Strategy for Pai Gow Poker – Expert Tips by Casino Pros

PAL GOW, Cards, Chips, Poker, Casino, Chips

You can’t win every hand when playing Pai Gow, but you should still try to make the best of every situation. The game is a popular variation of poker that’s simple to play and has extremely low volatility.

In this guide, I offer you my ultimate Pai Gow Poker strategy. This includes information on how to optimize every hand and improve your odds of winning. I also want to explain the rules of Pai Gow Poker in greater detail and discuss other aspects of the game.

If you’re serious about learning how to play Pai Gow Poker and potentially earning some extra cash, you need the right approach. Here’s everything you need to know about the game.

Pai Gow Poker Rules and House Edge

Getting good at playing Pai Gow will require you to know the rules, the flow of the game, and the payouts. The house edge also has an impact on what you’ll earn over the long term, and you should always try to curtail any disadvantage that exists.

The rules of Pai Gow Poker are very simple, and the ultimate goal of the game is to beat the dealer (just like in 3-Card Poker or Ultimate Texas Holdem). The game involves a standard 52-card deck along with a joker card, which can be used to complete a straight or flush.


You begin by placing an ante bet before you, and the dealer will then receive seven cards face down. You’ll get to look at them before arranging your cards into separate hands: a five-card hand and a two-card hand (with varying combinations, of course).

As I already mentioned, the goal of the game is to beat the dealer. However, you only win money when both of your hands are better than the dealer’s hands. Standard poker hand rankings will determine winners, losers, and ties.

Another important rule I have to mention is that your two-card hand can’t rank higher than your five-card hand. For example, having a pair of jacks for your two-card hand and an ace-high for your five-card hand isn’t acceptable.

The house edge will also affect your Pai Gow Poker strategy. This is the mathematical advantage that casinos have over the players to make a profit. In Pai Gow Poker, the house edge is 2.84%, but you can only achieve that with the optimal strategy.

You should also know that the house claims a 5% commission on every hand you win. The dealer will deduct your earnings (for every $100 you earn, the dealer receives $5).

Futher Info:

Remember that the dealer must follow the “house way,” which are specific rules every casino has. It requires the dealer to play their hand in a prescribed manner. Most casual players will stick to a strategy similar to the house way.

If you want more details on the house way or other rules, just check our guide to real money Pai Gow Poker.

Pai Gow Poker Basic Strategy

Learning the basics will make a huge difference in Pai Gow Poker. These are simple improvements that every veteran player makes to improve their odds of winning. Here’s what they include:

  • When you don’t have a pair, straight, or flush, play the highest card with your 5-card hand and the next two highest cards with your 2-card hand.
  • When you have two pairs, you should split them when you have two aces. Also, split when the best pair is kings, and the other pair is better than 2s.
  • With three different pairs, play the highest pair in your two-card hand.
  • With a full house, always split by playing the pair in the two-hand card.
  • You should always play a straight or flush (or straight flush) in your five-card hand.
  • Four-of-a-kinds are a little tricky. If it’s 6s or lower, keep them in the five-card hand. With 7s through 10s, split unless you have an ace to play in your two-card hand. With face cards, always split unless you have another pair for your two-card hand.
  • With four aces, you should split unless you also have a pair of kings.

Like most poker games, Pai Gow is situational and requires you to make the most of the cards you’re dealt. You should practice the game as often as possible so that you know what to do in every scenario.

Side Bets in Pai Gow Poker

Many variations of Pai Gow poker are available online and in live casinos. They all have the same basic rules, but some come with a twist. Certain versions will also allow you to make side bets, which add an entirely different element to the game.


When making a side bet in most Pai Gow games, the goal is to win extra on a hand that’s a three-of-a-kind or better. Keep in mind that these bets typically have nothing to do with winning or losing to the dealer.

Always avoid making side bets if you want to optimize your Pai Gow Poker betting strategy. The house edge will dramatically increase, which means that you’ll much more likely lose money.

Unless you’re only playing for fun and don’t mind losing, you should skip the side bets.

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Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.