What is Pai Gow Poker?
So you might have heard of Pai Gow… A gambling game created in China played with dominos. Well Pai Gow poker is loosely based on that.
Sometimes known as “Double-Handed Poker”, Pai Gow Poker was created in the mid-eighties in the USA by Sam Torosian, owner of the Bell Card Club in California. The idea for the game came to Torosian after being told about a game called Pusoy by an elderly Filipino customer. He figured that the 13 card game with players arranging 3 hands would be too slow, but a simplified 2 hand version with only 7 cards would be much faster and easier for players to learn.
The game really quickly became popular and by the late 1980s made its way to the Las Vegas strip, and eventually worldwide. Torosian famously failed to patent the game he invented after being given bad advice by an attorney he consulted, and noted poker author Mike Caro, both of whom told him that the game was not patentable.
How does it work?
The game is played with a standard deck of cards, plus a single joker and it is played on a table set for six players, plus the dealer. Each player tries to defeat the banker (who may be the casino dealer, one of the other players at the table, or a player acting in tandem with the dealer as co-bankers). You can play similar poker games here - https://poker.paddypower.com/promotions/.
How do you win?
The way you win at Pai Gow Poker is for a player to create two poker hands out of the 7 card hand they are dealt with (a five-card hand and a two-card poker hand) that beats both of the dealer's hands.
The five-card hand's rank must exceed that of the two-card hand, and it is for this reason that the two-card hand is often called the hand "in front", "on top", "hair", or the "small", "minor", or "low" hand. The five-card hand is called the hand "behind", or the "bottom", "high", or "big", as they are placed that way in front of the player, when the player is done setting them.
So it turns out with the popularity of the game, many different variants started to pop up everywhere. Mainly formulated in the early to mid-2000’s a large proportion of these games are also in casinos alongside the original.
Pai Gow Mania is probably the most popular of these similar games, it allows you to make two side bets instead of the regular single side bet per hand. Others also include Fortune Pai Gow which lets you make a side bet on a poker hand ranking of trips or better, Emperors Challenge allows a side bet on a 7-card pai gow (no hand) and finally Shuffle Master created a variant of the game where you can win part (or all) of the jackpot by placing a side bet and landing one of the hands specified on the payout table.