Online Pai Gow Poker for Real Money
Online Pai Gow Poker is not to be confused with Pai Gow, the domino game of Chinese origin. Pai Gow Poker is an Americanized version of the domino-based game. Sometimes called “two-hand poker” or even “Chinese poker” (the latter is considered impolite), this game offers a lot of value for advantage bettors and people who enjoy games with a slow pace.
Pai Gow Poker is known for being a low-volatility game. In layman’s terms, that means the game pays out more frequently than other casino games, but also in smaller amounts. The game’s low volatility comes as a direct result of its heritage – the original domino game moves slowly and produces a ton of push results. For the most part, those features have been preserved in online Pai Gow Poker.
The main difference between the online game and the land-based version (popular from Macau to Atlantic City and all points in-between) is the pace of play. Though each outcome does take longer than, say, an online slots outcome, the pace is considerably quicker on the Internet than at a live casino table.
How to Play
The game is played with a standard 52-card deck plus one joker. Take note that (in the case of the online version of the game) this joker is not completely wild. The joker is wild only if it completes a straight or flush of any kind. In all other cases, it takes the form of an ace.
Before we get into how the game plays out, I’d like to mention that all hand values are identical to standard poker hierarchy except for one. At some casinos, a straight made up of A-2-3-4-5 is called “the wheel,” and it ranks between straight and flush.
After you place your bet, the dealer will hand out seven cards each to you and to himself. The first thing you’ll do is split your cards into two hands – one made up of five cards, the other made up of two cards. An important rule – the player’s five-card hand must be more valuable than the two-card hand.
Once you’ve split your hand into two, the dealer displays his cards and divides his hand into two according to a specific set of guidelines.
Now it’s time for hand comparisons. The hands are compared high to high and low to low – in both cases, the hand with the better value wins. All ties go to the dealer.
What about payouts? They’re determined by the outcomes of both hands. The ideal situation is to beat the dealer with both hands – that’s worth an even-money payout. When only one of your hands beats the dealer, your bet is push. This is the most common outcome. The worst-case scenario is for both your hands to tie or lose. In that case, your entire wager is lost.
The rules for payout and winnings couldn’t be simpler. There is a definite element of strategy to the game, but once you’ve split your hand into two, skill is out the window. The combination of skill and luck-based play, taken with the low house edge and volatility, is probably responsible for the game’s increase in popularity since its invention in the late 1980s.
Pai Gow Poker Odds
Pai Gow Poker has a house edge of 1.46%. That number means that (given an infinite amount of wagers over an infinite period of time) bettors expect to lose 1.46% of their Pai Gow Poker bankroll. It also gives you some idea of how much you should expect to lose, though I doubt you have infinite amounts of time and money.
Here’s an example of how those odds may affect your bankroll. At an average of 180 hands an hour, an online Pai Gow Poker player betting $1 per hand should expect losses of $2.52 for each hour of play. Remember that this figure assumes that you play according to ideal strategy. Here’s an excellent ideal strategy page for Pai Gow Poker.
Online Pai Gow Poker Games
Below are some basic details on popular online versions of the game. These are not the only versions of the game available, but they do a good job of showing off what the Internet has to offer fans of Pai Gow Poker.
Realtime Gaming – This game doesn’t offer the best possible house edge, as a consequence of their complex house rules. this version has an edge of 2.86%, more than a percent above the standard-rules edition. That said, it’s a very popular version, since RTG is a popular platform and Pai Gow Poker a regular presence at their member casinos.
Microgaming – The edge is better on Microgaming’s version, but only to a very small degree. Microgaming’s standard Pai Gow Poker rules produce an edge of 2.7%. I like this game because it allows for a $1 side wager (with a house edge of just over 5%) that offers a jackpot of up to 8000 to 1. Microgaming does not recognize “the wheel” hands with a special rank.
Playtech – This is probably my least-favorite version of Pai Gow Poker online. Not only does it look dated – a problem I’m noticing more and more with Playtech – it also has a glitch that makes playing the game less fun. Whenever I tried to click the “house way” button (to analyze my hand and make sure I’m not committing a foul), the game scored my hand rather than allow me the option of picking to use the hand analysis or not.
I don’t recommend this game to anyone, considering it has a house edge of around 2.8% (not the best by any means) and doesn’t allow for true “house way” analysis like the other games on this list.
Pai Gow Poker is a truly American game because it’s based on something great that was invented in a foreign country. We translated the game from dominoes to playing cards, added side wagers and fancy graphics, and what we’re left with has become a classic in its own right. Playing Pai Gow Poker online gives you the advantages of the original game (low house edge, slower pace of pay, low-volatility) plus the convenience of playing on your laptop, smartphone, or tablet.