Pai Gow Poker Strategy

Pai Gow Poker is a fun and exciting game that is enjoyed by casino players all around the world. It’s a great casino poker variation that involves plenty of card playing action and skill that offers appeal to poker and casino players alike. The following guide will provide you with a few tips and tricks to help you apply the optimal strategy to maximize your play time and hopefully your winnings when playing Pai Gow Poker.
Firstly Pai Gow Poker has a house advantage of 2.5%. However this can be reduced to pretty much even money, when the player becomes the dealer. Therefore it makes sense to try
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and become the dealer as much as possible when it is available to reduce the house edge and give yourself an improved chance of winning.
Following from this, you will find that you will have the opportunity to become the dealer more often if there are fewer players at your table. Other players will also want to be the dealer, so it makes sense that the fewer players at the table means the more often you will have the opportunity to be the dealer, so look for tables with few players.
The main strategic advice that you should follow is to always play the “house way”. This means that you always play all your hands the way the dealer plays, regardless of whether you are the dealer or not. There are a few reasons why this is advisable. Firstly it forces you to play in the most strategically optimal way, giving you the best chance of success. You will reduce the chance of making mistakes and it will assist to educate you on the correct way to play for when you are in the role of the dealer in a particular hand.
The “house way” can vary slightly between each casino, however the differences are usually negligible and will make little difference over the long term.
Here is an outline of the optimal strategy for Pai Gow Poker:
No Pair – Use the highest card in Hand 1 (5 Card Hand) and then use the next two highest cards as Hand 2 (2 Card Hand).
One Pair – Use your pair in Hand 1, with the next two highest cards as Hand 2.
Two Pairs – This is one of the more complex decisions in Pai Gow Poker. If your two pair contains Aces, then it’s optimal to split the pairs across both hands. If you have a face card pair and a pair of 6’s or higher then you should also split. If you have two pair 6’s or under then never split, simply play them in Hand 1. With any other two pair combination it’s best to split them, unless you also have an Ace, in which case play the Ace in Hand 2, and the pairs as Hand 1.
Three Pairs – Always play the highest pair in Hand 2, with the remainder as Hand 1.
Three of a Kind – Always play Three of a Kind in Hand 1, unless you have three Aces in which case you should break up three Aces across both hands. If you are lucky enough to have two Three of a Kinds then play the lowest Three of a Kind as Hand 1, and then split the higher Three of a Kind.
Straight – Simply keep as the Straight as Hand 1, but if you also have one or more Pairs then use the above Pairs rules.
Flush – Simply keep as the Flush as Hand 1, but if you also have one or more Pairs then use the above Pairs rules.
Straight and Flush – If you have a Flush and a Straight with no pair then simply play the combination that results in the highest hand for Hand 2.
Full House – Most of the time it’s best to split your Full House except with pair of 2’s and an ace/king that can be played as Hand 2.
Four of a Kind – If the rank of the Four of a Kind is between 2 through 6 then always keep it together in Hand 1. If the rank is between 7 through 10 then you should split it across both hands, unless you also have an Ace+face that can be played in Hand 2. If the rank is Jacks or higher, then you should always split unless you also have another pair 7’s or higher that can be played as Hand 2.
Straight Flush – A great hand that should generally be simply played as Hand 1. However if you also have two Pair then you need to consider the above rules. Also you should play Hand 1 as either a Straight or Flush if it allows you to play a picture card in Hand 2.
Royal Flush – A very powerful hand that should generally be kept as Hand 1. The exception is if you also have a pair or Ace+King that can be played as Hand 2 whilst retaining a Straight or Flush as Hand 1.
Five Aces – This is an excellent hand – simply split across both hands unless you also have a pair of kings that can be played as Hand 2.