Pai Gow – A Thousand Year Old Asian Game Has an Americanized Version – Pai Gow Poker

How to Play the American Poker Version

Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard 52 card deck plus one joker. Players must first place a bet on the table. The order of play is determined by the dealer’s roll of the dice or a random number generator selection. Seven cards are then dealt counter-clockwise, face down, to each player and the dealer.

The object of the game is for the player to create two poker hands from his or her seven cards. The five card hand must rank higher than the two card hand. When setting the hands, the five card hand must be placed in front of the two card hand. In order for the player to win even money, both hands must beat the dealer/banker hands. If one wins and one loses, the decision is a push. If both the banker and player hands are of equal value, the banker wins.

The house takes a 5% commission on all winning hands. Any player may elect to be the bank in turn or s/he may pass. It can be advantageous to bank because the banker wins all ties, but the banker must also hold sufficient funds to cover all bets. Winning hands are determined by standard poker hand rankings with the following exceptions:

  • A joker can be used to complete a flush or a straight, otherwise it’s counted as an ace.
  • An A-2-3-4-5 is the 2nd highest straight or straight flush, under 10-J-Q-K-A. Therefore, a 9-10-J-Q-K ranks 3rd.

The house edge is about 1.46%.

How to Play the Asian Way

Pai Gow, translated as “make nine” has its roots in ancient Chinese gambling and is believed to be thousands of years old. Because it’s played with Chinese domino tiles it is found mainly in casinos that cater to Asian players. This game is not as popular with Americans. Also, it’s more complex and requires more study to learn.

The game is played with a set of 32 dominos known as The Woodpile. After all the players place their bets on the table, the dealer shuffles the woodpile face down and stacks them in 8 rows, 4 high. The dealer then rolls three dice to determine the order of play. The dealer starts as banker and gives each player and his or herself 4 tiles face down.

Each player must make two hands of two tiles each. The hand with the lower value is called The Front. The higher value hand is The Rear. If the totals from the players’ hands beat the dealer/banker’s hand the players’ win even money, minus a 5% commission to the house. If both player hands are of lower value, s/he loses. If one hand wins and the other loses, it is a push. In case of a tie, the tile with the highest singleton wins. When a player and banker equal zero, the banker wins. Players may act as banker in turn or pass. Sufficient player funds are required for a player to bank the game.

With few exceptions, the best a hand can score is 9. For example, a 1-3 tile and a 2-3 tile totals 9. If two tiles total above 9, such as a 3-2 and 6-5 totaling 16 requires that the tens place (1) be dropped and would therefore total 6. 5-5 and 6-4 would equal 0 as 10 + 10 = 20. Drop 2 to equal 0.

There are certain exceptions where a hand can score more than 9. These are called “Gongs” and “Wongs”. The double one and double six tiles are known as the “Day” and “Teen” tiles. A Day or Teen combined with an eight results in a Gong, worth 10, while putting either of them with a nine creates a Wong, worth 11. When paired with any other tile, standard scoring rules apply.

Also, there are tiles that can be used like a “wildcard” called “Gee Joon” with The 1-2 and 2-4. When used as part of a hand, these tiles may be scored as either 3 or 6, which ever results in a higher hand value. For example, a hand of 1-2 and 5-6 scores as seven rather than four.

The house edge is about 1.5%. Good Luck!

Baccarat – A Casino Card Game With III Phases and a Bit of History

Before I explain this Baccarat game that dates back to the 15th Century, let’s review a brief bit of history. Americans got their first real glimpse of this casino game during the 1962 James Bond movie, Dr. No, when Bond, played by Sean Connery, was winning in a Monte Carlo casino. The game was Chemin de fer.

Phase I – Chemin de fer

In this original version Players wagered among themselves and won or lost with their own money. A dealer shoe rotated around the table counterclockwise after each hand. Players could decline the bank and pass the shoe to the next player. A 5% commission for winning bank hands paid to the house was to cover the casino overhead.

Phase II – Punto Banco

Punto Banco, meaning Player, Banker, was introduced in Nevada from Cuba in the late 1950’s, where it was very popular until Castro closed he mob run casinos. The main difference from the French version is that the house banks the game. A tie bet was added to increase the house edge, and the 5% commission to the house for a winning bank bet remains in place. Eventually the name baccarat, Italian for zero, was coined. Today baccarat is played in high limit rooms throughout the world where millions are won and lost each day.

Phase III – Mini-Baccarat

Eventually gaming establishments saw profit potential with Baccarat however they had to make it attractive to the average player. Hence, a new version was born, Mini-Baccarat.The rules for this game are exactly the same as Punto Banco except one house dealer controls he game for up to seven players. Table minimums are as low as $5 or $10. Numerous optional side bets have been added to increase the house edge.

How to Play Baccarat

The objective of baccarat is for the player to come as close to the number 9 as possible. Aces count as one, 2’s – 9’s are face value and 10’s – K’s count as zero.

Regardless of the number of players, the dealer only deals two hands from a six or eight deck shoe. Prior to the deal players must first place one bet on either the bank hand, player hand, or tie. Croupiers pass the shoe so players have the option in turn to deal the cards. In Mini-Baccarat, the shoe remains in place and the dealer controls all the action.

When a hand is totaled, it cannot exceed 9. If the two cards total more than 9, the first digit is dropped. The second digit becomes the total. Ex: 7,8=15. (the 1 is dropped) total = 5.

Baccarat requires no skill to play. All the player needs to do is place one bet before the deal. The dealer examines both hands to determine if a third and final card should be drawn. The determination is made according to a fixed set of game rules. Here they are:

Game Rules for Player Bet

The player position always draws on a 0, 1, and 2,3,4,5, unless the banker has a natural 8 or 9. Player always stands on 6,7,8, and 9. When the play bet has a natural 8 or 9, the game is over.

Game Rules for Banker Bet

The banker position always draws on a 0, 1, and 2 unless the player has a natural 8 or 9. The banker always stands on 7,8, and 9. When a banker has a natural 8 or 9, the game is over.

Strategy

No playing strategy is required. Always bet the bank which has the lowest house edge at 1.06%, even with the 5% commission owed to the house. A player bet has a house edge of 1.24% while the tie bet that pays 8 to 1 has a whopping house edge of 14%!. This bet is not recommended. A number of optional side bets at the mini tables have house edges from 2 to 13%. These are not recommended.

Good luck!