Pai Gow poker is a Western spin on the ancient Chinese game Pai Gow, which used special dominos and dice. Pai Gow is a complicated, slow-paced game that was social in nature and rarely seen outside of Asia.
Pai Gow poker combines this ancient Chinese game and classic Western poker. It first appeared in Vegas casinos in 1986, so it’s still a relatively new game when compared to other casino games. Its popularity has dramatically increased over the past ten years, particularly where online play is concerned, and this surge in online popularity is largely due to improvements in technology that allow a graphically pleasing and accurate online representation.
Pai Gow poker is played with a regular 53-card deck that includes the Joker. The ranking of hands mimics that seen in traditional poker, with the exception that the joker plus four aces rank the highest. The object is to use seven dealt cards to create two hands that will beat the dealer’s two hands domino.
A unique component of Pai Gow Poker is that any participant can request to be the banker. When this occurs, players compare their hands to the player-banker rather than the house dealer. The player-banker wins all ties, collects losing wagers, and pays winners from their own pocket. When there is a player-banker, the house collects a five percent commission on any winning hands. In Pai Gow, the house advantage is 2.5 percent, although this becomes almost even when a player becomes the banker.
There aren’t many differences between online Pai Gow poker and the in-casino version. The most obvious difference that does exist, however, is that an online player is alone with the dealer. Traditionally, five or six players will be at a Pai Gow table at once. Although this may take some of the excitement out of playing, it gives the online player more control over his or her playing environment. An online player may choose to play without a lot of noise and other distractions. Cocktail waitresses, other conversations, or other casino-related sites and sounds do not interrupt the player. When playing Pai Gow online, players therefore find themselves in a better environment for maintaining focus and thinking through each decision. Further, there are no time constraints placed upon these decisions.
When playing Pai Gow poker online, players are dealt seven cards face up and the goal is simply to beat the hands of the dealer. Once dealt the seven cards, players will split them into two hands of two cards and five cards, and the rank of the latter must be greater than that of the former. Whether the player wins, looses, or ties depends on how the dealer splits its hand.
Pai Gow poker is now available in most Online Casinos. It’s an interesting spin on a classic, and might offer a nice change of pace for those needing a little variety in their poker play.