Pai Gow Poker is a game for the casinos, adapted from some old Chinese dominoes game. In other words, if you ask twenty people how to play Pai Gow Poker at the Home Poker table, you won't get the same answer twice. What follows are different ways that Pai Gow can be played at a home game.
The dealer must first designate the stakes. On each play, the dealer will either pay a player for his hand, collect from the player, or there will be a push. At a nickle- or quarter-table, the stakes usually involve bets of up to $2...there are no betting rounds so the amount bet is the only amount of money that a player stands to win or lose. However, the dealer must also bear in mind that every player may bet maximum and win. A dealer who calls a $2 maximum with 5 players stands to win or lose up to $10, while individual players stand to win or lose up to $2.
The dealer deals seven cards to each player, including himself or herself. At the same time, players and the dealer make two hands out of these seven cards, one hand of five cards and one hand of two cards. The five card hand will be played out as a regular poker hand under the table of what beats what. The two-card hand is played out as a Two-Card Guts hand, consisting of either a high card or a pair.
The only stipulation regarding the division of these seven cards is that the five card hand must be better than the two card hand. In other words, if the two card hand consists of a pair, then the five card hand must consist of at least a pair of the same value (a hand cannot, for example, be divided into a pair of Aces in the two card hand and five mismatched cards in the five card hand).
Play begins with each player placing their two-card hands face-up. The dealer then exposes his two-card hand. Every two-card hand that is beat by the dealer is turned face-down. Each player then exposes their five card hand, followed by the dealer exposing his. Each player's five card hand that does not beat the dealer's is flipped face-down.
That's the game. For every player that has both of his hands flipped face-up, the dealer pays even money to the bet that player made. For every player that has both of his hands flipped face-down, the dealer collects that player's bet. For every player that has one hand flipped up and one flipped down, it is a push...the player takes his bet back, not losing anything but not winning any of the dealer's money. In other words, beating the dealer on both hands collects; losing to the dealer on both hands pays; winning one and losing the other is a push.
What is described above is the closest to the Pai Gow that is played in casinos. However, it can make for an unexciting home game. Players who are unsure of the game or their hands will make small bets and in the end, not win or lose a great deal.
- Variation: Same betting concept, except determining the win or loss comes down to the five card hand. Players make their bets after dividing their seven cards and then expose their two card hands. The players whose two cards hands are not as good as the dealer's are automatically out, their bets collected by the dealer. Those players remaining for the showdown of five card hands may add to their bets if they wish. Then, all players and the dealer expose their five card hands. Those players with better five card hands than the dealer are paid even money (including the amount that they bumped up their bet, if they chose to). Those without pay their bet to the dealer.
- Check out Pai Gow in the Stud Poker section of Poker.com. You'll find versions more home-game-friendly, where all players play each other instead of the House.