Pai Gow Poker may seem complicated to begin with, but once you get into the fairly simple rules of the game, it can be quite absorbing and there is an element of strategy involved in Pai Gow which is absent from many other casino games.
Pai Gow Poker is played against the dealer and involves creating two hands from the seven cards you are dealt. The object is to win both hands – one of five cards, the other of two – or avoid losing, in which case the bet is a “push”. The five card hand follows the ranking of a standard poker game, and you can also play with a joker (if dealt) to complete a flush or straight. The five card hand, plus the two cards remaining are compared against the dealers, and if you have beaten him on both hands you win – If you win one (no matter how good it is) and the second hand loses, the bet is a push.
Therefore, the best strategy when playing Pai Gow Poker, is to make your two-card hand as strong as possible to ensure you do not lose, and hope that your five card hand is better than the dealers. “House Rules” decree that the dealer must make the best possible five card hand from his seven*, and that is where there is a slight advantage to the player. There is no requirement for the dealer to qualify, but because of the two hand scenario, it can take a frustratingly long time to either win or lose a hand, and this game is only recommended for the patient.
* For example, the dealer must always play three aces in his five card hand, although you have the option of splitting them, so that your main (five card) hand shows a pair of aces and the second hand is ace high.
Other than tied hands (which the dealer wins) there is little house advantage in Pai Gow Poker, and it is an ideal game to apply a strategy to. You could use Martingale up to a limit (say 8x) and come out winning over a period of time, however you need to be aware in your calculations, that casinos will take a 5% “rake” from any hand that you win. This is because a hand of Pai Gow Poker can take a long time to resolve, and casinos are short of money!