Pai Gow is a challenging variation on poker, below are some strategies to help you succeed. Once you master these you might want to try your skills over at Bodog.
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If the house has the “house way” published at the table, you can generally follow the way they set hands for a very good strategy. If they do not provide this information, you can follow a few simple rules for setting your hands. Your goal is to win both hands, not to make one strong hand and one weak hand. This can lead to counter-intuitive strategies, like splitting up a hand with two pair into two one-pair hands.
- In a hand with no pairs, straights, or flushes possible, set your largest card in your five-card hand. Set your next two largest cards in your two card hand. Set the rest of your cards in your five-card hand.
- In a hand with one pair, you should set the pair in the five-card hand and the two largest cards in the two-card hand. Set the other three cards in the five-card hand.
- Two pair is the hardest hand to play, and it takes some experience. If you can make a good two-card hand, like A-Q, play two-pair in the five-card hand and A-Q in the two-card hand. If you can’t make a very good two-card hand, split the pairs and play the lower pair in your two-card hand. More specifically, if you have two low pairs, split them unless holding a king or better. If you have a low pair and a medium pair, split them unless holding a king or better. If you have a low pair and a high pair, split them unless holding an ace. If you have two medium pairs, split them unless you are holding an ace. If you have a medium pair and a high pair, or two high pairs, always split the pairs. If you have two aces, always split the pairs.
- If you have three pairs, play the largest pair in the two-card hand.
- If you have three-of-a-kind in aces in your hand, you should play a pair of aces in the five-card hand and ace-high in the two-card hand. If you have any other three-of-a-kind, you should play it without splitting it in the five-card hand.
- If you can play a couple of different straights or flushes, play the one that leaves you the best two-card hand.
- Split a full house by playing a pair in front and three-of-a-kind behind.
- Split two three-of-a-kinds by playing the higher as a pair and the lower as three-of-a-kind.
- Always split four of a kind.
Unlike regular poker, there is no way to be a long-term winner at pai gow. Pai gow is a low-variance casino game. The house edge is about one-and-a-half percent, much lower than many popular casino games like Keno, Roulette, or Texas Hold’em Bonus. This means you will inevitably lose, but you will do so slowly, so you get more play out of your buy-in than in more fast-paced games. That being said, by using certain strategies you will keep more of your money.
- Always play as the banker if the option is given to you.
- Pre-pay the commission before the hand.
- Don’t ever make your two-card hand stronger than your five-card hand. You will foul and lose both. However, your two-card hand should always be the best hand you can play legally.
- Do not take side-bets.
- If you do not bet more than 2% of your bankroll on any hand, you can usually play all night.
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