Pai Gow Poker Strategy for Beginners

Once you learn the rules to pai gow poker, the next step is to learn some strategy. Even implementing the most basic tips can shave the house edge by a couple of tenths of a percent, if not completely in half.

Our goal is to help you accomplish that. Below you will find two sections – the first explains where to go to learn more about pai gow strategy, including books and websites. The second section lists beginner pai gow strategies, and tips for how to quickly memorize tem.


Where (and How) to Learn Pai Gow Poker Strategy

There are lots of ways to learn pai gow poker strategy. Since each person is different, we thought we’d include a few different ways for you to improve.


Pai Gow Poker Books

This isn’t blackjack. You’re not going to find hundreds of books that cover the different types of pai gow poker strategy.

There are two. Here is what we recommend.


Professional Pai Gow Poker Report – This was written by Mike ‘The Mad Genius’ Caro. This book is hard to find. You might want to check your local library. Another option is to pick up the next book, since Stanford Wong stated that Mike’s report helped him write it.


Optimal Strategy for Pai Gow Poker – This was written by Stanford Wong, and can be found at for $8 (digital) to $13 (paperback).

Over the 5 chapters everything is covered, from being the banker, to finding and exploiting edges, to errors your opponents make, and much more. Wong has also included various tables that cover types of hands, frequencies of winning/losing/pushing, what hands to surrender, and more.


Websites to Check Out

Other than ours (hey, we’re biased), there is only one website we recommend you read.


Wizard of Odds – Michael Shackleford created this site. There are hundreds and hundreds of pages that cover the rules, odds and strategies for any game you’d find in a casino. More specifically to pai gow, The Wizard has created a basic page that covers the rules and general strategies, as well as a more in-depth page that offers strategies for all players, beginners to advanced.

A Unique Suggestion…


Play the Game!

I noticed that, just by playing pai gow poker, I quickly developed my own (basic) strategies.

You should do the same. Play 100 hands for fake money and see what patterns emerge.

The next step is to take advantage of the house way – look at your hand, decide how you would split up your cards, then hit the house way button. How close were you? This may not be optimal strategy, but playing as good as the casino is a step in the right direction.


Pai Gow Tips for Beginners

Of course, another option is to read this section. Here are some basic pai gow poker strategies.


==> Don’t split pairs. You’re better off keeping the pair in back, and, in most cases, will push the hand (at worst).


==> With 2 pair, place your strongest pair in back (weakest pair in front).


==> With 3 of a kind, only split them up when you are holding aces. Keep a pair in back, and one ace up front.


==> With 3 pairs, split them up to have 2 pair in back and 1 pair in front. Place your strongest pair up front.


==> With 4 of a kind, split them up and put a pair up front. The exception to this rule is if you’re holding quad 2s through 6s. Always keep these hands intact.


==> Split full houses. This is counterintuitive, I know. But chances are high that if you keep the hand intact (in back) that you’ll push (at best). When you split the hand up you have a (high) chance of winning.


==> If possible, you should be the banker. The house edge is shaved nearly in half, assuming you’re using correct strategy.

You can also ask the house to co-bank with you. However, keep in mind that banking with the house forces you to set your cards ‘the house way,’ whereas if you bank by yourself you can set them how you want.


==> When in doubt, ask the dealer to set your cards ‘the house way.’ This is better than guessing and making less than optimal plays.


There you are, some basic strategies to improve your pai gow win-rate.

To quickly memorize these rules I suggest creating flash cards. Take an index card, and on one side write down the hand you have, say, 3 of a kind + 2 pair. On the other side, write down the correct play, which is ‘play the higher pair in the low hand.’

Then each day take 30-60 minutes and go through your flash cards. Once you’re accurate/fast enough, try your newfound skill set at your local casino, or online.