Pai gow

Important: This article is about Pai gow played with dominoes, not Pai gow poker. Pai gow poker, also known as Double-hand poker, is a card game loosely based Pai gow.

Pai gow is a game of chance played with Chinese dominoes. It’s very popular in South-East Asia but is also offered by a lot of casinos in other parts of the world. In addition to this, you can find plenty of online casinos offering Pai gow on the internet.

Pai gow can be traced back to the Song Dynasty, the ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279. The Song Dynasty is responsible for many innovations, such as gunpowder and governmental issuing of banknotes (paper money).

Pai gow is normally played with seven players at the table.

Playing Pai gow

The tiles (dominoes) are randomly stacked into eight stacks, with each stack consisting of four tiles. This is known as the woodpile. Special shuffles are then carried out according to the Pai gow tradition before any bets are made.

After the bets have been placed, each player (including the dealer) receives four tiles. Your goal is to form two hands using your own tiles. Each hand must consist of two tiles. The lower hand is called “front hand” while the higher hand is called “rear hand”.

If your front hand is better than the dealer’s front hand, and your rear hand is better than the dealer’s rear hand, you win the bet.

If your front hand is worse than the dealer’s front hand, and your rear hand is worse than the dealer’s rear hand, you lose the bet.

If one of your hands is better than the corresponding dealer hand, it’s a push (tie) and you will get your wager back.

As you can see, your hand will never be compared with any of the other players’ hands. The important thing is to beat the dealer, just as in Blackjack.

Hand value in Pai gow

To calculate the value of your hand, add the total number of tips on the two tiles. If the value goes over 9 you subtract 10 to get the final value.

Example #1: A hand consists of a 2-3 tile and a 5-6 tile. 2+3+5+6 equals 16. 16 minus 10 is 6. The value of the hand is 6.

Example #2: A hand consists of a 4-6 tile and a 5-5 tile. 4+6+5+5 equals 20. 20 minus 10 is 10. Since 10 is still above 9, we subtract 10 once again. 10 minus 10 is 0. The value of the hand is 0.

Special hands: Gong and Wong

A few special hands are worth more than nine poins in Pai gow.

  • The double-one tile is known as Day. The double-six tile is known as Teen. If a Day or Teen is combined with an eight, the pair is not worth zero, it’s worth ten. A hand like this is called Gong.
  • If a Day or Teen tile is combined with a nine, the hand is not worth one, it is worth eleven. Such a hand is called Wong.

Only eights and nines can be used to form special hands in Pai gow. Thus, a Day or Teen combined with a ten is just worth two points, not twelve.

Gee Joon

Then 1-2 and 2-4 tiles are named Gee Joon. A Gee Joon tile can be worth 3 or 6, whatever is best for the hand. (In a way, they are similar to the ace in Blackjack which is worth 1 or 11 depending on whatever is best for the hand.)

These are just the basic rules for Pai gow. In order to fully understand the game, one must also learn about matching pairs. Matching pairs are defined by tradition and the rules can be a bit confusing at first glance. It is also a good idea to learn about how ties are handled in Pai gow.

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