Pai Gow Poker: The Game, The Rules


The Game

Pai Gow poker has its roots in the ancient Chinese game of Pai Go. Pai Gow poker is a blend of the ancient game and American poker. Pai Gow poker has grown quickly in popularity. When you play Pai Gow poker, you must pay a 5% commission to the bank each time you win. New York Casino’s Pai Gow Poker game is based on the strategy of Stanford Wong .

The Rules

Pai Gow poker is played with a deck of 53 cards: a standard deck plus one wild joker. Each player is dealt 7 cards and must split them into two hands. The first hand is referred to as “the highest hand,” and consists of 5 cards. The second hand is referred to as “the second highest,” and consists of only 2 cards. The game follows general poker ranking rules: one pair, three of a kind, etc. The 5-card hand must always rank higher than the 2-card hand. For example, if your seven cards are: ace + ace + 9 + 7 + 5 + 4 + 3, you cannot place the two aces as in your 2-card hand. The pair of aces must be kept in “the highest hand” (i.e. the 5-card hand).

Your goal as the player is to beat both of the dealer’s hands; the highest and the second highest. If you only succeed in winning one of the two hands, the round results in a tie, or “push.”

If both your hands lose against the dealer’s hands, the dealer takes the bet. If both of your hands beat the dealer’s hands, you receive “even money” on your bet (i.e. 1 to 1), with the exception that the bank takes a 5% commission from your winnings.

New York Casino’s Pai Gow Poker game follow the standard rules of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The exceptions, however, are that players cannot play the dragon or act as dealer. Furthermore, the players do not lose their bets if they mistakenly create a “dead hand,” but are merely warned to rearrange their cards.

Dead Hand

When you play in a traditional, real-life casino, it is very important to keep “the dead hand” in mind. A dead hand results when the Pai Gow player fails to divide the seven cards properly into a highest and second highest hand. If the player places his two best cards in the second highest hand, the player’s hand is considered “dead” and he loses instantly. This will not happen to Pai Gow players at New York Casino. When you make a mistake dividing your seven cards, you are merely notified by the game that your cards must be redistributed between the two hands.

Wild Card

The wild card, or joker, may be used only as a single ace; or to complete a flush, straight, or a straight flush.

Highest, Five-Card Hand

The 5-card hand must be “the highest.” The player must try to create the best possible 5-card hand from his seven dealt cards. In Pai Gow poker, the highest-ranking hand is 5 aces (i.e. 4 aces plus the wild card). This poker hand beats a royal flush.

Second Highest, Two-Card Hand

The 2-card hand is referred to as “the second highest.” The 2-card hand of highest rank is a pair of aces. If the second highest hand is not composed of a pair, the value of the cards determines the hands rank.

Copy Hand

When the player and the dealer compare hands that have the same rank, that hand is referred to as a “copy hand.” Unlike in blackjack, where a copy hand results in a push; the dealer wins the copy hand in Pai Gow.

Pai Gow Hand Ranking

(Highest to lowest in rank)

pai gow poker rules 1

The only difference between the system of ranking hands in Pai Gow poker and in other poker games is that A-K-Q-J-10 ranks as the highest straight, A-2-3-4-5 ranks as the second highest straight, followed by K-Q-J-10-9.


In traditional, real-life casinos, Pai Gow players can play the dragon. The dragon is moved clockwise around the table, and is offered to one player at a time as an extra game. If no one desires to play the dragon, it is put aside. At New York Casino, the dragon has been eliminated.


In traditional, real-life casinos, a Pai Gow player can act as the dealer. The player that acts as dealer must be able to cover all bets at the table. In the Pai Gow Poker game at New York Casino, the option of becoming dealer has been excluded.

Betting Limits

The minimum bet in Pai Gow Poker is set at $5, while the maximum bet is $500.


Players win even money ( i.e. 1 to 1) on their bets, but must pay a 5% commission on their winnings to the bank. Your actual winnings are thus 95% of your bet.

Options Dialog Box

In Pai Gow Poker, the Options dialog box offers the following game settings:

  • Show animations
  • Play sound effects
  • Play voice samples
  • Play midi music
  • Enable New Game button




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