Is Pai Gow Like Poker?

Is Pai Gow Like Poker?

Poker Or Pai Gow Gambling Background

If you are a poker player that has ever walked past the table games pit in a casino, you might have seen a couple of games that look a lot like traditional poker. In the industry, these are known as poker derivative games.

The poker derivative game market is exploding as we have games like 3 Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em, and High Card Flush that are quickly becoming some of the most popular games in the casino. For my money, the best game amongst these poker derivative games is one of the oldest casino poker games around, pai gow poker.

The real question that many true poker players have on their minds right now as they see more and more of these games pop up on the casino floor is, is pai gow poker like poker? In this article we are going to tell you a little bit about what pai gow poker is, and then answer the question all traditional poker players are asking, is pai gow like poker?

What Is Pai Gow?

Before we get too deep into comparing pai gow to poker, first we are going to want to talk a little bit about what pai gow poker actually is! As we already mentioned, pai gow is what we call a poker derivative game, as it derives from traditional 5-card poker, with some added twists.

From a high level:

There are a couple of major differences between pai gow poker and for example, Texas Hold ‘Em poker. First, and most importantly, pai gow poker is a house-banked casino table game. Unlike a Texas Hold ‘Em table, where you are playing against other players, and the casino just takes a percentage of the pot, pai gow is played against the casino.

The second major difference between pai gow and Texas Hold ‘Em is that pai gow has 7 cards where you make 2 poker hands, a 5-card hand, and a 2-card hand, whereas in traditional poker you only make a single 5-card hand.

How Is Pai Gow Played?

The first thing that you are going to have to do when you sit down to play pai gow, is make your bets. The standard bet is a bet on whether or not both of your hands are going to beat both of the dealer’s hands.

In order to win or lose this main bet:

Both hands have to win to get paid, and both hands have to lose for you to lose. Any exact tie hands go to the dealer. With having to win or lose both hands in order to win or lose your bet, we see a lot of pushes in pai gow. The other bet you are going to make is what is called the fortune bonus bet. The fortune bonus bet is where pai gow gets really exciting, as you have a chance to win huge jackpot payouts for bets as low as a single dollar.

In order to play, you must make the main bet, and the fortune bonus bet is optional, but trust me, you are going to want to play the bonus.

Now that you have your bets ready, the dealer is going to deal all players, including themselves,7 cards face down. You must make 2 different poker hands with these 7 cards, a 5-card hand, and a 2-card hand.

The only stipulation is that your 5-card hand, also known as your bottom hand, must outrank your 2-card hand, also known as your top hand. If your top hand outranks your bottom hand, your hand is fouled, and you immediately lose.

Bottom Hand
Your bottom hand is your 5-card poker hand and you set it just like you would a standard poker hand. Pairs, straights, flushes, and full houses are all the same here as they would be in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

Top Hand
Your top hand is made up of just 2-cards, and instead of using traditional poker rankings, the top hand is based on the rank of the cards only. All pairs play, with a pair of aces being the best top hand possible and if there are no pairs in your top hand, your highest card plays.

Once your hands have been set, the dealer will then reveal their cards and set their hands based on a predetermined set of house rules.

Then the dealer will compare each of your hands against each of their hands and determine if you win, lose, or push.

Any bonus bet wins will also be paid out at this time, with 3 of a kind or better needed to get a bonus. Your bonus payouts are independent of the main bet, and even if you lose the main bet, you will still get paid out.

Is Pai Gow Like Poker?

Now that you know what pai gow poker is and how it is played, we can answer the question, is pai gow like poker? This isn’t an easy question to answer, as pai gow is certainly like poker in many aspects, as you are literally making poker hands.

But on the flip side:

It is a house-banked game that has a built-in house advantage. Even if you play perfect strategy, you aren’t going to beat the casino in the long run.

Poker is appealing to many players as it is one of the few games in the casino where you can use your brain to outsmart your opponents and have a significant edge. This distinction alone is enough for me to say that pai gow is kinda sorta like poker, but that if you are a serious poker player, you may not feel the same way.

Please Note:

One area that I would say that pai gow is like poker though, is the fact that strategy matters. It doesn’t quite matter enough to turn the game from a negative expected value game into a positive one, but the better strategy you use at a pai gow table, the better your results are going to be. This element of the game is going to be appealing to casual poker players, as they will love the fact that their decisions matter.

Pai gow is one of those games that takes a minute to learn and a lot longer to master, and players that enjoy the challenge of learning to play poker at a high level, will also welcome the challenge of learning pai gow.


Even though pai gow isn’t really that much like poker, it is going to be a game that many poker players, particularly the casual ones, are going to enjoy playing.

If you are an avid poker player:

I think you will find pai gow much more appealing than other table games like blackjack, craps, or baccarat.

Pai gow is a thinking game, and poker players love to use their minds to make money.

Are you ready to get in on the pai gow action? Make sure that you swing by TheSportsGeek’s poker betting sites page, where we have exclusive deals for our readers at all of the top online casinos.

Online pai gow can be a ton of fun, as it offers all of the same excitement and action as the brick-and-mortar version, with higher payouts, better odds, and a much faster pace.

If you haven’t given online pai gow a try yet, you truly are missing out!

Thank you for reading and good luck chasing those fortune bonuses at pai gow!


Author: Lucas Carlson