One advantage of playing Pai Gow poker over many other table games is that it involves some decision making, much like blackjack. But, unlike blackjack, Pai Gow poker strategy does not lend itself to a pocket-sized card that can be memorized in a short number of hours. Instead, it consists of recognizing many different situations, grouping them, and arranging your hand accordingly.Pai Gow Poker Strategy

The most important thing to remember is that the five-card – or ‘behind’ – hand must be stronger than the two-card – or ‘top’ – hand; otherwise, the hands will not qualify and your wager will be lost. This does not mean that you must play the full house if you are dealt K-K-K-9-9-6-4, only that the three kings must at least be behind; in fact, proper strategy would be to play them this way, with the pair of nines on top. Most hands will consist of seven cards that do not make anything or a single pair. In the former situation, the highest card must be played behind, but the next two highest cards should make up the two-card hand. With one pair, the hand should be played the same way, with the pair and the three lowest cards in the five-card hand.

When you get to higher ranking hands, like two pair and flushes, the rules get a little murkier. With two pair, it is often best to separate them, with the higher pair behind, unless they are both very low and you have some high cards that would make a strong hand on top, like an ace and a king. With three pairs, put the highest pair in the two-card hand the others pairs in the five-card hand. If dealt a straight or a flush, the player should put it behind, unless he also has two pair, in which case the two pair should be played separately and the straight/flush ignored. The only other situation that bears mention is three of a kind, which should always be played behind, except in the case of three aces. If you are dealt three aces, a pair should be kept behind while ace high should be played as the two-card hand.

Pai Gow poker strategy contains many subtleties that aren’t included here, but these have an insignificant effect on overall win rate. Pay special attention to your two pair hands because these are the easiest to play improperly, and remember that you should break up a straight or flush if you can play a pair in both hands. Making your two-card hand relatively strong is more important than constructing a powerhouse hand behind. Here’s wishing you good luck on your next trip to the Pai Gow poker table!