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Pai Gow Poker

Most of the casino games we know and love have been around so long, it’s virtually impossible to trace their exact origins. This, isn’t the case with Pai Gow poker, however, which has a very clear history.

In fact, we can go so far as to tell you who was the inventor (Sam Torosian, owner of the Bell Card Club), when it was invented (1985), and where (Los Angeles, California, USA).

A low risk, slow play card game based on the traditional Chinese domino game Pai Gow, it’s also known as double-hand poker. It has a strong element of skill mixed in with luck, and a nice and obvious format, so it’s easy to get the hang of how to play your hands.

Available in all our preferred Canadian online casinos, like those listed below, we strongly recommend having a read, then putting your quick learned strategy into play, for loads of fun at this very good odds game

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How to play

When first encountering the game, Pai Gow poker often sounds more complicated than it actually is. It does take a bit of getting used to, but trust us when we say, it’s actually quite simple once you (quickly) get the hang of it.

Pai Gow starts with a 52 card deck plus a single joker card. The joker serves as a wild card and can be used as an Ace, to complete a straight, to complete a flush, or to complete a straight flush.

The game works best with six players plus the dealer in each hand, though it is possible to play with fewer players.

Once seated at the table, the dealer/banker starts divvying up the cards.

  • Each player is assigned a number between 1 and 7, starting with the banker and moving counter-clockwise around the table.
  • A number between 1 and 7 is chosen randomly (often with a dice roll), to determine where the deal begins, and again from there, moving counter-clockwise.
  • 7 piles of 7 cards are dealt face-down on the table corresponding to each of the seven spots at the table, including the dealer (even if there are fewer than 7 people playing the hand).
  • If no one’s sitting at a particular spot, the cards dealt to it are put in the discard pile (alongside the 4 remaining cards from the initial deck/deal).

Each player must now form a five-card hand and a two-card hand. Unlike traditional online poker, the goal of this game is to beat the banker (dealer), rather than the other players, with these two separate hands. That means there can be more than one winning player in each round.

  • If both of a player’s hands beat the banker’s, then the player wins.
  • If only one of a player’s hands beat the banker’s, then it’s a push/tie.
  • If both of a player’s hands lose to the banker’s, then the banker wins.

Ties on each hand, however, go to the banker, giving the banker a slight advantage. So for example, if a player’s two-hand card loses to the banker, while his five-card hand ties with the banker, the player loses.

Pai Gow Poker vs Regular Poker

Pai Gow has many things in common with regular poker, first and foremost of which is that it’s played with cards and poker hand values. There are, however, some small differences including:

  • An extra card in the deck – As mentioned above, the Pai Gow variant adds a Joker into the mix, which can be used as a Wild card in certain instances.
  • Slightly different winning hands & winning hand ranks – This partially has to do with the Joker in the mix. Additionally, at some casinos, in Pai Gow play an A-2-3-4-5 straight is considered higher than a K-high straight, but lower than an A-K-Q-J-10 straight.
  • Easier strategy – In regular poker there are a lot more decisions to make as you play. In Pai Gow it’s generally pretty obvious how to play your hand.
  • Playing vs. the banker rather than other players – This makes it easier to win, and takes out the element of bluffing, for lower variability overall, and better odds. It also means that more than one player can win on any hand.
  • Two hand vs. one – And of course, there’s the most obvious difference, that in Pai Gow you’re looking to form two potentially winning hands, as opposed to one.

Playing Pai Gow Poker Online

Like all online casino games, there’s a distinct advantage to playing Pai Gow poker online. First of all, if you’re a Canadian player and looking for a Pai Gow table, then you need look no further than our recommended Pai Gow Casinos table above.

At each of these fine establishments you’ll find Pai Gow in our free games to get you started, as well as real money play once you’re ready for a gamble. Plus, if you’re new to the casino, you’ll also get a welcome bonus, which will give you more money to play.

Pai Gow Poker Tips

Looking for a few easy tips to get you started? Here’s what we suggest:

  • First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the game. Seriously. That may sound obvious, but especially in online play, with the distinct opportunity to play Pai Gow in practice mode, you should be taking advantage of it, until you get the hang of the game.
  • Remember that you are playing two hands, and they both count. So pay equal attention to both your 2-card hand and your 5-card hand at all times, aiming for a balance, and betting accordingly.
  • Unlike regular poker, a full house is not a great five-card hand. That’s because, as we just covered, you need to be building two separate hands. In other words, it’s probably best to split it up.
  • Same goes for two pairs. It’s better to split them so that each of your hands has a pair.

There is of course more detailed Pai Gow strategy available, if you’re in the mood for a read, or to master the game. But the aforementioned is plenty to get you started on your way to winning hands.


If you’re looking for a fun, slightly slower spin on the traditional poker game, we strongly suggest you give Pai Gow poker a try. It’s got a good element of challenge and skills with decent probabilities, and relatively easy to master strategy. And with all our favourite Canadian online casinos offering it – like those listed above – you know you’re in good hands when you play.