % commission on all wins, commissions are calculated only after all wins have been measured against all losses. Once you have located a casino that allows players to be the banker, try to select a table with relatively few players who are making bets much higher than your usual minimum bet. The fewer the players, the more frequently you can be the banker.
Then you want to split your hands according to an optimal strategy. The house's dealer, actually, must split his hands according to the 'House Way'. House Way rules can be quite complex and can vary from casino to casino though they of course always represent a close to optimal strategy. It is recommended that you procure a copy of the casino's 'House Way' and play according to its required hand divisions.

Below you will find a general and simplified guide to setting your Pai Gow Poker hands.

Your Hand
Set your 5-Card Hand
Set your 2-Card Hand
No Pair
Highest card
Second and third highest cards
One Pair
Next 2 highest cards
2 Pair with Pair of Aces Pair of Aces Other Pair
2 Pair

Normally split. Unless your high pair is Jacks or 10's and you have an Ace, keep the 2 pair together and place the Ace in the 2-card hand. If your high pair is 9's or lower and you have an Ace or a King, keep the 2 pair together and place the Ace or King in the 2-card hand

3 Pair

Second and third highest pairs

Highest pair
Three of a Kind

If you have 3 Aces, play 1 Ace in the 2-card hand and the pair of Aces in the 5-card hand. With all other'’s keep the three of a kind together in the high hand

5,6 or 7 Card Straight
Keep the lowest cards to complete the straight
2 highest cards that keep the 5-card hand’s straight
Straight and 2 Pair
Disregard the straight and play as 2 pair
5,6 or 7 Card Flush
Keep the lowest flush
2 highest cards that keep the 5-card hand’s flush
Flush and 2 Pair
Disregard the flush and play as 2 pair
Flush with Full House including the Joker
Disregard the flush and play as a full house
Full House
Three of a kind

Three of a Kind and 2 Pair

Three of a kind with the lower pair as a full house

Higher pair

Four of a Kind – 2’s through 6’s
Four of a kind

Next 2 highest cards

Four of a Kind – 7’s through Jacks

Split them except if you have a King or Ace you can play in the 2-card hand

Four of a Kind – Queens, Kings and Aces

Always split

5,6 or 7 Card Flush

Keep the lowest cards to complete the straight flush

2 highest cards that keep the 5-card hand’s straight flush

Flush and 2 Pair

Disregard the straight flush and play as 2 pair

5 Aces including the Joker
Place a pair of Aces in the 2-card hand
5 Aces with a Pair of Kings
Place the Kings in the 2-card hand

The thing you always have to remember is you need to win both hands. A full house would look very good in a 5-card hand but unless you have another pair besides the full house in your hand, it would always be wise to split up the full house into a pair and a three of a kind. A pair in a 2-card hand is almost unbeatable, unless of course your card values are lower than the dealers. And, of course, a three of a kind is also very good in a 3-card hand. In this case you can be almost sure you are going to be a winner. If you kept the full house in just one hand, the other hand would have lost and it would have been a push.

Another thing to think of is in case you have to choose between either making 2 average to weak hands or 1 strong hand and 1 sure loser. Generally it is better to play it safe and go for 1 strong hand and hope for a push instead of risking to lose your bet with 2 average hands.

A different option in Pai Gow is the rotating bank. Since there are 6 players on the table plus the dealer you will get this option every seventh hand at a full table. This is the way to make really good money out of the game. On the other hand you also have a lot to lose. If you decide to be the bank you have to come up with at least enough money to cover the bets of all players on the table. Now you are in the position of the casino and everybody is playing against you, including the dealer. In case you lose you will have to pay any losses you incur but in case you are lucky enough to get a good hand and win, you will get the whole pot. Bear in mind, even if you play the bank, the casino still gets its 5% commission on any winning wagers.

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