Face-Up Pai Gow Poker is a variation of the popular gambling card game, Pai Gow Poker. Face-Up and the classic game follow mostly the same rules. As such, this article will provide a simplified and truncated explanation of the rules.
It is recommended for one to already be familiar with the base game’s rules before reading this article. CoolOldGames does have a full Pai Gow Poker rules page, should a more in-depth explanation be desired.
How to Play Face-Up Pai Gow Poker?
Face-Up Pai Gow Poker is played using the Joker variant of the Anglo-American deck pattern. One of the Jokers will be removed from the 54-card Joker deck, leaving the standard 52 cards and a single Joker.
Jokers, like in classic Pai Gow Poker, are not full wild cards. Jokers may be used as a substitute component in any Straight or Flush (Including Royal Flushes and Straight Flushes).
However, if not the composite of a Straight, the Joker merely acts as a fifth Ace.
Making Ante Bets
Players begin the game, as with most other Table games, by making an Ante.
In addition to the Ante, Players are given the option of taking a side bet. This side wager, the Push Ace High, will be explained further in the “Bonus Payouts” section.
Once each Player has made the appropriate Antes, and the Bonus if they so wish, the Deal will begin.
- Each Player, including the Dealer, will receive seven cards.
- The Player’s cards will all be dealt face-down, while the Dealer’s shall be dealt face-up.
- These cards must be organized in the same manner as the original game.
Players must form two hands, the Low and High hand. The Low Hand is composed of two cards, while the High Hand is composed of five cards.
Players attempt to form their two hands into the strongest poker hands they possibly can. These hands are ranked according to the regular poker card rankings chart, with the exception of the Five-of-a-Kind, possible if a Player has all four Aces, and the Joker.
There is an important rule to keep in mind: The Low Hand must be less valuable than the High Hand. For example, imagine you have the following hand:
3♣ 3♠ 4♦ 8♣ 10♥ A♠ K♣
- There is a pair of 3s, which would be a very strong low-hand.
- However, the remaining five cards would form a junk hand.
- This would make the Low Hand worth more than the High Hand, with Pair/Junk Hand. In some casinos, this is liable to surrender your bet.
The only legal way to play the hand above would be to place the Ace-King high in the Low Hand, and then the pair of 3s in the High Hand. This way the hands are High-Card/Pair, which is valid.
Due to the face-up nature of this variant, players are able to see the Dealer’s cards. This allows players to know ahead of time the hand that they must beat. This gives players a few options in niche situations, as explained in the Example Scenario.
Once a Player’s hand is set the way they so choose, so long as the Low Hand is ranked less than the High Hand, Players will take turns revealing their cards and comparing them against the Dealer’s hand.
Comparing Hands and Payouts
The Low Hand and High Hand are compared against the opponent’s corresponding Hand. Comparisons are made, and payouts are made according to the outcome of those comparisons.
- If the Dealer’s Low and High hands are better than the Player’s, that Player loses their Ante to the House.
- If the Player’s Hands are both higher, conversely, then that Player will win even money on their Ante Wager.
- If the Player wins one hand, and the Dealer wins one hand, then that Player’s Ante will push instead.
In the event of ties, such that the Dealer and Player have equal meld and high-card rank, the Dealer will win that individual hand’s comparison. The other hand may still be won by the Player if it is not tied.
Ace-High in the Dealer’s High or Low Hand will result in that Hand automatically pushing.
Different Rules Explained
There are a few key differences between classic and Face-Up Pai Gow. Most notable, of course, is the fact that the Dealer’s hands are face-up for all Players to see.
Furthermore, the game normally involves a 5% commission to be paid by the players, usually every $100 in winnings. This is due to its normally low House Edge, and high rate of pushes. Players are unlikely to lose much money, if any. As such, the casino will take a small fee in order to still turn a profit.
Face-Up Pai Gow Poker has no such commission system, due to the fact that Ace-King High automatically pushes the hand.
Further, in the traditional game, players are occasionally able to Bank instead of the House. Acting as a Banker in Face-Up Pai Gow is forbidden, however.
Face Up Pai Gow Bonus Payouts
There are two available bonuses for Face-Up Pai Gow Poker.
Push Ace High
Most commonly seen on just about every Face-Up Pai Gow Poker table is the Push Ace High side wager. This wager is, in essence, a form of the insurance one might see in other Table games such as Blackjack.
The Push Ace High wager pays out in the event of a Dealer Push forced by an Ace-High Junk Hand, known as the Ace High Pai Gow.
There is a paytable given below that further explains the paying scenarios:
|Both Player and Dealer have Ace-High Junk||40x|
|Dealer has Ace-High Junk with Joker as Ace||15x|
|Dealer has Ace-High Junk with natural Ace||5x|
Ace-High Junk, also known as Ace-High Pai Gow, is any set of non-melded cards, with an Ace included.
The exception is the Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5. This hand is called the Wheel, and is sometimes considered the second highest hand beneath the Five of a Kind.
Some casinos also offer a Progressive Payout. This progressive, like all others, costs a single dollar to play. This wager partially goes towards the Jackpot formed by the Progressive. The following is the paytable for the Progressive:
|Seven-Card Straight Flush||Full Jackpot Value|
|Five-Kind Aces||Major Jackpot Value (Determined by Casino)|
|Royal Flush||Minor Jackpot Value (Determined by Casino)|
Due to the nature of Progressives, the value of the Jackpot will vary from hour to hour.
Suppose that the Dealer’s hand shows a Low Hand of Junk and a High Hand of a single Pair.
The face-up nature of Face-Up Pai Gow makes it possible for Players to see the hand opposing them. As such, suppose that your hand has the following cards in it:
A♦ A♣ A♠ A♥ 7♦ 8♦ 9♠
In a normal game of Pai-Gow, one would be forced to play with a junk Low Hand, and then form the High Hand out of the four-kind of Aces. This all but guarantees a Push, which would be the safest move for a Player to make in this circumstance.
However, thanks to the Face-Up nature of this game, 0layers in this same situation can take a different route.
By breaking up the Four of a Kind of Aces, placing one Ace into the Low Hand, and the remaining 3 in the High Hand, players are able to form a Junk Low Hand, and a Three-Kind in the High Hand.
While such a move would be unorthodox in traditional Pai Gow, in Face-Up this is a valid move to make as the Player can predetermine the outcome of the Showdown.
In this particular circumstance, Players are able to win both hands. Their Ace Kicker to beat the Dealer’s Low Hand, and a Three-Kind of Aces to beat the High-Hand.
It is not always the best to form the strongest High Hand possible. Players do want to spread their cards across their High and Low Hands, if possible, as this is the only way to receive a Payout. Players must win both hands or otherwise, they will lose or push.
However, in the event that Players cannot win both hands, try to make the High Hand the strongest possible hand it can be. This will increase the odds of a push.
In a losing scenario, Pushing is always better than losing the wager. By playing safer, rather than attempting to win every single game on poor odds, you will be better off.
There is no folding, surrendering, or otherwise “Defensive” mechanic in Pai Gow Poker, aside from forcing a Push. Since you will always be aware of the Dealer’s High and Low Hands, forcing a Push is far less risky than in the traditional game.