Pai Gow Poker Strategy

There are various strategies of how to win at Pai Gow Poker from extensive layed out and charted structures that might have a five star general scratching his head over it for days, to over simplified directions that would be common sense to all after a few hands of play. Our intention here is to provide some basics of strategy for the average Pai Gow player so they can win more while having an excellent time of it. It’s actually such an easy game that personal strategies will form naturally – but you might as well learn our best Pai Gow Poker strategy.

No Ranking Hands: It is common sense to anyone other than a pure beginner, that when dealt a non ranking hand (pai gow – which means no pairs, no straight and no flush) you’ll take the second two highest cards and put them into the two card hand.

With the obvious now out of the way, let’s look at how to play other hands.

When you consider that in PaiGow, the chance of getting two pair is approximately 22%, and that the chance of three-of a kind trails this figure at 5%, it is clear that the most common decision is how to play the two-pair – split them into two hands, or place them together in one.

Pai Gow Poker 2 Pair Strategy

Two pair with the top pair an ace is always split, this is easy to remember and is the same as blackjack (always split a pair of aces). All two pair with Kings should be split except for one: A pair of kings and deuces when holding ace-queen is the only time kings and deuces should be kept together.

To make this simple:

If you have two pair, and no Ace, King or Queen to go in your two card hand, then it’s an automatic split. If you have two pair and also hold a queen or higher, then refer to the chart below, which is taken from Stanford Wong’s Book – Optimal Pai Gow Poker Strategy.

When to split two pairs chart:

  22 33 44 55 66 77 88 99 TT JJ QQ KK
AA SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL
KK A-Q SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL -
QQ A-8 A-10 A-J A-K A-K SPL SPL SPL SPL SPL - -
JJ A-4 A-4 A-4 A-9 A-10 A-Q A-K A-K SPL - - -
1010 K-10 A-4 A-3 A-3 A-3 A-5 A-J A-Q - - - -
99 K-10 K-J K-Q A-3 A-3 A-3 A–3 - - - - -
88 K-4 K-5 K-J K-Q A-3 A-3 - - - - - -
77 K-4 K-4 K-3 K-10 K-J - - - - - - -
66 Q-J K-4 K-3 K-3 - - - - - - - -
55 Q-9 Q-10 Q-3 - - - - - - - - -
44 Q-5 Q-6 - - - - - - - - - -
33 J-10 - - - - - - - - - - -

 
This chart covers all possible combinations of two pair. There is no need to memorize it as over time it will become second nature.

Three Pairs

In Pai Gow playing three pairs is simple. Always place the highest of the three pairs on top.

Trips

Trips are always kept together, except for one situation. When you’re dealt three Aces with no other pair, split the aces playing a pair of Aces in the five card hand and the other ace in the two card hand.

Full House

The only time a Full House is ever kept in a five card hand is when you’re dealt trips, and two pairs all together (extremely rare). Full houses are always split up with trips in the five card hand and the pair in your two card hand.

Straight and Flushes

Straights and Flushes are always kept together in the five card hand unless you also have a pair of tens or better. In cases where you have a pair of tens for a five card hand WITH an AK or better for the two card hand – you might consider splitting up a straight or a flush.

Note: If you’re dealt both a straight and a flush, you’re going to play whichever hand gives you the highest top.

Four of a Kind

Four of a kind sixes or lower should always be kept together. Four-of-a-kind sevens through nines are split unless you have an Ace or better to play in the two card hand. Four of a kind jacks, queens, kings and aces are always split (unless of course there is a pair to accompany them).

More Pai Gow Poker Strategy

This guide is quite basic in terms of Pai Gow Poker strategy. If you’re interested in learning more elaborate strategy we suggest Stanford Wong’s Book Optimal Pai Gow Strategy or Google searching ‘Pai Gow Poker Strategy’.

.