More known as Pai Gow poker, it is not to be confused with the Chinese game of Pai Gow, although the poker game is based on the original Chinese game. Instead of using Chinese dominoes to play the game, playing cards are used that, in combination, make up a poker hand. A standard 52 card deck is used plus one joker which is a semi wild card. It is not fully wild in the typical sense that it can be substituted as any card in the deck. Instead, it can be used as an ace or to complete a straight, flush, straight flush, or royal flush.
In the game of Pai Gow poker, there is one dealer and there can be one or multiple players at the table. This is very much like the popular casino game Blackjack. As all players are playing against the same dealer’s hand it can mean that sometimes at the table all win together when the dealer has a bad hand and all lose together when the dealer has a good hand. This dynamic can make the game a very fun and sociable game when many players are playing.
The basic rules of the game, valid both if you play Pai Gow poker online and at a Las Vegas casino, are that each player makes a bet after which the dealer deals himself and all players 7 cards each. At this point each player divides their 7 cards into a 5 card poker hand, using conventional poker hand ranking and a 2 card hand. The two-card hand must be of worse ranking than the five-card hand you set down. Once every player has set their two hands they compare them to the dealer’s two hands. If a player’s five-card hand beats the dealer’s five-card hand and the player’s two-card hand beats the dealer then the player is paid even money on their bet minus a 5% commission. If the player wins one hand and loses or ties the other then the bet is returned to them and if they lose or tie both hands then their stake is lost.
There is also the option to play as the banker in Pai Gow poker in which case you are playing against the other players. In the event of a tie in a hand, the win is awarded to the banker so taking this option is advantageous to the player. The privilege of being the banker isn’t available every hand however and the option usually moves clockwise around the table and sometimes even zigzags back and forth between all players and the dealer.