As the name implies, is a card game but with a much different strategy than you might be used to in the game of poker. This casino table game involves seven cards being dealt to each player, from an automatic shuffle machine, after they have made their wager. The player then divides their cards into a five card hand and a two card hand. A win on one hand and a loss on the other hand results in a tie. The deck also contains a joker but it has a limited use. The joker can be used to complete a straight or flush. Otherwise it is considered to be an ace.
Most casinos set a minimum wage of twenty or twenty five dollars for this game. This may seem high to some players but keep in mind that there are many ties (or pushes) in this game. The player has to pay a five percent commission, but only on winning bets. Like any game of cards, a particular seat can get hot or cold for a run of hands. Since the game alternates between two decks, you can be catching strong cards with one deck and weak cards with the other. A random number is generated before each hand to determine where the first set of cards is dealt. The rules also require that a set of cards be dealt to every seat, even if it is unoccupied.
The cards dealt to vacant seats are then collected by the dealer without being looked at. Betting according to which deck is giving you good cards can give you an edge. A player can ask to bank for the hand about to be dealt but they must have enough money on the table to cover every player’s bet. The player who is going to bank cannot bet more than they bet on the previous hand. That bet is against the dealer’s hand. Every other player, who stays in the hand, is then playing against the banking player, not the dealer.
The advantage to being banker is that the banker wins against a tie of either the two card hand or five card hands. If the banker wins the five card hand against your five card hand and has an exact tie with the two card hands, the banker would win the bet. If the banker ties one hand and loses the other, it is still considered an overall tie. You are not required to play every hand so you can sit out when a player takes the bank.
House rules can vary from casino to casino but it is a usual rule that, as far as straights go, the second strongest straight is the ace to five. The highest straight is still ten to ace. Normal poker rankings would have the ace to five as the lowest straight. All casinos have a set of rules governing how the dealer must set their two hands according to the cards they have been dealt. A player can request and obtain a printed set of these rules. The player can also show his cards to the dealer and ask to be shown the house way of setting the hands.
Keep in mind that the house way of setting the hands is designed to beat or tie the majority of opposing hands and is not necessarily the most aggressive tactic in trying for a win. Most casinos have now instituted a bonus play element in Pai Gow poker. It involves the player putting an additional chip on the bonus circle before the cards are dealt. The payoff table for a bonus is posted at the table, based on your total of seven cards. Even if you break up a bonus combination in setting your two hands, you will still be paid the bonus if you had bet it. You can bet as little as one dollar on the bonus wager.
Your goal in this game is to win both hands against the banker or to set the best defensive position with weak cards. You will almost always break up a full house by placing a pair in the two card hand and keeping three of a kind in the five card hand. If you are lucky enough to have an additional pair with your full house, put the higher of the two pairs in the two card hand. When you are dealt three pairs, always put the highest pair in the two card hand. Sometimes you will get more than five cards in succession to form a straight. If you don’t have a pair for your two card hand, keep the lowest straight and put your two highest cards in the two card hand.
There will be times when you can make either a flush or a straight in your five card hand. They are both strong hands so figure out which way will give you the strongest two card hand. One of the most difficult moves to make in this game is breaking up four of a kind. If you were dealt four aces it would probably be necessary to put two aces in the two card hand (the strongest two card hand possible) and take your chances on winning the five card hand with the other pair of aces. There are times when you will be dealt 7 cards with which you can’t make anything better than high card plays for both of the hands. Some careful thought here will serve you well in the long run.
If you were dealt ace – king – queen – jack – nine – eight – seven, without being able to make a flush, most players would put the king – seven in their two card hand. Neither hand is going to be very strong so take a better shot with the two card hand. Put the king – queen in the two card hand and hope to win that one so that you have a better chance for a push. You will still not have committed a foul because the ace high in the five card hand is still the higher hand. As with any game that you have not played before, it is a good idea to practice at home before risking your money at the casino. Get used to making the unconventional poker moves. It is an interesting game and you can win substantial money when the cards are going your way.