Pai Gow Poker NZ In 2024

Pai Gow Poker is a poker game that combines the traditional Chinese domino game with American poker. It can be found at land-based and online casinos. Unlike other poker games, Pai Gow Poker requires players to make the two best possible hands from 7 cards. You also only play against the dealer. Let’s take a closer look at this casino game and how it is played.

Pai Gow Poker Basics

It is simple to learn Pai Gow Poker if you already know how to play other poker games. There is a difference, Pai Gow Poker only requires you to have a better hand than the dealers, meaning you don’t need to bluff or try to get other players to fold.

Bets are only placed at the beginning of the round in Pai Gow Poker, with no new betting rounds during the game.

At the beginning of the round, you are dealt 7 cards. You must use these cards to create a 2-card hand and a 5-card hand. Having both hands better than the dealers equals a win; however, a push is formed if only one of your hands is better. If both your hands are worse than the dealers, your bet is lost.

Rules and Gameplay

Pai Gow Poker is played with a 53-card deck, which includes the standard 52 cards and one joker. The joker is considered wild and can be used only to complete a flush or a straight.

When it is used alone, the joker is regarded as an ace.

There is a dealer, and all players will compete with the dealer for the best hand, whether you are playing Pai Gow poker online or in a casino.

When playing online, players must first place their bet. This will be the only bet placed during the round. Once all bets are placed, 7 cards are dealt to each player and the dealer.

You must now arrange your cards into two hands. The back or high hand consists of 5 cards, and the front or low hand consists of 2 cards. Your 5-card hand must be better than your 2-card hand.

Did You Know? If you make your 2-card hand better than your 5-card hand by mistake, it is called fouling your hand, and you lose your bet.

Once the hands are set, the showdown begins. The two hands of players are compared with the dealers. If both hands are better than the dealers, you receive a payout. If only one hand is better than the dealers, it’s a push, and the bet is refunded. If both hands are worse than the dealers, the bet is lost.

The House Way

In Pai Gow Poker, there are specific rules regarding how the dealer has to set their hand, known as the House Way. The dealer must set their hands in a certain way according to the cards they have been dealt. The House Way does vary across casinos to adjust the house edge based on side bets and variations to rules. You will want to know the house before you start playing so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

Many players will also choose to set their hands in the House Way to give them better odds. If you are playing online, some games suggest hands based on the House Way. However, in a live online casino game, you must set the hands yourself, so you should learn the best way to set hands.

Pros & Cons of Pai Gow Poker

After playing a few rounds of Pai Gow Poker at Betkiwi recommended online casinos, we found the game simple to play but it had some disadvantages.

  • Low volatility, which creates a relaxed gambling experience.
  • Your only competitor is the dealer.
  • Several tables to choose from, with different minimum and maximum betting ranges.
  • A slower game, but it can be tricky to determine how to split and set your hands.
  • Little action, with only one betting round.

Pai Gow Poker Variants

Pai Gow Poker variations offer side bets. These side bets can be tempting as they have the potential to create some big wins. Here is a look at some of the most notable Pai Gow Poker variants.

Fortune Pai Gow

One of the most common variations of Pai Gow Poker is Fortune Pai Gow, which offers a side bet. To win a Fortune side bet, you must create a straight or better with all 7 cards to receive a payout. While the Fortune Bonus bet can substantially increase payouts, it is not always advisable, as creating one of the highest payout hands is challenging.

Envy Bets

Placing an Envy bet pays out if other players have certain hands. Sometimes, a Fortune Bonus Bet of a certain amount will allow for an Envy Bet, too. As an Envy Bet relies on other players, you must find a Pai Gow online poker table that permits multiple players.

Pow Gow Mania

Pow Gow Mania allows for 2 side bets. The first of these bets is placed on the player’s first 3 cards, and the second bet is placed on all 7 of the player’s cards. The payouts are determined by the 3-card hand and the 7-card hand.

Emperor’s Challenge

Emperor’s challenge is played the same as traditional Pai Gow Poker, but there are bonus wagers like Pow Gow Insurance and Emperor Treasure. Pai Gow insurance bets allow you to bet whether a non-winning hand will appear. The Emperor’s Treasure bet offers a payout on a high-ranking poker hand.

Progressive Pai Gow

There are some progressive Pai Gow Poker games. The progressive side bet gives you the opportunity to receive payouts from the progressive paytable being used. Depending on your hand, you can win a whole or part of a jackpot, but a 7-card straight flush awards the jackpot.

Face Up Pai Gow Poker

In Face Up Pai Gow Poker, the dealer’s hand is dealt face up, which means this variation only requires minimal skill. Players will need to figure out how they can beat the dealer. When the house is dealt an ace high, all hands are pushed.

Commission Free Pai Gow Poker

There are commission-free Pai Gow Poker games, where the casino doesn’t take a commission from winning hands, but they still make money from side bets and losing hands. Commission-free Pai Gow games are harder to find than other Pai Gow Poker games.

Did You Know? In Pow Gow Poker, a commission of 5% is charged on wins.

Pai Gow Poker Strategies

Pai Gow involves skill regarding how to set the hands, but as there are no betting rounds, your game depends on the cards you are dealt, which you have no control over. The other problem we faced whilst playing was that our hands could be set in multiple ways, but it was determining the best possible outcome.

However, when playing, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Your back hand must be stronger than your front hand.
  • If your hand only contains 1 pair, place the pair at the back and your 2 highest unpaired cards at the front.
  • If you only have 2 pairs, it is advised to place the lowest pair at the front and the highest pair at the back.
  • If you have 5 cards that create straights or flushes, place these at the back, as more often than not, these are used to win.
  • If dealt a full house, split it into a pair and a 3 of a kind.
  • If you have no pairs, straights or flushes, placing your highest card at the back and your second and third highest at the front is a good idea.
  • If unsure how to set your hands, ask the dealer or choose the House Way.
  • A good rule to follow if you are playing for real money is to leave the game if you have lost 3 hands in a row.
  • Keep in mind that the push rate of Pai Gow Poker is relatively high, and many rounds may end in a push.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Pai Gow Poker

Unlike other games like slot machines, Pai Gow involves skill; therefore, the more you learn about the game, the more you can improve your chances of winning. While playing Pai Gow Poker at our Betkiwi recommended online casinos, we made a few mistakes, which are important to note so you can avoid making similar ones.

  1. Making a foul hand – You must avoid making a foul hand, where your front hand is better than your back hand. If you do this, you automatically lose.
  2. Using the joker incorrectly – Pai Gow Poker has 1 joker, which is important to know how to use. A joker can’t have any value set to it. It can only be used as an ace or to complete straight and flush hands.
  3. Not knowing the hand rankings – The hand rankings in Pai Gow are based on traditional poker, but there are a few exceptions. In Pai Gow, the highest 2-card hand is 2 aces, and the highest 5-card hand is a royal flush.
  4. The side bets are not always a good idea – While we found the Fortune Bonus side bet exciting, we noticed it is not always advisable. The side bets increase the house edge, and the odds of hitting a side bet aren’t great. The Fortune Bet is often referred to as a sucker bet; because of this, the odds are not in your favour, and you will be placing 2 bets instead of 1. If you are on a limited bankroll, these side bets can quickly deplete it.

Did you know? Pai Gow can either refer to the Chinese Domino tile game or a non-hand in Pai Gow Poker.

Final Thoughts About Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is an entertaining game. There are several aspects to consider while playing to make the best hands, but it was great that I didn’t need to bluff or choose when to bet like in other poker games. However, I did find that pushes occur frequently, but it also meant that my bankroll lasted longer. Plenty of skill is still involved in trying to create the best hands, so I recommend brushing up on Pai Gow Poker hands before you play.

Pai Gow Poker is a slower poker game, which some players may not enjoy, but if you prefer relaxed gaming, you should try Pai Gow Poker.

FAQ About Pai Gow Poker

Still got questions about Pai Gow Poker? Check the most frequently asked questions below:

What is the house edge in Pai Gow Poker?

The average house edge is 2.7% when playing Pai Gow Poker online.

What is the House Way?

The House Way refers to how dealers must set their hands in Pai Gow Poker. Players can also choose to set their hands in the same way.

Should I place a Fortune Bonus side bet?

While this is a common side bet seen in Pai Gow Poker and can be tempting to place due to the possible payouts, it isn’t advisable. Your chances of hitting a 7-card straight flush without a joker are 5,000,000:1.

How do I win Pai Gow Poker?

Your two hands must be better than the dealer’s two hands to win. If only one hand is better, a push is created, and you receive your stake back. You will lose if both your hands are worse than the dealers.

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Dudley Nader

Casino Game Expert

Dudley Nader is our casino game expert at Betkiwi. A University of Otago graduate in Statistics, he's leveraged his skills in a decade-long gambling industry career, earning recognition as a top casino specialist in New Zealand. In his free time, Dudley enjoys developing new game strategies and playing poker.

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