Last updated - 8 months ago!

Learn How To Play Pai Gow Poker – Rules & Strategies

Learn How To Play Pai Gow Poker – Rules & Strategies

Published on by James

There are several unique table games that many of you may be unfamiliar with. Although they’re frequently available at most online casinos, many players haven’t tried them because, at first, they seem confusing. One such game is Pai Gow Poker.

Based on the Chinese game of Pai Gow Dominoes, this poker variant was invented in 1985 by Sam Torosian, owner of the Bell Card Club in Southern California. Since then, the game’s popularity has grown and has long been enjoyed at many land-based casinos. Thankfully, nowadays, you can experience all that this table game has to offer and potentially walk away with some fantastic real money payouts at many of the best NetEnt Casinos.

So, if you’re interested in learning how to play, continue reading to discover all of the Pai Gow Poker rules. After you’ve mastered the basics you can go on to implement the ideal Pai Gow Poker strategy and greatly improve your chances of winning!


How To Play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is played with a 53-card deck. It consists of 52 standard playing cards, plus the joker. The game can be played one on one versus the dealer, or with up to a maximum of 6 players around a table plus the dealer.

Although the game may appear to be complex, your goal is simple: beat the banker. Each player is dealt 7 cards, which must be arranged into two separate hands as follows:


  • A five-card high hand (known as the backhand/big hand)
  • A two-card low hand (known as the front hand/small hand)


When creating these hands, there is one rule that must always be followed: your high hand must always be better than your low hand. For example, if your low hand is a pair of jacks, your high hand must be better than a pair of jacks, as per the hierarchy of hands.

Once you have decided upon your hands, the dealer reveals them and they are played against the banker’s hands. At this point there are three possible outcomes:


  • The player wins if both of their hands beat the banker’s hands.
  • The banker wins if both of their hands beat the player’s hands.
  • The player wins one hand and the dealer wins the other and the result is a push.


Arranging A Pai Gow Poker Hand

Once the cards have been dealt, it’s up to you to arrange them into two separate hands. As mentioned, this must include a five-card high hand and a two-card low hand. Your five-card hand must always outrank your two-card hand, as determined by the standard poker rules.

Of course, the best possible two-card hand you make is only a pair. If this isn’t possible then it will result in a high card. However, provided that your five-card hand outranks the other, it can range from a high card to 5 aces, which includes the joker.

Note: Once again, make sure that your five-card hand outranks your two-card hand. If a hand is arranged incorrectly then it is fouled, which will likely result in your bet becoming forfeit.

What Makes A Winning Pai Gow Hand?

A winning Pai Gow hand is one that results in both of your high hand and low hand beating the dealer’s hands. It doesn’t matter if it merely consists of a pair and a high card, as long as they outrank what the dealer shows you win.

Whatever you wagered before the start of the hand will be paid as an even money bet, minus potential commission.

Note: When playing Pai Gow Poker, ties go to the dealer. This means if you both have the exact same hand, the dealer wins.

What’s A Joker Worth In Pai Gow?

Due to Pai Gow Poker using 53 cards, the joker is included and can be used to form certain hands. As you’d expect, it’s a powerful card as it acts as a sort of ‘wild’ in specific situations. If you’re dealt the joker you use it in the following ways:


  • It can be used as any card to complete a straight
  • It can be used to substitute for any suit to complete a flush
  • If neither of these outcomes is possible, the joker will always be an ace.


If the joker is used in your low hand (two-card), it will always act as an ace.

Pai Gow Poker Strategy

It’s a common Pai Gow strategy to split your hand in a way that results in the best possible two-card hand. This is the case because you only need to beat one of the banker’s hands in order to retain your original stake – known as a push.

There are exceptions to this strategy, which usually come into play whenever you can make an extremely strong five-card hand. Straights and flushes are very hard to beat, so if you have the opportunity to create one it’s advisable to do so. This then leaves your remaining cards as your front/small hand.

However, depending upon what you have been dealt, there are other strategies you can implement:

If you’re dealt a hand consisting of no pairs whatsoever:


  • Place your highest-ranked card in the back/big hand.
  • Place your second two highest cards in the front/small hand.


This ensures that your front hand is as strong as possible, without ever outranking your backhand.


If you have been dealt a single pair:


  • Place your pair in your high hand.
  • Place your remaining two highest cards in your low hand.


If you have been dealt two pairs, you should always split them if you have:


  • Two high pairs (JJ-AA)
  • One high pair (JJ-AA) and one medium pair (77-TT)


Unless you have an ace, you should also split:


  • Two medium pairs (77-TT)
  • One high pair (JJ-AA) and one low pair (22-66)


Unless you have an ace or a king, you should split:


  • One medium pair (77-TT) and one low pair (22-66)
  • Two low pairs (22-66)

Pai Gow Poker Side Bets

It’s not just your standard hand that can result in Pai Gow payouts. Many variations of this table game also offer you the chance to place different side bets, namely Fortune Pai Gow Poker. These are additional wagers that you can place, which are unaffected by whether you win or lose the hand itself.

Instead, you’re betting on the cards you are dealt and whether they rank within the hierarchy of poker hands – straight, 3 of a kind, flush, full house, and so forth. Of course, the higher the hand, the higher the side bet payout will be – reaching up to an impressive 8,000x your stake for a 7-card straight flush.

Some of the most popular Pai Gow Poker variants that include side bets are as follows:


  • Fortune Pai Gow
  • Pai Gow Mania
  • Emperor’s Challenge
  • Progressive Fortune Pai Gow

Play Free Gai Poker Online

Now that you’ve become familiar with the rules of Pai Gow Poker, you may be inclined to play a few hands. Thankfully, there are several online casinos where you can play Pai Gow Poker for free. These sites enable you to try out certain strategies and see if you can make them work before playing for real money.

Choose from any of our recommended online casinos listed below and you’ll become a Pai Gow Poker master in no time. There are also hundreds of other exciting poker games, blackjack games, and online slots to try out at these online casinos should you feel the urge!

So, if you’re feeling particularly lucky, keep an eye out for any of these games at your chosen site. One hand could be all that stands between you and an incredible payout!

Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the odds of getting 5 aces in Pai Gow?

    As Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck and a joker, you must be dealt all 4 aces and the joker to create this hand. The chance of this happening stands at roughly 140,000/1, which makes it an unlikely scenario but one that could still happen. Also, if this were to occur and you had placed a bonus side bet, you would be looking at an additional 400/1 payout.

  • What is House Way in Pai Gow?

    At each land-based or online casino, the dealer is required to arrange his Pai Gow hand in specific ways. This is referred to as the “House Way”. This can vary from site to site but it is always mentioned within the game’s information panel. If you’re unsure as to what a certain casino’s “House Way” is, be sure to read the game guide.

  • How many cards are in Pai Gow?

    Pai Gow Poker utilises a 53 card-deck. There are 4 standard suits (hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds), which each consist of 13 cards (2-A). In addition to these, there is one joker, which acts as a wild card when it is possible to create certain hands.

  • How many jokers are in Pai Gow?

    There is only one joker in a Pai Gow Poker deck. If it is dealt into your hand it may be used as a substitute for any value card when creating a straight or any suit when forming a flush. If neither of these outcomes is possible, it acts as an ace.

  • What is face up Pai Gow poker?

    Face Up Pai Gow Poker features head-to-head play against the dealer and offers two optional side bets, Fortune Bonus and Ace-High. Just like regular Pai Gow, both your and the dealer receive 7 cards and must create a high hand and a low hand. The difference is that the dealer’s cards are dealt face-up so that you can see them.

18+ | GambleAware | Play responsibly, for advice visit

James Byrne

James Byrne

Content writer

James Byrne is the main writer/blogger/scribbler about all things NetEnt here at NetEnt Casino. The slot-mad content creator studies all the new NetEnt games and casinos that are released every month, making sure our readers are kept fully up-to-date with everything that’s going on in the wild world of iGaming. What games and casinos does he recommend? How does he find working as an iGaming content writer? Find out below.

Top NetEnt Casinos

Last updated:

  1. Play now
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino

    Bonus Match up to €1800 + 10 Free Spins

    T&C's Apply
  2. Play now
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino

    €2000 + 150 Free Spins

    T&C's Apply
  3. Play now
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino

    Exclusive Up To €150 Welcome Bonus

    18+ Min. deposit: €/$ 20. Max. bonus: €/$ 150. Offer valid on first deposit. Offer only applies to new players.
  4. Play now
    18+ The free spins are valid once per player and account. The free spins are granted on the game "Book of Dead". The bonus balance gained from the free spins must be converted at least 75 times within 7 days. The maximum withdrawal amount is € 100. The free spins can only be redeemed if there is no further bonus or bonus balance on the account
  5. Play now
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino

    €2000 + 50 Free Spins

    T&C's Apply

Campeonbet Welcome Bonus

New Casinos

Last updated:

  1. Play now
    Latest Featured Casino
    Latest Featured Casino

    10% Cashback Each Week!

    In order to qualify, players must have lost a minimum of €50 in that week. Full Terms Apply. 18+
  2. Play now
    18+. 40x Wagering Requirement On Both Bonus Deposit & Bonus Spins.Full Terms & Conditions Apply.
  3. Play now
    18+. First Deposit For New Customers Only. Min. Deposit of €10, Max. Bet of €5. 50x Wagering Requirement.
  4. Play now
    Latest Featured Casino
    Latest Featured Casino

    10% Weekly Cashback

    18+. No wagering requirement.
  5. Play now
    18+. 40x Wagering requirement on bonus + deposit, time limit of 7 days. Free spins can be redeemed on Rook's Revenge only.
  6. Play now
    18+. New Players Only. Minimum deposit of €20 required. Free spins limited to NetEnt slots only. Wagering requirements in place. Full terms and conditions apply.
  7. Play now
    18+. There is a wagering requirement of 35x the deposit plus the bonus. Full terms and conditions apply.
  8. Play now
    First Deposit Only. Min. deposit: £10, max. Bonus £50. Game: Book of Dead, Spin Value: £0.1. WR of 30x Deposit + Bonus amount and 60x Free Spin winnings amount (only Slots count) within 30 days. Max bet is 10% (min £0.10) of the free spin winnings and bonus amount or £5 (lowest amount applies). Spins must be used and/or Bonus must be claimed before using deposited funds. First Deposit/Welcome Bonus can only be claimed once every 72 hours across all Casinos.
  9. Play now
    18+. Terms and Conditions Apply. This offer is available only once per customer. Wagering requirement equal to 35 x the deposit + any bonus amounts. Winnings from the free spins are subject to wagering of 40x. The maximum bet while wagering bonus money is €5 until min. wagering requirements have been met. More information on this bonus is available in section 7 of the Slotspalace General T&C.
  10. Play now
    Exclusively at NetEnt Casino
    The offer is only valid from a deposit of 20 EUR This slot can be changed to another one by decision of the Stelario casino administration according to the current promotion offer and can be discussed at the time of requesting a bonus

Wallacebet Welcome Bonus


Register for 100+ free spins and more!

A valid email is required.

Invalid Email.

*This offer is not valid for residents of Great Britain.

*All emails include an unsubscribe link, where you can opt out any time.

Register for 100+ free spins and more!

A valid email is required.

Invalid Email.

*This offer is not valid for residents of Great Britain.

*All emails include an unsubscribe link, where you can opt out any time.