Pai Gow Poker is a fun and easy-going game that doesn’t expose the player to much risk or require any great knowledge of gambling. If you enjoy the basics of poker but aren’t in the mood to match wits against other players, a game of Pai Gow will do just the trick. Online Pai Gow Poker sites make for an even more relaxing experience from the comfort of home.
Finding a place to play real money Pai Gow isn’t tough at all. Every casino I’ve ever visited offered the game at a wide range of stakes. However, it is always smart to choose wisely as not all gambling sites were created equal. Below is a list of the best Pai Gow sites ranked according to their ability to quickly pay winners and host fair games.
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Of the many casino sites that offer Pai Gow Poker, these are the best by a long shot. Each of these sites has earned my respect as a player over the long term. They have all been in operation for years and none has suffered from a scandal or been reported to slow-pay winners.
The game itself doesn’t change much from one gambling site to the next. The rules and payouts are pretty much the same wherever you play. It is the intangible aspects such as reputation, security and speed of withdrawals that elevate some casinos above all the others.
So if you came here looking for quick recommendations, here you go. Any of the above websites will treat you well. You’ll get to take advantage of a nice array of promotions and gamble with the confidence that comes with knowing you’ll be paid if you win.
Find Reputable Pai Gow Poker Sites
The number one thing to look for in a Pai Gow Poker site is safety. Nothing else is as important as ensuring you always get a fair game and will be paid when you win. Without those basic guarantees, brands aren’t listed here.
The quick way to find safe Pai Gow Poker sites is to just go with any of the casinos recommended on this page. Here are some of the important things to look for in any potential choice.
- History: Use the power of search to look up reviews, player opinions and old news articles. If you can’t find information about a Pai Gow site, that’s a big red flag. All the established names in the business have been mentioned in hundreds (if not thousands) of old news articles and blog posts.
- Withdrawals: Depositing your money is easy. Hardly anyone gets that part wrong; their entire business model depends on getting depositing players. When you look into withdrawals, that’s when you get the real story. Check each Pai Gow Poker website’s cashier area to see which withdrawal methods are available and run a search on Google to see if anyone has written anything about withdrawing from that site.
- Terms and Conditions: Somewhere on every Pai Gow website is a page that explains the terms and conditions. Give that page a thorough read-through and look for warning flags such as clauses that allow them to confiscate your account balance, rules that would make it difficult to withdraw and anything else that just doesn’t add up. If a site has no terms and conditions page whatsoever, stay far away.
- Pai Gow Poker Bonuses: Every real money Pai Gow site in the world has some sort of first deposit bonus as an incentive for new players to sign up and deposit. Pai Gow Poker bonuses always look good at first glance, but they don’t always end up being good when you read the fine print. Every bonus offer should have its own explanation of the terms and conditions. The main thing to look for is what types of wagering requirements come with the bonus.
One of the nice things about betting on pai gow poker online is that it is almost impossible to foul your hand. If you accidentally make your 2-card hand stronger than your 5-card hand, the Pai Gow Poker site will warn you and offer an alternative way to break up your hands. At most land-based casinos, fouls result in instant losses.
Pai Gow Deposit Bonuses
Pai Gow Poker can be used to clear most deposit bonuses. Occasionally you’ll find welcome bonuses that can only be cleared with slots or other specific lists of games, but casinos are mostly fine with you meeting the wagering requirements with Pai Gow. The best thing you can do to save yourself the time is to give the terms and conditions a quick read-through to make sure Pai Gow is accepted.
For those unfamiliar with how bonuses work, all casino bonuses must be cleared before they can be withdrawn. What this means if you’re required to place a certain amount of wagers to release the bonus. These are called “wagering requirements” or the “rollover.”
Gambling sites are particular about which games may be used to complete the wagering requirements. For example, blackjack site are often restricted from meeting the requirements because strategic play can be used to reduce the house advantage to almost nothing. This results in casinos losing more money than they’re comfortable losing when offering bonuses to customers.
Play Pai Gow Online
Pai Gow has long been one of my favorites because it’s pretty easy to avoid losing too much money. As long as you keep your bets of a reasonable size, it is uncommon to go on painful losing streaks. You only lose when both of your hands lose, and that doesn’t happen as often in Pai Gow as it does in most casino games.
The strategy for the game isn’t terribly complicated either. As long as you know to always make your five-card hand stronger than your two-card hand, you should do alright. The goal is to give both hands as great a chance as possible of beating the dealer. In most hands, you can make sure that at least one of your hands is capable of beating the dealer.
On the other hand, this isn’t the game to play if your goal is to win a bunch of money in a short amount of time. The best possible outcome in a hand of Pai Gow Poker is to beat the dealer with both hands and win an even money payout on your original wager. This game does not have the high-paying jackpots that you see in other games.
All in all, I find it enjoyable to play Pai Gow Poker online. Even though the prospect of winning a jackpot isn’t there, it’s nice to sit back and relax without burning through a bunch of cash quickly. This is the game to play to kill time and hopefully win a little money. That also makes this is a great game to play to clear deposit bonuses without a whole lot of risk.
Pai Gow Poker Rules
Pai Gow Poker is played with a single deck of cards and one joker. The joker is treated as a semi-wild card. It can be used as an Ace or to complete straights, flushes and straight flushes. The object of the game is to beat both of the dealer’s hands with both of your hands.
Each round of play begins after you place your initial wager. After you do so, the dealer deals seven cards to you and seven cards to himself. Your next move is to arrange your seven cards into two separate hands. One of these hands will consist of five cards and the other will consist of two cards.
Your five card hand is ranked according to traditional poker hand rankings. With the joker in play, the best possible hand is five aces: four aces plus the joker. Here’s a quick review of what beats what in Pai Gow Poker. The following list of hands begins with the strongest at the top and then works down to the weakest at the bottom.
- Five aces: 4 aces plus the joker
- Royal Flush: The cards T, J, Q, K, A all of the same suit
- Straight Flush: Five sequential cards of the same suit
- Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank
- Full House: Three cards of the same rank and two other cards of the same rank
- Flush: Any five cards of the same suit
- Straight: Five sequential cards
- Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same rank
- Two Pair: Two cards of the same rank and two other cards of the same rank
- Pair: Two cards of the same rank
- High Card: If you don’t have any of the above hands, your hand ranked according to the highest card
Your two card hand is also ranked according to traditional hand rankings. Since there are just two cards, the only hands you can achieve are a pair or a high card. The best possible 2-card hand is two aces.
After you get your seven cards, it is your job to break up those cards into two hands. Remember; your goal is to beat both of the dealers’ hands. The only rule in setting your cards is that the 5-card hand must rank higher than your 2-card hand.
For example, let’s say your seven cards consist of A-A-2-2-K-J-9. It would be considered a foul to put two aces in your 2-card hand and leave your 5-card hand with just a pair of twos. Fouling your hand results in an automatic loss.
After you arrange your cards into two separate hands, the dealer reveals his hand and organizes his cards into two hands. Each of your hands is then compared to each of the dealer’s hands. There are three possible outcomes:
- Both of your hands beat both of the dealer’s hands: you are paid even money on your wager
- One of your hands beats the dealer and one of your hands loses to the dealer: the hand is considered a draw and your original wager is returned to you with no additional winnings
- Both of your hands lose to both of the dealer’s hands: you lose the bet
Ties are considered wins for the dealer. Therefore, if one of your hands ties the dealer and the other beats the dealer, it is considered a push. If one of your hands is a tie and the other loses to the dealer, you lose the bet. If both hands are ties, you lose.
Basic Pai Gow Poker Betting Strategy
The best basic strategy for Pai Gow is to give both hands the greatest possible chance of beating the dealer. This sometimes leads to counterintuitive plays that look weird from the outside. For example, if you’re dealt a full house, you would be tempted to keep the full house in the five-card hand and leave the other two random cards for your two-card hand.
Keeping the full house would not be the optimal play in most situations because it leaves you with too weak a two-card hand. Always remember that the goal is to beat both of the dealer’s hands. There are no special payouts for achieving powerful hands.
It would make more sense to break up the full house. Keep the three-of-a-kind in your five-card hand and assign the pair to your two-card hand. This gives both hands the best chance possible of taking the win and earning you an even money payout.
You can find more complicated strategies with a search on Google. Just to warn you, advanced Pai Gow strategy is difficult to memorize. The option is there if you end up developing a passion for this game, but it’s best to start simple and then move on to more complex strategies after you have a firm grasp of basic Pai Gow Strategy. As long as you always remember that both hands need the best possible chance of winning, you should do OK in this game.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.