Pai Gow Odds: Should They Influence How You Play?

You may not realize it, but math plays a large role in casino games.

  • It tells us how often we’re going to win or lose.
  • It tells us how much money we will collect when we win.
  • It tells us how much we will lose in the long run (thanks, house edge).


For example, some people will use math to decide what games to play. They’ll sit down to play blackjack, pai gow or video poker because they offer the best odds in the house. You won’t see them playing keno or progressive Hello Kitty slots.

Other people use the math to decide what bets to make. For example, on it’s own blackjack is a good game to play. But not so much you if you make those $1 or $5 side bets.

And for others the numbers serve as a benchmark. In other words, if they know they are at a 2 percent disadvantage, they might have the goal to improve their strategy to reduce that house edge even further. Especially in games that can be beaten, and where every percentage gained can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars in additional income.

The point?

That knowing the math behind pai gow poker will help you to make better decisions as to where to play, what bets to make, and whether or not it’s worth it for you to learn pai gow poker strategy.

Those are the things this article will clear up.

Will Learning Pai Gow Poker Strategy Make a Huge Difference?

Lets look at this through two different extremes; not using strategy, and using advanced strategy.

The house edge for pai gow poker (without strategy) is 2.5%.

The house edge using perfect strategy is 1.5%.

The difference looks minor. And it would be if you’re making small bets; only .05 per $5 bet. But it adds up – about $5 per 100 hands. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that you’re costing yourself $10-$100 per day (depending on how long you play).

On larger bets, say $1,000, the difference is substantial. Without strategy you’re costing yourself $10 per hand. Even over a short session (say 100-200) hands, you’re costing yourself $1-$2,000 – enough for another session!


Pai Gow Poker Banker: The Odds Are In Your Favor

If you read our strategy pages you’ll learn that being the banker reduces the house edge. That’s because bankers win on all copy hands (copy hands are like pushes or ties in blackjack), and they get to deduct their losses from their winnings before the casino takes their 5% commission.

Because of this advantage the banker will win 32.6% of the time, while players win 31.4%. Ties will occur 36% of the time.

It’s a small edge, but if you have the bankroll it makes sense to make the most of it.

The Effect Side Bets Have On Your Odds

Side bets lure players in because they see what they can win if they get lucky.

Wow, I’ll be paid 5,000 to 1 for hitting a natural 7-card straight flush?”

Then the player starts gunning for that hand. But what doesn’t the casino tell him? That the probability of hitting that hand is 0.00000021 aka maybe when pigs fly.

On top of that, players fail to see what affect this has on the house edge.

Many pai gow poker side bets have house edges ranging from 4 to 10 percent. That’s in addition to the game edge, which adds another 1 to 3 percent.

At those rates you might as well bet on 31 in roulette, double 6s in craps or close your eyes and pick a keno number.

This isn’t an exaggeration either. Worse yet, the house edge tells you that you’re going to lose a quarter or two per $5 wagered. However, wins and losses don’t happen that way. They’re in full $1 or $5 increments. They add up quick, and a streak of bad luck can bust your bankroll before you know it.


The House Edge for Pai Gow Poker Side Bets

Here is a list of side bets for pai gow poker and the house edge for each:

  • Fortune Pai Gow – 7.77%
  • Fortune Pai Gow Poker Progressive – 48.45% return
  • Jackpot Pai Gow Poker – 2.21%
  • Emperor’s Challenge – 4.171%
  • Progressive Pai Gow Poker – 11.54%
  • Pai Gow Insurance – 7.35%
  • Pai Gow’d – 6.44%
  • Jokolor – 3.90%
  • G3 Bonus – 7.77%
  • G3 Progressive – 46% return

Should You Let The House Edge Affect How You Play?

So the ultimate question is – knowing the odds for pai gow poker, which is the best way to play?

Here is how the Wizard of Odds answered the question, in response to a reader question that stated that they couldn’t decide if the Fortune bet was stupid or not, despite it sounding like fun:

Gambling is supposed to be fun, so if you think you get 39.5 cents worth of fun every $5 you bet, then you should play it. That is how much you will give up in the house edge, assuming no other players.

The bottom line – no matter what the math or odds say, you should do whatever you find most enjoyable, and that fits the constraints of your budget. Otherwise, what’s the point?