A variation of banking poker popular in card clubs of Las Vegas and California is Pai-gow pocker. You are dealt 7 cards that you should devide into two and five card hands which are a low and a high hand accordingly. Your goal is to have two poker hands that beat the bamker's hands. The hands are ranked and played as in conventional poker with the exception of A-2-3-4-5 hand representing the second highest straight. In Pai-gow poker the high hand must not be lower than the low hand. The regulations are as follows: you win, if both your hands beat the banker’s; you loose, if both your hands are lower than the banker's, otherwise it’s a push. In case of dead heat banker wins.
In Pai-gow poker 52 deck with 1 joker, which serves as an Ace or to make a straight or flush complete. Here is the basic disposition of player’s spots:
There are spaces for high and low hands, the bet and the house commision (depends on the house) for each player. Every player receives 7 cards. Sometimes a player can be a banker but it is the house as a rule. The player, who receives the first card is determined by shaking a three dice cup. Counting begins with the banker (his position can be 1, 8 and 15) and is led anticlockwise. Well, if the dealer banks and the dice total to 10, player 2 is the first to get a hand, player 3 gets the second and so on. Dice cup shaking is a kind of a ritual stuff you needn’t worry about. Just enjoy the atmosphere and get ready for the game.
The low hand is put face down in the box nearest to the dealer and high hand also face down in back. As soon as everyone at the table has set his hand, the bank’shand is turned over and set. Then going anticlockwise around the table the dealer compares player’shands with his own and pay, take or knock depending on the hand’sratings. The winning bets take-off fee is 5%. You can choose to put it out next to your winning bet or it will be substracted from your payoff. Taking into consideration Four Queens or the Imperial Place the lowest possible bet is $5.
Pai-gow poker is not a highly sophisticated strategic game. The two main issues are the size of bet you make and the way you split your hand. The primary hand setting strategy is to obtain the highest possible 2 card hand, taking into account that it must be less than your 5 card hand. Beginners can ask the dealer to help them, and he will suggest how to split a hand according to his opinion. Rather difficult decisions are those when you have to split two pairs. Note that commonly pairs win the low hands and two-pairs win the high ones. The Four Queens recomends avoid splitting pairs less than10 if you have an Ace-high 2-card hand. See their example:
A 10 10 6 6 7 4 ———> low hand A 7 high hand 10 10 6 6 4
K Q 6 6 10 10 4 ———> low hand 6 6 high hand 10 10 K Q 4
Hands like J Q / K 7 9 5 3 are called “Pai-gow“.
When a player wants to bank the situation appears to be a little weird. In this respect gambling houses have different regulations. Citing from the IP house rules, a player can be the “Banker“. In this case he gets a white plastic marker and stakes against all players at the table covering at least half of wagers against him. There is an opportunity that the house will co-bank with the player at 50/50. There are other special regulations which concern the way the game is played and how a player can become a banker. In general it is a rather complicated process deserving thorough examination.
In California card clubs, players wager only among themselves. Therefore only active players have the opportunity to bank. In contrast to the IP rules, the lowest possible bet is $10, while the commision fee is flat and equals 1$ per hand. Also remember that the Joker is wild here.
Pai-gow poker is popular game, as it is rather easy and does not require a bulging purse: you can spend a good time at $5 table with only $20.