Learn How to Play Pai Gow Poker Online at Cafe Casino

Our new casino game spotlight - Pai Gow Poker is actually a combination of two old favorites. Here’s how you can play Pai Gow Poker online at Cafe Casino.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker for Real Money

The Chinese dominoes game of pai gow has been around for thousands of years. Casino Poker is a somewhat newer game, with roots dating back to the 1600s. What happens when you combine these two classics? That’s exactly what Sam Torosian did when he invented Pai Gow Poker in 1985, and his new game proved to be a smash hit, spreading from his California card room to casinos around the world. Thanks to Torosian, you can play real money Pai Gow Poker online at Cafe Casino. This guide will show you how.

What Is Pai Gow Poker?

Pai Gow Poker uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards, plus a Joker. You get dealt seven cards, then you split them into two hands, one with five cards (known as the high hand) and the other with two (the low hand). Once you’ve split your cards, the Dealer does the same, and the hands are compared to see who wins.

How to Bet in Pai Gow Poker

To play Pai Gow Poker for real money online at Cafe Casino, start by putting down a bet between $1 and $500 and then hitting “Deal.” You place your bet using the virtual chips at the bottom-right of your display. Each chip has its denomination printed on the front: $1, $5, $25, $100, and $500. Simply tap or click the chips you want to use; you can do the same if you want to lower your bet before the cards are dealt.

Pai Gow Poker Rules

After you place your bet, your seven cards are dealt to you face-up, and seven cards are dealt to the Dealer face-down. The ideal result is to have a stronger 5-card hand than the Dealer’s, and a stronger 2-card hand. If you succeed, you get an even-money payout minus a 5% commission. If you win one hand, and the Dealer wins the other hand, the result is a push and your original bet is returned. You lose the bet if both of the Dealer’s hands are stronger. Any tied hands go to the Dealer.

The strength of your 5-card Pai Gow Poker hand is based primarily on the standard poker hand rankings. The Joker gives you the chance to make Five of a Kind, which leads to the following rankings for Pai Gow Poker:

  • Five of a Kind (As-Ah-Ac-Ad-Joker)
  • Royal Flush (As-Ks-Qs-Js-Ts)
  • Straight Flush (Ts-9s-8s-7s-6s)
  • Four of a Kind (Ks-Kh-Kc-Kd-3c)
  • Full House (7s-7c-7h-As-Ac)
  • Flush (Qh-Th-6h-3h-2h)
  • Straight (As-Kh-Qc-Joker-Tc)
  • Three of a Kind (5s-5h-5d-3h-Jc)
  • Two Pair (3s-3d-2c-2d-Ks)
  • Pair (8h-8c-Kd-Td-2d)
  • High Card (Qs-Js-Ts-7h-Joker)

The trick with the Joker is that it’s a semi-wild card. You can use it to complete straights and flushes; otherwise, it counts as an Ace, so the only way to make Five of a Kind is with the four regular Aces plus the Joker. Here’s another twist with the Pai Gow Poker rules: The Five-Four-Three-Deuce-Ace straight (known as the wheel) is the second-highest straight behind Ace-King-Queen-Jack-Ten, not the lowest.

As for your 2-card hand, there are only two possible ranks: Pair and High Card. It’s not a straight if your two cards are connected, like Seven-Six, and it’s not a flush if they’re both of the same suit. One last thing to keep in mind when you’re learning how to play Pai Gow Poker: Your 5-card hand must be stronger than your 2-card hand when you split your cards. If you get it wrong, you’ll be allowed to try again when you play Pai Gow Poker online at Cafe Casino. But get this wrong at a live casino, and you’ll foul your hand, forfeiting your bet in the process.

Basic Pai Gow Poker Strategy

One of the big reasons playing Pai Gow Poker for real money is so popular is that you only have one decision to make: how to split your seven cards. More often than not, your decision will be obvious, but there will be times when you’re not so sure about the best way to split your cards. Here’s the good news: Just like with video poker, there’s an optimal way to play Pai Gow Poker online. You can find these optimal strategies on the web and follow along while you’re playing. You can also find more simplified strategies that will be easier to learn when you’re figuring out how to play Pai Gow Poker.

A typical Pai Gow Poker strategy will ask you to look at your seven cards, and see whether a straight or a flush is possible. Then you’ll look at how many paired cards you have, and you’ll take the recommended action based on those criteria. For example, let’s say you get dealt Jc-Ks-Kc-Jd-8s-5c-3h. No flush or straight is possible, but you do have two pair. The recommended strategy here is to put the top pair (Ks-Kc) in your high hand and the smaller pair (Jc-Jd) in your low hand to create the following split:

  • Ks-Kc-8s-5c-3h
  • Jd-Jc

These are both solid hands, especially the low hand, so you have a good chance at beating the Dealer and winning your bet. This strategy will change depending on the strength of your pairs. Getting it right will take some practice, but with a simplified Pai Gow Poker strategy, you can get close to optimal results in a relatively short amount of time.

Advanced Pai Gow Poker Strategy

If you want to play online Pai Gow Poker for real money like a seasoned pro, you’ll need to figure out the optimal Pai Gow Poker strategy. These strategies work exactly the same as the near-optimal versions, but with a long list of exceptions that you’ll need to memorize ahead of time – there are simply too many to print off in an easy-to-follow chart. But if you can get the optimal strategy right, you can whittle the house edge for Pai Gow Poker down to 2.51%.

Again, we recommend starting with a simplified Pai Gow Poker strategy when you’re brand-new to the game. This will give you the fundamentals you’ll need to understand the more advanced plays, and you can still keep the house edge down to around 2.70%, which is the same edge you’ll find when you play European Roulette. If Pai Gow Poker seems interesting to you, try it for free at Cafe Casino using the Practice Play mode. Once you begin to feel comfortable dividing the hands, switch over to Real Play mode and get those cards in the air.

Learn How to Play Pai Gow Poker Online at Cafe Casino