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Pai Gow Poker

The introduction of the domino based game called Pai Gow to the US caused the development of a similar game, which uses cards rather than dominoes. This new game was called Pai Gow poker. As in Pai Gow, this is a game of skill with both a high hand (front) and a low hand (back). In the poker variation like the domino game you must win both hands to be pair. Pai Gow poker is easier for non-Asians to pick up because the hands are based on the familiar poker hands.

In the past few years Pai Gow poker is actually the only casino game introduced that offers the players a reasonable chance to win. Since it is a game of skill, those players with a complete understanding of the game have an advantage over those players without a complete understanding. Like an expert blackjack player it is possible to gains a long-term theoretical edge over the casino with skillful play.

Pai Gow Poker starts when one player is designated as the dealer/banker, who is responsible for banking the bets at the table. Should there be no one that wants to be the banker, the house will act as the banker. The game is played with a standard 52-card deck, with one Joker added which can be used as an Ace or to complete a straight, flush or straight flush.

Three dice are shaken by the casino dealer before the deal begins. These dice determine the order of the deal. Each player is then dealt seven cards. At this point the players must set or make their two hands. The back hand which is made of five cards, and the front hand which contains two cards. The back hand must always be the stronger of the two hands. If a player accidentally sets a stronger front hand, they automatically lose there bet. However if the banker/dealer makes this mistake, the casino dealer will re-set the hands according to the casino’s policy.

The player’s two hands must beat the two hands of the dealer/banker to win. If only one hand wins, the bet is a push. If both hands lose, the dealer/banker collects the bet. If the player and the dealer/banker have exact hands, it is called a “copy” and all copies go to the dealer/banker. If the dealer/banker wins the other hand the player loses the bet. A “double copy”, which is where both hands are exactly the same, is awarded to the dealer/banker. Thankfully, this is a very rare occurrence and you don’t really need to worry about it.

This is the rule that gives the dealer/banker the advantage, and is the reason why, if you decide to play pai gow poker, you should take the opportunity to be the dealer/banker whenever possible. Even with the casino taking a five percent commission on all winning bets, playing as the dealer/banker while using expert strategy can actually turn the casino advantage toward the skillful players. Winning over the long term is impossible if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to play the dealer/banker role. This means that if want to get the most out of Pai Gow poker, you will need a bankroll to cover all the bets at the table.

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