California Grand CasinoBlog / ADVANCED PAI GOW POKER STRATEGIES
Our Pai Gow (Double-Hand) Poker game is fun and exciting to play. In our Pai Gow Poker game, the Joker is fully wild — it can be any card — and can be used to make any hand, not just as an Ace or to complete straights or flushes, giving you more ways to make a winning hand. You can also wager on the Dealer hand and have the advantage of playing against all the other players.
PAI GOW POKER IS A VERY SIMPLE GAME TO LEARN AND PLAY.
You separate your 7 cards into a 2-card and a 5-card poker hand. Your 5-card hand must outrank your 2-card hand. Your 2-card hand plays against the Dealer 2-card hand and your 5-card hand plays against the Dealer 5-card hand. The object of the game is to set your hands so that both your hands defeat both the Dealer’s hands. The hands are ranked using standard poker hand rankings, i.e., straight flushes, 4 of a kind, a full house, flush, straight, two pair etc…
If both your hands rank higher than the Dealer’s two hands, you win. If you win one hand and the Dealer wins one hand, you push, which happens about 40% of the time. If the Dealer wins both hands, the Dealer wins. It’s that easy!
The Dealer wins any 2 or 5-card hands that tie. This is a built-in advantage for the Dealer hand but at the California Grand Casino every player gets a chance to bet on the Dealer hand.
SETTING THE HANDS.
You are often dealt hands that can be set in different ways. If you want to increase the odds of a push, you might set one hand very strong and the other weaker, or you might try to balance your hands in order to win both. The most common decision you make is when you are dealt two pair. When should you put both pair in the 5-card hand, and when should you split the pairs and put one in each hand? In addition, since we play with a fully wild Joker, how does that change how you set your hands?
Don’t Want to Set your own hand …? We can set it House Way. At the California Grand Casino, you also can ask the house dealer how to set your hand the house way and you will stay almost even playing this way. The Dealer hand is always set house way, but the player betting on the Dealer hand can reset the hand another way.
Setting Your Hands: Both Hands are Equally Important
If you set your own hands, because you need both hands to win in order to win your wager, you should never neglect your 2-card hand. A simple rule to remember is that ideally you would like to have an Ace high or better in your 2-card hand. And you would like at least of pair of 7s in your 5-card hand.
Here are a few specific situations, including advice on how to play your Joker. And at any time you can ask the house dealer for advice.
- Five of a Kind. Put the Joker with the highest single card in the 2-card hand, and keep four of a kind in the 5-card hand.
- Four of a Kind (with a Joker). If these are fives or lower, keep them together. Otherwise put the Joker with the highest single card in the 2-card hand, and keep three of a kind in the 5-card hand.
- Four of a Kind (No Joker). Keep them together if these are fives or lower. If you have an Ace or King to put in the 2-card hand, you can also keep nines and higher together, except if these are Queens or better, in which case you are usually better off splitting them.
- Full House. Put your highest possible pair in the 2-card hand and three of a kind in the 5-card hand. If you have four of a kind and a pair or three of a kind and two pair, put the three of a kind, full house or four of a kind in the 5-card hand.
- Flush or Straight. Keep your flush or straight together, unless you also have two pairs or three of a kind, in which case you should follow the rules for three of a kind or two pairs. If you have one pair, keep the flush or straight in the 5-card hand and split the pair.
- If you have a six or seven card flush or straight, put the lower cards that make the flush or straight in your 5-card hand and the highest cards in the 2-card hand.
- If you need your Joker for the straight or flush, put the two highest cards in the 2-card hand that will still leave a flush or straight in the 5-card hand. If you make the straight or flush without the Joker, use the Joker to make the highest possible pair in the 2-card hand and keep the flush or straight in the 5-card hand.
- Three of a Kind. Keep them in the 5-card hand unless they are Aces in which case you put a pair in your 5-card hand and one Ace in the 2-card hand. If you have a Joker, play your Joker with the highest other card in the 2-card hand. If you also have a straight or flush, then put that in the 5-card hand and a pair in the 2-card hand.
- Three Pairs. If you get three pairs, the best pair should be used for the 2-card hand and the other two pairs should be in the 5-card hand. If you also have a Joker, keep it with the 5-card hand to make a full house.
- Pair. Put the pair in the 5-card hand and the highest two other cards in the 2-card hand. If you are using a Joker to make a pair, play the first and third highest cards in the 2-card hand and use the Joker with the second highest card to make a pair for the 5-card hand. If you have a natural pair and a Joker, match the Joker with the highest other card and follow the guidelines for two pair.
- Pai Gow / No Pair. If you do not have a pair or better, put the highest card in your 5-card hand and the second and third best cards in your 2-card hand.
Setting Two Pairs.
There are several ways to play two pairs depending on whether you are trying to push or win.
- House Way. If the highest pair is AA, KK or QQ, place that in the 5-card hand and the other pair in the 2-card hand. If the highest pair is JJ, 10s or 9s, split them unless you can put an Ace in the 2-card hand. If the highest pair is 8s, 7s or 6s, split them unless you can put an Ace or King in the 2-card hand. If the highest pair is 5s, 4s or 3s, split them unless you can put an Ace, King or Queen in the 2-card hand.
- Another method is to make the 5-card hand stronger. For example, when your second pair is deuces, you may want to keep your two pair together and play the two highest remaining cards in the low hand.
- Some people want a stronger 2-card hand and they will split two pairs unless the highest pair is 77 or less and you cannot put an Ace in the 2-card hand.
However you choose to play your hands, we are here to have fun. You can always ask the house dealer for advice. And you can always make friends and enjoy the camaraderie at our Pai Gow game, along with great food and service right at the table.