Pai Gow Poker Strategies that Actually Work

  • Pai gow poker is a hybrid of American seven-card poker and Chinese pai gow
  • An understanding of good pai gow strategy does not take a long time to learn
  • Read our advice on how to win with pai gow poker strategies that actually work
Pai Gow Poker Strategies that Actually Work

Most casino enthusiasts have heard of 5 card draw poker, Omaha and Texas Hold’em. What they may not realise is that there are many other types of poker available at online casinos. One of the more popular variations is Pai gow poker. Also called double-hand poker, it is an Americanized version of pai gow that uses playing cards instead of Chinese dominoes. Pai gow poker strategies that actually work offers strategy advice on playing your hands in a way designed to scale up your winnings.

Played with a standard 52-card deck plus a joker, it differs from the typical seven-card game in that you play against a banker, not against other players at the table. A slower paced game with easy-to-learn rules and strategy, pai gow poker isn’t particularly demanding. With a bit of practice and a basic understanding of what it takes to beat the dealer, you will be in with a good chance of a profit.

How pai gow poker is played

The aim of Pai Gow Poker is to beat the dealer. The game is played with the standard deck of 52 cards and one Joker, which is usually semi-wild. It can be used to complete any straights or flushes, but in all other instances, it is counted as an Ace. At some casinos, you will also find that the Joker is completely wild.

Ultimately, Pai Gow is about hand-setting, and this is where you can use pai gow strategies that actually work. The hand begins with all players posting their ante bet, after which they receive seven cards, face down. When you receive your cards, you need to arrange them in two separate hands. The first is a five-card hand, called a ‘high’ or ‘bottom’ hand. The second is a two-card hand, called a ‘low’ or ‘top’ hand. Standard poker hands rankings are used to determine the winner. This means that One Pair beats a high-card hand, Two Pair beats One Pair, and so on.

Once the dealer sets the Banker hand using a casino chosen ‘house-way’, the hands are compared. One very important rule to remember in Pai Gow is that your two-card hand must never be stronger than your five-card hand. For example, if you have a pair of 10s at the bottom, you can’t place a pair of Jacks at the top. If you do this, your hand is fouled, and you forfeit your bet. When you play online, however, the platform is generous enough to warn you that you make a bad move and need to adjust your hands. If you’re learning about pai gow, you might also want to read about other Gambling Games From Asia You Should Try in 2020.

Pai Gow Poker Strategies that Actually Work
Let’s learn the rules!

Pai gow poker payouts

Once all players are done setting their hands, the dealer will set their own. They then compare it to the players’ hands and pay the winners. If the player’s high hand beats the banker’s high hand, and low hand beats the banker’s low hand, they win. Winning one hand but losing the other means the bet is a ‘push’, or tie, and the player neither wins nor loses. Naturally, if the Banker wins both hands, the player loses. The banker does an advantage however. When one of a player’s hands is the same value as the banker’s hand it is a ‘copy’, and the Banker wins that hand.

Many hands will end up in a push, which means you’re often able to play long sessions without making a serious dent in your poker bankroll. When you win both hands online, you are paid at 1:1 on your ante, meaning you double your money – minus a 5 percent commission charged by the house. So if you wager ₤5 and both of your hands win, you’ll make ₤4.75 profit. This commission is what creates the house edge, by which casinos turn a profit from table games. Without it, Pai Gow Poker would essentially be a player-favourable game.

When you play randomly without any strategy, the house edge of Pai-Gow Poker is around 2.8 %. This is approximately the same as European Roulette, essentially a game of chance, at 2.72 %. You can, however, use pai gow poker strategies that actually work to avoid foolish mistakes. So unlike Roulette, you can reduce the house edge for Pai Gow Poker, even with the commission in place. You’ll find platforms where you can play pai gow and a host of other casino games at our trusted online gambling sites in the UK.

Pai Gow Poker strategies that actually work and side bets

Over the years, pai gow poker has evolved to include a number of variations. All of these have pretty much the same basic rules. However, some of them also let you place side bets, providing the possibility of bigger wins. Essentially, you’re betting that you’ll make a hand that’s at least a Three of a kind or better. Side bets have nothing to do with your main wagers, and are paid independently of the outcome of the hand.

A common Fortune Bonus Pai Gow Poker payout table:

Your Hand Payout
7-Card Straight Flush 8.000 to 1
Royal Flush and Royal Match 2.000 to 1
7-Card Straight Flush With Jocker 1.000 to 1
5 Aces 400 to 1
Royal Flush 150 to 1
Straight Flush  50 to 1
Four of a Kind 25 to 1
Full House  5 to 1
Flush  4 to 1
Three of a Kind 3 to 1
Straight 2 to 1

The Fortune Bonus, for example, is a side bet that pays only on the value of a player’s seven cards. A player making the fortune bet can also qualify for what is called an Envy Bonus – typically, they must bet a minimum of ₤5 on the Fortune Bonus to do so. The Envy Bonus is paid when other players at the table make a hand of Four-of-a-Kind or better. Based on a typical pay table, the Fortune Bonus pai gow wager has a house edge of nearly 8%. With the Envy wager, you can subtract approximately 1% for each additional player at the table. These bonus wagers, however, have nothing to do with how the player has set his or her hand – and so are also independent of pai gow strategies that actually work.

Pai Gow Poker Strategies that Actually Work
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Playing the bonus

Side bets can allow you to win big in pai gow poker, but you have to get lucky for that to happen. They also increase the house edge significantly. In pai gow, the house makes more money on the bonus bets than on the commission it charges. The game is usually played at a fairly leisurely pace, as there are a lot of pushes. So for some players, the bonus option keeps things interesting – as well as providing the excitement of a possible big payoff.

If you play the bonus wager, hopefully you’ll get lucky. And if not, maybe you’re happy to chalk it up to the price of entertainment. But remember the odds are not good on bonus bets. Pai gow strategies that actually work already offer some of the best potential returns on your money for casino games outside of craps or blackjack. So if you want to increase your chances of winning at pai gow, don’t give the casino any more of your hard-earned money than you have to.

The basics of pai gow poker strategies that actually work

Since there aren’t any betting decisions to make along the way, Pai Gow isn’t too complicated from a strategic point of view. Bets are made before the cards are dealt. The house always uses a ‘house-way’ to set its own hand – always starting with the idea that it does not want to lose. So if you want to maximise your chances of winning at pai gow, you need to play in a similar style. This means playing the best two hands you can, and not necessarily making the best five-card hand possible. Basically, you should focus on making the highest possible two-card hand that remains equal to or lower than the five-card hand.

An example. Lets say you are dealt four Aces and 2-3-4. You could play the four Aces in the high (five-card) hand with the 2, and the 4-3 in the low (two-card) hand. Or, like most players, play three Aces in the high hand and an Ace-4 in the low hand. However, the house knows that if it plays an Ace-Ace in the low hand it can not be beaten. Four Aces are already out, and the best any other player can do in the low hand is King-King. It will also still beat a few other hands with the pair of Aces in the high hand. So, the basics of Pai Gow strategies that actually work are, if you want to win, don’t take unnecessay risks. Always try to play a very good two-card hand. And as you’re reading this, why not also check out The Most Popular Chinese Casino Games – Challenge Your Fate or Puzzle It Over?

Pai Gow Poker Strategies that Actually Work
Let’s play!

Pai gow poker strategies that actually work when setting your hand

Because you need to beat both of the dealer’s hands to make a profit on a hand of pai gow poker, making a very strong high hand while having something like 9-high in the low hand usually won’t cut it. You’re far better off having two fairly strong hands than having one super-strong hand coupled with nothing. Don’t undervalue the low hand. While it has to be lower, it doesn’t mean it should be easily beatable.

Playing Pai Gow Poker offers gamblers the opportunity of enjoying a casino game with a relatively low house edge – approximately 2.8%. And you’re probably asking yourself if it’s possible to eliminate the house advantage altogether during play. Unfortunately it’s not, due to the fact that the house usually takes a 5% commission on winning hands. But the good news is you can cut it down significantly by setting your cards using the house-way. So, here are a few simple pai gow strategies that actually work to keep in mind when arranging your Pai Gow hand:

No made hand

If you don’t have at least One Pair, leaving your highest ranking card in the high hand and putting the next two highest-ranking cards in the low hand is usually the best strategy.

One Pair

Use it in your high hand. For example, you get A-A-K-T-6-5-2. You should use A-A-6-5-2 as your high hand, and put the next two highest cards K-T in your low hand. This will give you a better chance of beating the dealer with both hands, even though it does not create the best five-card hand.

Two Pair

House way rules for splitting two pair are based on categorizing the pairs into 3 distinct groups. There are low pairs (2’s through 6’s), middle pairs (7’s through 10’s) and high pairs (Jacks through Aces). When considering pai gow strategies that actually work, first check what the best low hand you can make is if you play both pairs in the high hand.

Always split two pair if you’re holding one pair of Aces plus another high pair, two high pair, or one high and one middle pair. Put the higher pair in the high hand.

Split a high pair and a low pair, or two middle pairs – unless you have an Ace. If you do have an ace, you can also play Ace-high in the low hand with Two Pair in the high hand.

Split a middle pair and a low pair, or two low pairs – unless you have an Ace or a King. In this case, you can play Ace or King-high in the low hand with Two Pair in the high hand.

Pai Gow Poker Strategies that Actually Work
What’s your lucky hand?

Three Pair

Since you get seven cards, it is also possible to land Three Pair. When this happens, play the highest pair in the low hand and the second and third highest pairs in the high hand.

Three of a kind

Always play Three of a Kind in your high hand unless it’s Aces. Split Aces into a pair in the high hand, and Ace-high in the low hand. Otherwise, keep the Three of a Kind in the high hand, while playing the next two best cards in the low hand. If you have two Three of a Kinds, play a pair from the highest set in in your low hand.

Full house

You’ve probably spotted a trend in Pai-Gow Poker strategies that actually work by now. And it continues when you have a Three of a Kind with either One Pair or Two Pair. Here you should always play the One Pair, or the higher of the Two Pair, in the low hand.

Four of a kind

If you have Four of a Kind that are high, always split them into two pairs. Split a middle Four of a Kind into two pairs unless you have an Ace to make Ace-high in the low hand. With a low Four of a Kind, keep it in the high hand and make the best low hand you can with the remaining cards. The only time to deviate from this strategy is if you also have a pair to go with your Four of a Kind. Use the pair as the low hand, and keep that all-powerful Four of a Kind together.

Five Aces

Always split five aces (if you have a Joker) unless you have a pair of Kings to put in the low hand. Split them into Three of a Kind for the high hand, and a pair for the low hand.


If you have a Straight, keep it for the high hand. If it consists of six or seven cards, make sure to use the two highest cards for the low hand. Without destroying the Straight, of course. And here you also need to check casino rules. Some venues still count the wheel (A-2-3-4-5) as the second-best straight, so find out if this is the case before you start.


The same as for a Straight. Complete the Flush for the high hand but if possible keep the highest cards for the low hand. The same also goes for the Straight Flush and Royal Flush. The exception is when you also have Two Pair. Here you should follow pai gow poker strategies that actually work and split them according to the Two Pair rules. With only One Pair, use it in the low hand if you can keep a Straight or Flush in the five-card hand.

Have these tips to hand when playing online

These are pretty much all the Pai Gow Poker strategies that actually work you need to know. It may seem like quite a lot to remember. But most of it makes sense when you think about it, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Of course, if you’re playing online, you can keep these tips with you. There’s nothing to stop you referring to them if you find yourself unsure of what the best play may be. And when you’re ready to start playing, you can’t go wrong at one of our recommended online platforms such as Bet365 Casino.

Pai Gow Poker Strategies that Actually Work
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Don’t pass up an opportunity to bank

At land based casinos, you’re playing against the house. The best chance you have of winning at Pai Gow, however, is when your’e given the chance to Bank. This means you are now playing your money against all the other players at the table. Most land-based casinos offer a chance to bank once every seven hands. If you’re looking for Pai gow strategies that actually work, never, ever pass up an opportunity to be the banker when the option is available.

Playing as the banker, you’ll win when other players make mistakes setting their hands. That’s your edge. You’ll pay their winnings from your bankroll, meaning more of your money at risk each hand. But, because you’ll also be collecting their losses, with good strategy you can significantly scale up your winnings. And remember, as a player you lose ties. As the banker, you win ties.

Another big advantage comes from the way the 5% commission you pay on winnings is handled. As a normal player, if you play five hands and win three times, you pay the 5% commission three times. As banker, you only pay the commission on your net winnings at the end of the hand. These advantages seem small, but they shave the normal 2.66% edge to 1.46%.

Unfortunately, in online Pai Gow Poker, you’ll probably won’t get the chance to be the banker. Most Pai Gow Poker games are designed to be played by just one player against the house, with the house always taking the role of banker. But while this means that you won’t be able to take advantage of the edge that it gives you, it also means that you won’t have to worry about risking your bankroll by having to pay out to your fellow players.

Playing pai gow poker online

It’s fair to say that most online casino games nowadays are mobile-friendly, and this includes Pai Gow Poker. Launching the game on a mobile device offers various advantages, including on-the-go play. You’ll find apps available at many good platforms, such as 888casino, who offer a mobile pai gow poker app with a clean and easy-to-use interface and great graphics.

If you’re thinking of joining a new site to play pai gow poker, then visit our trusted online casinos in the UK and compare the welcome bonuses on offer. But remember, before accepting any bonus, always check the wagering requirement in the Terms and Conditions. This will tell you how much you need to wager on top of the bonus money before you can withdraw any cash. And once you’ve chosen your platform, follow these Pai-Gow strategies that actually work… you’ll find yourself beating the house a lot more often.

You can discover more about Bet365 Casino here.

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