Chinese Poker – A Better Version Of Pai Gow

how to play pai gow poker

If you have time to kill and a deck of cards, no game is as good as Chinese Poker. Just ask poker pro Phil Ivey. One time, he actually went to Europe just to play the game on the way over.

At first, Ivey didn’t want to go to the European Poker Tour event in Monte Carlo 2005, but Barry Greenstein promised him Chinese-poker action on the way over so Ivey decided to go anyway

The story doesn’t revile whether Ivey or Greenstein won the Chinese-poker game when they flew across the pond, but we know that Ivey took home the Main Event in the actual poker tournament and a nice $1,600,000 was added to his bankroll.

Many poker professionals love this little game, and it was actually an own event in the 1995 and 1996 World Series of Poker. The game is quite similar to Pai Gow Poker, which you may have stumbled across in brick-and-mortar and online casinos.

Rules of Chinese Poker

Chinese poker rules are quite simple. You only need to know the poker-hand ranking.

The game starts with players receiving 13 cards each from a regular 52-card deck. With these cards they then create three separate poker hands – two hands containing five cards (back and middle hand) and one containing three cards (the front).

The back hand must be strongest, followed by the middle hand, and the front hand. A possible hand could be: Back hand, full house; middle hand, straight; front hand, pair.

Video: Chinese Poker – A Better Version Of Pai Gow

The Scoring

When all players have put their cards in neat piles on the table, the player left of the dealer start showing his cards, followed by his opponents in a clockwise manner.

Players then receive one point from each player he/she beats with back, middle or front hand. This means that you can win although you’re just second best – a rarity in poker. There is a diversity of rules when it comes to scoring, but you’ll often get a bonus if you win all three hands. This is known as a scoop and awards three extra points.

Then how much money a point is worth is solely up to you.


Bonuses, or royalties, are sometimes awarded to players with really strong or rare holdings. These must, however, be declared prior to the showdown.

Bonuses are commonly awarded to:

  • Straight flush (back or middle
  • Four of a kind (back or middle)
  • Full house (middle)
  • Three of a kind (front)

Some hand combinations are also sometimes awarded bonuses. These are:

  • Three straights
  • Three flushes
  • Six pairs
  • 13 unique cards

pai gow poker logo

Learn the game

If you wish to learn the game, you can start by playing Pai Gow. Pai Gow is played with seven cards, a front and a back hand with five and two cards. The five-card hand must be better than the five-card hand, and you compare both hands against the dealer’s holdings.




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