All About Pai Gow Poker

The original pai gow is a game based on a Chinese set of dominoes. The general idea of the game was to arrange the tiles in certain combinations inside of two groups that would be compared to two combinations from the dealer to determine a winner. Since Chinese dominoes aren't that widely-used, two men named Sam Torosian and Fred Wolf decided to convert the basic rules of the game over to a standard deck of playing cards. This was the birth of pai gow poker, and this allowed the game to be played all over the world and on the Internet in dozens of countries.

The combination of the original pai gow game with the more familiar playing cards helped to make pai gow poker particularly popular. In fact, it's one of the single most popular "Asian" table games running today in any casino, land-based or online. While this game would typically be played for higher stakes in land-based establishments, playing pai gow poker online makes it easy to play for even very low stakes since the house has an exceptionally small overhead to account for when compared to a brick and mortar casino.

Online Pai Gow Poker version from Playtech

Poker Reference

Back around 2003, poker made a huge boom on a global level, and more people than ever learned about standard five-card poker hand rankings. Pai gow poker benefited greatly from this explosion in popularity because the only real thing you need to know to play this game, whether you're playing online or in a land-based scenario, is the set of poker hand rankings. Along these lines, because so many people knew about these rankings, pai gow poker online in particular was able to take off as one of the most popular table games in the past decade and a half.

However, there are a few things that set this game apart from standard poker games. First, the game is played with a 53-card deck that uses a semi-wild joker. This joker can be used to complete a straight or a flush, but it's considered an ace otherwise. This is confusing to new players, especially those who are familiar with video poker games that use jokers as complete wilds, because they don't realize that the joker will only play as an ace if it's not a part of a flush or straight.

The second key difference is that the point of the game isn't to just beat the dealer with your five-card poker hand. Instead, you have to really balance out the strength of the five-card hand and the two-card hand, and this leads to a fairly significant depth of strategy. Playing pai gow poker online for low stakes to practice is a key part of the learning process for this game because you have to cultivate an understanding of high-level strategy on an intuitive level if you want to consistently maximize your chances of winning in this game.

How to Get Started Pai Gow

If you're ready to get started playing pai gow poker, then there's a certain process that you should follow to optimize your chances of success. The first thing you should do is make sure you understand the rules involving the joker and the five-card poker hands. Second, you should learn the basic strategies for playing high-card, one pair, two pair and three of a kind hands. The strategies for these common hands are fairly straight-forward and easy to learn with a bit of practice.

Once you have those basic strategies under your belt, you should start playing to gain experience and to put those strategies to use. You'll start noticing patterns in your play, and you'll also start learning that there are certain types of hands that you don't know how to play. A key part of the learning process is to write down hands that you aren't sure how to play and your thoughts on the hand so that you can check out reference material later and get a better understanding of how to play these difficult spots. Taking screen shots is a good option for this if you play pai gow poker online.

When you've got a number of hours of experience putting the basic strategies into play and you don't have to look up any of the more tricky two pair situations, then it's time to move on to the less common and more complicated spots like how to play flush and straight situations without pairs or with split two pairs (where putting the pair in the two-card hand would break your greater five-card hand). These are advanced scenarios, and learning them will bring you one step closer to mastery in this game.