Pai Gow Poker is a variant of poker that is available at most of the online casinos for Australian players. The game is also known as Double Hand Poker because it involves dealing 2 poker-style hands to the player. Pai Gow Poker is one of those games that has evolved from a game that has originally been there since times immemorial. Australian players can play this fantastic game using the cool welcome bonus and other promotions available at the casino they are signed up with.
Top Online Pai Gow Poker Casinos for Australian Players
All the major online casinos that accept Australian players have Pai Gow Poker in their game portfolio. We have compiled for you a list of the top online casinos where Australian players can play this exciting and fun game.
Brief History of Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker, the game itself, was developed by the owner of the California Bell Casino, Sam Torosian in 1985. He mixed elements of an ancient Chinese game of dominoes called Pai Gow (Pinyin in the native Cantonese dialect) with the conventional poker game that you got at land-based casinos in those times - online casinos had not made an appearance yet. The term Pai Gow literally translates to 'make nine' in Chinese.
The game mixed luck and strategy in equal doses and was a big hit at Torosian's casino. By 1986 the game was being offered at other land-based casinos. The arrival of the online casino ensured the game became available to anyone who had a computer, an Internet and a soft corner for casino games.
The game had some basic resemblances to the original dominoes game that was Pinyin. The major difference was that while the dominoes game used tiles, Pai Gow Poker used cards. The game of dominoes came to the American shores through Chinese immigrants who had moved to the USA. Here the game continued to be played in its native form, till Torosian got the idea of mixing it with poker.
Pai Gow Poker grew rapidly in popularity over the years. When the first online casino was launched in the 1990s, it was only natural for Pai Gow Poker to make its new home there. The game remained generally the same; the only difference was the introduction of the Bonus Bet feature that gave players the chance to hit some really cool and big jackpots. Another difference was the introduction of the House Way feature that allowed hand division as per the strategy guiding the game.
Playing Pai Gow Poker for Free
Pai Gow Poker is a game that requires extensive skill and strategy, and not just luck. The game is like poker and involves hands, which means at the very least you should know the hand rankings and the payouts for each, and what decision to take based on the hand you get.
One way of ensuring that you get a good idea about the game and how to play it is by playing first in the free play practice mode. All the casinos that we have earlier listed out for you offer Pai Gow Poker in free play mode as well, along with the standard real money play mode. So all you need to do is choose a casino, sign up with it and get started in practice mode.
Pai Gow Poker vs. Original Poker Games
While Pai Gow Poker is a poker variant, there are differences between this game and the original poker games that you get to play at land-based and online casinos. The following are the basic differences:
Unlike a true poker game at a land-based casino where you play against other players, you play Pai Gow Poker against the dealer.
The regular poker games are played with 5 cards. Pai Gow Poker is played with 7 cards.
The regular poker games require you to form a single hand with the 5 cards. In Pai Gow Poker you are required to form 2 hands, not one, with the 7 cards you are dealt.
In Pai Gow Poker, the joker doesn't work with all hands. You can use it to complete just the following hands:
- Straight Flush
It can also be used as a single Ace to shore up a hand.
Unlike other forms of poker, in Pai Gow Poker at a land-based casino the player gets a chance to bet against the dealer and also against other players. This step is called banking. The player reserves the right to decline the opportunity to bank. When that happens either the next player becomes the banker, or the dealer does.
How to Play Pai Gow Poker Online
Playing Pai Gow Poker online is a whole lot of fun. The game is played with a standard 52-card deck and a joker, making it a total deck of 53 cards. You need a good deal of luck and also knowledge of poker strategy to be able to consistently pick up wins when playing this cool game. One thing about the game: this is not a true poker game: you do not play against other players - which is what you do in a true poker game; you play against the dealer.
This is how you get started with playing Pai Gow Poker at your favourite South African online casino:
- Register an account with the casino.
- Log in using your account credentials.
- Click the Games tab on the casino's landing page.
- Select Pai Gow Poker from the list of games displayed.
Once you have selected Pai Gow Poker, the game opens on a fresh screen.
- You place your wagers by choosing your coin size and the number of coins you want to bet.
- You and the dealer are then dealt seven cards. You need to form 2 hands with these cards:
- A 5-card hand: This is the standard 5-card hand that you get in poker games.
- A 2-card hand: This is an additional hand you are given. The 2-card hand must have 2 cards of high rank. Also, its value must be lesser than that of the 5-card hand.
- You win if both your hands are of higher value than the 2 hands that the dealer has.
- If only one of your hands is of higher value than the dealer the game is 'pushed' and another round is triggered.
- You lose if your hands are of lesser value than the dealer's.
Here are a couple of things to be aware of when playing Pai Gow Poker:
- When you arrange the 7 cards into 2 hands, ensure that the 5-card hand is always stronger than the 2-card hand. Arranging it in reverse is considered a foul. You lose when this happens.
- You must win both the hands, not just one.
- While you have the freedom to arrange your hand any way you want, the dealer is limited to arranging the hand only one way - the House Way.
- All hands are just like standard poker games with one exception - the second highest straight hand possible in this hand is a straight of A-2-3-4-5. This hand is called a 'Wheel'.
Pai Gow Poker Strategy
Pai Gow Poker requires both luck and strategy; just one of them won't be enough all the time. The key to the game is understanding the fact that you have to create 2 hands and not 1, and win with both of them. Winning just one of the 2 hands will only send the game to push mode and ensure you get your bet amount back.
One of the things about the game is a relatively low house edge of about 2.9%. This means you have a decent chance of picking up wins if you get your hands right. And that is the key. You must ensure that both your hands are strong. Making one super strong hand and another weaker hand won't serve the purpose of playing the game, which is to win and make some money.
The basic aim, therefore, must be to work with strategy that allows you to win both hands. The two hands - called the High Hand (5-card hand) and Low Hand (2-card hand) must be equally strong. The idea is to get the Low Hand high without making the High Hand go weak.
Here are a few scenarios we can work with:
You have a flush
The basic policy of making your Low Hand strong applies especially in strong hands like the Flush and the Straight. Ensure that your 2-card hand is really strong by putting the lower values in the flush hand as your 5-card hand. That way the higher cards getting on the 2-card hand give you a decent chance of winning both hands.
You have a straight
The same policy that you adopted for a flush hand applies here as well. Use the lower values of the straight series of numbers to form the 5-card High Hand. The higher values of the straight series should go to the 2-card hand to make it stronger. The exception of course is if you have a straight hand and good enough numbers for a pair in the 2-card hand.
You have a full house
The best way to play this is by placing the 3-of-a-kind component of the full house in the 5-card hand and the pair into your 2-card hand. That makes both the hands equally strong and, more important, gives you equal chances of winning both.
You have a three-of-a-kind
The best way of playing out this hand is by keeping the three-of-a-kind in the 5-card hand and putting the 2 cards with the highest values out of the remaining 4 cards in the 2-card Low Hand.
You have two pairs
This is one of the trickiest hands in Pai Gow Poker when it comes to strategy. The temptation of course is to keep the 2 pairs in the 5-card High Hand and then take a chance on the 2-card Low Hand. The problem with this is that while it guarantees you a really powerful 5-card hand that is good enough for you to win, there is no such assurance on the 2-card hand.
You could be tempted to split the pairs and put the lower pair in your 2-card hand. This could give you a strong 2-card Low Hand but also considerably weaken your 5-card High Hand. One way of dealing with two pair hands is to always split the 2 pairs; the only exceptions would be in the following scenarios:
- The sum of the 2 pairs is a maximum of 9, and you also have a high card like an A or a K as back-up
- The sum of the 2 pairs is a maximum of 15 and you also have an A to back you up
You have a pair hand
If your hand has just a pair, ensure that you keep it in the high hand. You can work the other hand by keeping the highest value cards out of the remaining 5 in your 2-card hand.
You have a really terrible hand
Assume you have a hand that you can't use for anything as all the 7 card are disjointed and disconnected. The best option in such a case is to place the card with the highest value in the High Hand and the cards with the 2nd and 3rd highest values in the 2-card Low Hand. That way, you stand a chance of at least sending the game into push mode. If Lady Luck is on your side and the dealer's has a hand even worse than yours, you could actually win!
Pai Gow Poker Odds
The odds of winning at Pai Gow Poker are quite decent overall. The player stands a 29% chance of winning, while the chances of a dealer win stand at about 30%. The odds are highest for a push scenario, at 41%. However, this is just a general outlining of the odds you can expect to work with when you play the game. The odds vary depending on the hand you get, and then there are also the odds of you actually landing that hand to consider!
We take a look at the odds of landing the different hands in Pai Gow Poker.
|Poker Hand||Odds||Probability of Landing the Hand||Bonus Possibilities|
|7-Card Royal Flush||5000000 to 1||0.00000021||8000 to 1|
|Royal Flush and 2 pair||2000000 to 1||0.00000047||2000 to 1|
|7-Card Straight Flush||800000 to 1||0.00000127||1000 to 1|
|Five Aces||140000 to 1||0.00000732||400 to 1|
|Royal Flush||6000 to 1||0.00016927||150 to 1|
|Straight Flush||750 to 1||0.00119788||50 to 1|
|Four-of-a-Kind||500 to 1||0.00199472||25 to 1|
|Full House||36 to 1||0.02717299||5 to 1|
|Flush||25 to 1||0.04004129||4 to 1|
|Three-of-a-Kind||20 to 1||0.04977518||3 to 1|
|Straight||14 to 1||0.07158417||2 to 1|
|Two Pair||9 to 2||0.23065464||-|
|Pair||5 to 2||0.41663862||-|
From the above data, it is apparent that the highest hand possibility is the pair, while the lowest is the 7-card royal flush.
Essential Pai Gow Poker Tips
Pai Gow Poker is a fun and exciting game to play, and also quite a challenge given that you have to make 2 poker hands and win both to be able to make a winning.
Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
Understand that this is not a traditional poker game even though the hand rankings. The challenge of creating 2 hands that you must win, both at the same time, is big. You will have to move away from your traditional poker intuition when you are playing Pai Gow Poker.
Ensure that you form your hands the right way. Do NOT form a 2-card hand that is stronger than your 5-card hand. That will be a foul and you lose the hand. There is no point in simply losing a hand because you made an error. And it will feel especially sour if you actually had cards good enough for a strong 5-card hand too.
Play the game in practice mode enough and learn at least the basics of Pai Gow Poker strategy before you get to playing for real money. There is tons of material available online, or you could just ask someone you know. Knowing the hands and how they are ranked is a big help in itself because it will help you prioritise on the hands as you get them.