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Pai Gow is played with playing cards having poker hand values, instead of Pai Gow’s Chinese dominoes. The game uses a standard 52-card deck, plus a single joker. The Joker can be used only as an Ace, or to complete a straight, a flush, or a straight flush.
Pai Gow Poker is played on a table set for six players, plus the dealer. Each player attempts to defeat the banker (the casino dealer, or one of the other players at the table).
Ranking the Hands
Each player is dealt seven cards, which are made into two hands: a two-card hand and a five-card hand. The rankings of the hands are based on basic poker rankings. The highest two-card hand is two Aces, and the highest five-card hand a royal flush. Also, the five-card hand must be higher than the two-card hand (if the two-card hand is a pair of sevens, for example, the five-card hand must contain at least a pair of eights or higher).
Object of the Game
The object of Pai Gow Poker is for a player to create two poker hands to beat both of the banker’s two hands. The player’s two-card (low) hand must rank higher than the banker’s two-card (low) hand, and the player’s five-card (high) hand must rank higher than the banker’s five-card (high) hand. If one of the player’s hands ranks exactly the same as the banker’s hand, it’s a tie. The banker wins all tie hands. However, if the player wins one hand, and loses the other, it’s a “push” and no money exchanges hands. Winning hands are paid even money, less a 5% commission. Losing hands lose the money wagered.
The house dealer, or any player, may be the banker. In this version of poker, players are not wagering against each other, or the dealer, but instead against the bank. The dealer and the players rotate to take turns acting as the banker. In order for a player to act as the banker, he or she must have enough money wagered to cover all the other players’ and the house’s bets. The banker is identified by a white plastic marker.
At Spirit Mountain Casino, our Pai Gow tables utilize the Shuffle Master machine. The Shuffle Master shuffles the cards and selects a number at random which will appear on a small electronic sign located in the center of the table. This number indicates to the the dealer the position on the table that will receive the first hand. The recipient of the first hand, becomes the banker for that hand and their position is referred to as number 1. The dealer then places cards in front of each player (including him- or herself) in a counter-clockwise rotation from position number 1.
The dealer doesn’t look at his or her cards until all players have set their hands face down in the designated spaces. The house dealer then turns his cards over and sets his hand face up. The banker’s hand is compared to the house dealer’s hand first. The house bet against the banker is equal to the amount wagered against the house when the dealer was the bank.
Important Rules to Remember
- Once the banker exposes his or her cards, the players can’t touch theirs.
- Players aren’t allowed to show their hands, or discuss them with other players, until all cards are exposed.
- Any player that sets their cards incorrectly automatically loses. Players are responsible for arranging their own hands and should do so with care. Ask your dealer to point out appropriate placement before the hand begins.
- Neither house nor player banks may set an automatic losing hand. Our house rule states that the hand must be reset.