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By Jason Goodrich

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Pai gow poker is a recent addition to the casinos, and is one of many games that has an Asian origin. A combination of the Chinese game of pai gow (meaning makes nine) and the American game of poker, this game of skill offers players a reasonable chance to win.

In this version of poker, players are not wagering against each other but against the bank, and unlike the original Asian version which is played with dominoes, pai gow poker is played with a deck of cards. The object of the game is for the player to hold two hands of cards that rank higher than the banker's two hands.

Played around a special pai gow table, the table has room for the dealer and six players. The house initially assumes the role of the bank with the dealer as the banker, and then the position moves around from player to player. The role of banker can be declined by any player, and passed on to the next person in line. The role of banker is indicated with a chung that is set in front of that player's area. When the dealer is not the banker, he/she plays the hand as a player.


Game Play

The game is played with a standard 52-card deck and a joker that serves as a wild card in straights, flushes and straight flushes. The joker may also be used as an ace in any hand, and in some casinos may be considered completely wild. The dealer shuffles the deck and deals out seven stacks of seven cards, discarding the remaining four cards. All bets are made and then the dealer shakes and rolls three dice from a teacup to determine which player will get the first stack of cards. The dealer totals the amount shown in the dice, and then starting with himself, counts around the players at the table in a clockwise motion until he reaches the player who gets the first hand. The remaining hands are dealt out to the players in a counterclockwise motion.

When the players receive their cards, they set them into two hands of five and two cards. The two-card hand is known as the low hand is placed in front of the five-card hand known as the high hand. Each five-card hand is ranked according to the pai gow poker hierarchy which varies only slightly from the standard poker hand hierarchy. The only real difference is that five aces, which are accomplished by adding four aces to a joker, beats out a royal flush and is the highest hand in the game.

RankHand NameDescription of hand

1

Five Aces

Five aces and a joker

2

Royal Flush

A, K, Q, J, 10 all of same suit

3

Straight Flush

Five cards of the same suit in sequence

4

4 of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank

5

Full House

3 of a Kind and a Pair

6

Flush

Five cards of the same suit

7

Straight

Five cards in sequence

8

3 of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank

9

2 Pair

Two cards of one rank, plus two of another

10

1 Pair

Two cards of the same rank

The hierarchy of two-card hands is much simpler in that the hand is either a pair or it is not. The highest two-card hand is a pair of aces, and the rank of subsequent pairs falls in order from kings down to two's. The same ranking order applies to single cards.

It is the players' responsibility to ensure that their five-card hand has a higher ranking then their two-card hand. If the two-card hand turns out to be higher, the hand is said to be foul and the player automatically loses his bet.

When all the player's cards have been set, the banker's cards are turned face up by the dealer. It is then the banker's job (not the dealer's) to arrange the stack into a two-card hand and a five-card hand. The banker's hands are then individually compared to the players' hands in a clockwise order, starting with the player who received the cards first.