How to Win at Pai Gow Poker

On our pai gow strategies for beginners page, we share some tips that will help you reduce the house edge, as well as resources for where to learn intermediate and advanced strategies.

Sometimes, though, walking away a winner is about more than just tactics. Sometimes it’s a combination of things that enable you to walk away with profits in your pockets.

Below are 10 ways to do just that.


10 Ways to Walk Away a Winner From The Pai Gow Poker Tables


1. Avoid side bets – Like most casino game side bets, they’re there to entice you with illusions of winning large jackpots. And you can, if you’re lucky.

However, the odds for most side bets are significantly worse than the house edge for the standard game, which, to me, robs the game of why I want to play it (good / fair odds).

Side bets vary from one casino to the next. Here are some of the more popular bets you’ll come across.

  • Fortune Pai Gow Poker – Pays based on the value of all 7 cards. There is an Envy Bonus side bet that pays on 4 of a kind or better. This has a house edge of 7.77 percent.
  • Fortune Progressive – This is in WA state, costs $1 and has no Envy Bonus payout. This returns at the rate of 48.45 percent.
  • Jackpot Pai Gow Poker – This bet has a house edge of 2.21 percent, which is relatively small.
  • Emperor’s Challenge – This has a house edge of 4.171 percent.
  • Progressive Pai Gow Poker – This is an additional $5 bet. This has a house edge of 11.54 percent, which decreases about 1 percent for every $10,000 in the meter.
  • Pai Gow Insurance – This side bet wins if the player has a pai gow. The lower the highest card, the better it pays. This has a house edge of 7.35 percent.
  • Pai Gow’d – This has a house edge of 6.44 percent.
  • Jokolor – This pays if the player has a joker and/or all the cards of the same color. This has a house edge of 3.9 percent.
  • G3 Bonus – This has a house edge of 3-7.77 percent.


2. Learn Pai Gow Strategy – Pai gow has a house edge of 2.5 percent. However, you can knock that down to 1.5% with basic (read: simple) strategy, and .2 percent (or less) if you become the banker. Few casino games (blackjack) can compete with those odds.


3. Be the Banker – Being the banker can reduce the house edge to .04 to 1.4 percent, depending on your strategy. The only caveat is that you need to have enough money to pay players. You can opt to co-bank with the house, too. Just know that if you do, you’ll have to set your hand the ‘house way.’


4. Take a Deposit Bonus – Despite casinos handicapping pai gow poker towards completing bonuses, I still recommend claiming one (in some cases). The reason being is that you push so often in pai gow, all the while earning points towards your bonus. It’s like breaking even at poker while still collecting rakeback. You still might manage to walk away with some profit, even if it’s just from the deposit bonus.


5. Join a Casino with VIP / Comp Points – For the same reason above – you might not make much at pai gow – you might even take a loss. But when you factor in comp points and the ability to turn them in for cold hard cash, you might walk away a winner.


6. Practice With Play Money First – One of the benefits to playing online pai gow poker is the ability to play for free. This way you can learn the rules and basic strategies before putting up real money. What I like to do is practice my strategies, and comparing what I do to the ‘house way.’


7. The House Way – When in doubt, have your hand set the house way.


8. Never Play a Full House – When you’re dealt a full house (3 of a kind + a pair), your first thought will be to place that as your back hand.

Don’t do that. What will happen is you pushing the hand (since that happens so often anyway).

What you want to do is place your pair up front and your 3 of a kind in the back. This will give you the highest chance of winning the hand.


9. Join a Legitimate Casino – How much you win or earn from pai gow, bonuses or comp points mean nothing if you join a sketchy casino that cheats its players.


10. Quit While Ahead – The best way to ensure that you walk away a winner is to actually quit playing while you’re ahead. Corny, but true.