Pai Gow Poker


Pai gow poker is played among up to seven players. One of the players is designated as the player-dealer. (indicated by a dealer button). Each player is dealt seven cards, which are arranged into two hands. One hand consists of five cards; the other hand consists of two cards. After players have arranged their hands so the five-card hand ranks higher than the two-card hand, the house dealer reveals and arranges the player-dealer’s hand.

Hands then compete, one at a time, as in a blackjack game, against the player-dealer hand. The player-dealer hand competes against player hands clockwise beginning with the hand in an order determined by the shaking of dice.

Double-hand uses poker rankings to compare the two player hands with the two hands of the player-dealer. The player wins if both hands beat those of the player-dealer; the player loses if both hands are beat by those of the player-dealer. If either hand ties that of the player-dealer, this is considered a win for the dealer. The player pushes (neither wins nor loses) if one hand wins and the other hand loses or ties.

Bay 101 provides house dealers for all games but does not participate in the actual play of the game and has no interest in the outcome of play. No player ever plays against or makes a wager against Bay 101.

Pai Gow Poker in Detail

In pai gow poker (also known as double-hand poker), the deck consists of 53 cards, 52 arranged into four suits, spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs, plus one joker. Unlike bridge and other games, no suit is “worth” more than any other. Each suit consists of 13 cards, ranked, from highest to lowest: ace, king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

An ace can also rank as the lowest card, but only in a 5-high straight. That is, A-K-Q-J-10 is the highest straight, while in this hand, the straight 5-4-3-2-A, the ace is the lowest card.

Five-Card Hand Rankings

From highest to lowest, with examples
five aces A A♠ A A♣ joker
royal flush AKQ J10
straight flush J♠ 10♠ 9♠ 8♠ 7♠
four of a kind K♠ 7 7♠ 7 7♣
full house 9♠ 9 9 J J
Flush Q♠ 10♠ 7♠ 4♠ 2♠
straight 10♠ 9 87♠ 6
three of a kind 7♠ 7♦ 7♣ QJ
two pair A♠ A J J♣ 5♠
one pair 2♠ 2 J5♣ 3♠
no pair KJ 8♠ 6 3♣

In five-card hands, the joker can be used to complete any straight or flush. In any other five-card hand, the joker ranks as an ace. For example, in this hand, the flush Ajoker 7 42, the joker represents the K (In any flush that does not contain an ace, the joker ranks as the ace of that suit.) In this hand, the straight 10♠ 9 8 joker 6♣, the joker represents a 7. Other examples: A♠ A joker is three aces, while Q Q♠ J♦J♣ joker is two pair with an ace kicker (side card).

Two-Card Hand Rankings

Two-card hands fall into two categories, pair and no pair. The pairs rank from highest, A-A, to lowest, 2-2. The no-pair hands rank from highest, A-K, to lowest, 3-2.

In two-card hands, the joker is just another ace. For example, the hand A♥-joker is a pair of aces and joker-4♣ is the same as any other A-4 combination.


The player-dealer puts up a bank against which the remaining players make wagers.

Each player may take the bank twice, then the button rotates clockwise. A player, in turn, may decline or accept the player-dealer position.

The house dealer deals seven hands (piles) directly in front of the chip tray, each consisting of seven cards. The player-dealer selects one of the seven piles as the first hand to be delivered. The house dealer places an action button on the selected hand.

The position the hands are dealt to is randomly decided by the roll of three dice. The player-dealer position counts as either 1, 8, or 15. For example, if the dice total 12, the first hand would be dealt to the fourth position clockwise from the player-dealer’s position (12 - 8 = 4). All hands go directly to the seat position, except for the hand of the player-dealer, which goes directly in front of the house dealer. After distributing the seven hands, the house dealer picks up any hands dealt to an empty seat; those cards are taken out of play.

Players arrange their hands, then place the hands in front of them, with the two-card hand (front hand) in front of the five-card hand (back hand). This is called setting the hand [see figure 3 ]. The back hand must rank higher than the front hand. A player can ask the house dealer to set the hand for him. If so, the hand is set house way, that is, in a predetermined manner [see figure 4 ]. After all player hands have been set, the player-dealer reveals and sets his hand. Hands then compete, one at a time, as in a blackjack game, against the player-dealer hand. Play begins with the action button and proceeds clockwise.

The order in which hands compete against the player-dealer is important, because if the player-dealer loses his stake, not all player hands may get to compete. (The commonly used term for this is the bank does not cover.) Also, a hand may not get complete action. For example, the player-dealer puts up a bank of $200. The action button wagers $100 and the next five players wager $50 each. The player-dealer loses the first three hands, paying the action button $100 and the next two players $50 each. The bank is now empty, and the remaining three players get no action on their $50 wagers. It doesn’t matter whether their hands would win or lose against the player-dealer. A player may never win or lose more than the total of his wager.

After a player-dealer has had two opportunities to put up a bank, the next player clockwise has the option of putting up a bank. No player is ever obligated to put up a bank.

The house dealer controls the shuffling and dealing of the cards, orderliness of the game, and the house collections for each hand.

Multiple players can wager on the same hand. When a player bets on a hand and is not seated at that location at the table it is called backline betting. Backline bettors usually stand behind the seated player on whose hand they’re betting but they can also be seated at another seat location. Whoever wagers the most on a hand determines how to set the hand.


To Win

To win, both player hands must rank higher than the player-dealer's two hands.


To Lose

To lose, both player hands must rank lower than or tie the player-dealer’s two hands. (If either hand ties that of the player-dealer, this is considered a win for the dealer. For example, both player and player-dealer have ace-king as their front hand. The player-dealer wins.)

To Push

To push (neither win nor lose, that is, for no money to change hands) one of the player's two hands wins and one loses to or ties the player-dealer's hand. The second illustration shows an example of a tie push.

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