Many casinos are aware of the popularity of poker. Unfortunately, poker is a game played against other players and not the House, so the casinos have little involvement in regular poker, other than to charge a rake (a percentage of each pot) for the use of the dealer and the table. To combine the elements of poker with those of typical table games played against the house, casinos have invented a number of poker variations that are played like traditional table games, player vs. the casino.
One such variation is Pai Gow. In Pai Gow Poker, after each player puts up a wager of their choosing they are dealt seven cards. Your objective is to make your best five-card and two-card poker hand. As a rule, your five card hand must be stronger than your two card hand. If you are dealt A, A, 9, 8, 7, 3, 3, you could not split your hands into 9, 8, 7, 3, 3 and AA. You could split them into A, A, 9, 8, 7 and 3, 3, or A, A, 3, 3, 7 and 9, 8. As long as your five-card hand beats the two-card hand, you can arrange them however you like. If you are not sure the optimal way to set your hand, you can ask the dealer to help you. There is one joker in the deck, which can be used in your hand to complete a straight or a flush, or as an Ace. The joker is not wild, you cannot use it to pair any card in your hand other than the Ace.
Once you have set your hand, the dealer also sets his hand. If both of your hands beat both of the dealer hands, you win an amount equal to your initial bet. If both of the dealers’ hands beat both of yours, you lose your bet. If one hand wins and the other loses, it’s a tie and no one wins. The House gets its edge by charging a five percent commission on winning bets.
In Pai Gow you also have the option of being the “Banker”. If you choose to be the Banker, you put up a sum of money to cover (or “Bank”) all of the bets on the table (if the amount you put up is not enough, the House will pick up where you left off). If you are the Banker, you play against all Players. Your five percent commission is calculated after all wins and losses are tabulated. Being the Banker affords a very slight edge because if your hands “copy” (are exactly the same) a Player’s hand, you win.
Pai Gow is an interesting variation of poker and one you might consider if you like poker but are looking for a more traditional casino game than regular poker, or just one that provides an added dimension to the game. You can find Pai Gow at certain online casino sites and in any live casino.