Pia Gow Poker Strategy
Whilst Pai Gow is clearly a form of poker, in some respects it has more of a similarity to blackjack than it does to poker. The most pertinent similarity to blackjack is the set up of the game as a player versus banker game, rather than a player versus player game. This set up has enormous consequences on the types of strategies that will be successful with Pai Gow. The best strategy for Pai Gow poker is playing the "house way"; this sounds like exactly what it is. Just like in other games, the casino has a set of rules that it must follow in playing, the idea of following the house way is that you too follow those rules. There are however some additional general tips in playing Pai Gow that will stand you in good stead that we shall address before jumping into the house way strategy.
General Pia Gow Tips
The first and most important tip relating to Pai Gow is simple: play the bank. The odds are considerably better if you are playing the bank than a player; therefore if the casino you are playing at gives you this option, you would be a fool not to take it. The odds work out better for the banker because the banker will always win a copy hand, thus increasing the chances of a win.
Next tip; if you have an option to pre-pay the commission you should do so, this ends up saving you money in the long term.
Something that seems so simple, but is so important, you must learn to set your own hands. In some cases you can ask the dealer to set your hand for you, however if you want to become an excellent player, you clearly need to learn how to do this yourself. Therefore, training your eye to pick up the strongest hand is an absolute must for Pai Gow success.
Finally, the fewer players there are the more often you'll be playing the bank, which as we said is the best position, so play with as fewer players as possible.
The House Way
It is important to remember that casinos will vary slightly in the details of their rules, and all new players in a casino should make sure to understand what all of the rules are for that casino. Despite small differences however, the House Way can be summed up as follows.
In the case of having nothing, not even a pair in your hand your should take your highest card and put it into the five-card hand as a high-card, and take the second and third highest cards to make up your two-card hand.
If you have one pair you should use the pair in the five-card hand, but the highest single card you have should be used for the two-card hand.
Should you find yourself with two pairs you must understand them as either low pairs, meaning less than 6, medium pairs, meaning between 7 and 10, or high pairs, which are picture cards. What you should do depends on what combination of pairs you have. If for example, you have 2 low pairs, or a low pair and a medium pair, you should split them; the only exception to this is if you have a king or higher, and then you should play the two pair together in the 5-card hand. If you have two medium pairs you should again split them, unless you have an ace in which case you should play the 2 pairs in the five-card hand. If you have any other combination of pairs you should always split them between the two hands.
A three pair hand is far more straight forward; you always use the highest pair in the two-card hand.
If you have three of a kind that are anything other than aces you should keep them in your five-card hand; if you have aces however you should split them up, using the pair in the five-card hand, and the third as high-card ace in the two-card hand.
Straights and flushes tend to follow more or less the same rules. If you have a six or seven card straight or flush, you should play the lower cards in the five-card hand, leaving the high cards free to make up the two-card hands. If you have a pair in the hand you should use it is the two-card hand, but not to the determent of the flush or straight. If you have three of a kind you should use the pair in the two-card hand, and you should follow the regular rules for two pair, three pair, and full house.
Full houses should usually be split except for if it's a pair of twos, or if there's and ace-king that can be played in the 2-card hand. If you have two pairs and three of a kind then you should always use the highest pair for the two-card hand, and if you have two three of a kinds you should break up the highest three of a kind using the pair for the two-card hand.
When it comes to four of a kind, what you do depends greatly on the value of the cards. Anything lower than a 6 should be split up, as should aces; 7 to 10 should also be split except for if you have a king or ace that can be used in the two-card hand. This same rule applies to the picture cards, except of course for if you have an ace that can be used in the two-card hand.
If you find yourself with a four of a kind with a pair or with a three of a kind you should use the pair for the two-card hand.
Finally if you have five aces you should split them to a pair and three of a kind, the only exception to this is if you also have a pair of kings in which case the kings should be played in the two-card hand, and the five aces should be left in tact as the five-card hand.
This basic Pia gow strategy will go a long way at the table so long as you know the Pia Gow Poker rules.