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PAI GOW POKER Pai Gow Poker is the Americanized version which incorporates a standard 52-card deck with a single joker. The value of a Pai Gow Poker hand is based on poker rankings. The Pai Gow Poker table hosts up to six players, plus the dealer.


Pai Gow Poker was created in 1985 by Los Angeles Bell Club owner Sam Torosian. An elderly Filipino patron introduced him to a 13-card game requiring players to arrange three hands, but Torosian felt the action of the this variation was too slow and a bit complicated for the casual gambler. Instead, he developed a two-hand version using seven cards, and it worked. The game quickly became popular, and by the late 1980s, Pai Gow Poker had spread to Las Vegas casinos, eventually becoming a world-wide phenomenon. Under the counsel of Torosian's attorney and poker author Mike Caro, he failed to patent the game he invented.


The object of Pai Gow Poker is for a player to create two poker hands out of the seven-card hand dealt; one five-card hand and one two-card hand. The five-card hand's rank must exceed that of the two-card hand. Each must beat that of the dealer's corresponding hands. The five-card hand is called the hand "behind", or the "bottom" or "high" or "big" and is placed in front of the player after the hand is set. The two-card hand is often called the hand "in front" or "on top" or "hair", or the "small" or "minor" or "low" hand.

The cards are shuffled, and then dealt to the table in seven face-down piles of seven cards per pile. Four cards are unused regardless of the number of people playing. Betting positions are assigned a number from 1 to 7, starting with whichever player is acting as banker that hand, and counting counter-clockwise around the table. A number from 1 to 7 is randomly chosen, (either electronically or manually with dice) and then the deal begins with the corresponding position and proceeds counter-clockwise.

If a player is not sitting on a particular spot, the hand is still assigned, but then placed on the discard pile with the four unused cards. In some casinos where a seat at the Pai Gow Poker table is vacant, an extra, or "dragon hand,” is dealt. Once all players have set their original hand they are asked in turn if they would like to place another bet to play the dragon hand. Generally the bet on the dragon hand can be the table minimum up to the amount the player bet on their original hand. The first player to accept the dragon hand receives it; this player is effectively playing two separate hands.


The top, or two card, hand has only two ranking possibilities; either one pair or a high card. The five-card hand uses the standard poker hand ranking (a shown above), with on exception. The A-2-3-4-5 straight ranks higher than than a king-high straight, but below an ace-high straight A-K-Q-J-10. The joker may be used to complete a straight or flush. Otherwise it counts as an ace. In the two-card hand it always plays as an ace.


If a player’s top and bottom hands both beat the banker's corresponding hands, then the player wins. If only one of the player’s hands beats the banker, then it’s a tie (push), in which case neither the player nor the banker wins. If both of the player’s hands lose to the banker then he loses. If a player's five-card hand loses to the banker and his two-card hand ties the banker then the player loses.


There are several different types of video poker machines and most are played with a 52-card deck. Video poker machines will automatically determine the best hand to keep, with some automatically "holding" the cards for you.

The Pai Gow Table

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