How Many Pai Gow Poker Variants Are There To Play?

How many Pai Gow Poker Variants are there to play

Pai Gow poker is one of the most popular games at online, live, and real casinos. In addition to the traditional game, new additions such as side bets have been added to it, giving way to many variants to play right now.

This guide will teach us about the popular Pai Gow Poker variants, how they are played, and where to enjoy them. Note that these variants of Pai Gow come from reputed gaming developers and are loaded with unique and twisted features.

Traditional Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker is a popular casino game that combines elements of traditional Chinese dominoes and poker. The game has gained significant popularity worldwide and is commonly found in land-based and online casinos.

Pai Gow Poker offers a unique and exciting twist on the traditional poker game. It challenges players to create two separate poker hands from a seven-card hand.

  1. Rules:
    • Pai Gow Poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards plus one Joker.
    • The objective of the game is to create two poker hands, one with five cards (the “high” hand) and the other with two cards (the “low” hand), that beat the dealer’s corresponding hands.
    • The high hand must have a higher poker ranking than the low hand.
    • Players compete against the dealer rather than each other.
  2. Gameplay Mechanics:
    • The game begins with players placing their bets.
    • Once bets are placed, each player is dealt seven cards face down, while the dealer receives seven cards.
    • Players then arrange their cards into a high hand and a low hand, using specific rules to determine the hand rankings (discussed below).
    • After arranging their hands, players compare their hands against the dealer’s.
    • The player wins the bet if both the high and low hands beat the dealer’s hands. If one hand wins and the other loses, it’s a push, and if both hands lose, the player loses the bet.
  3. Hand Rankings:
    • The hand rankings in Pai Gow Poker are based on traditional poker hands, with a few exceptions:
      • The highest-ranking hand is five Aces (using the Joker as an Ace).
      • The second highest hand is a Royal Flush without the Joker.
      • The Joker can complete a straight, flush, or straight flush.
    • It’s important to note that in the high hand, the five-card hand, the traditional poker hand rankings apply, while in the low hand, the two-card hand, only pairs and high cards are considered.

Choosing the Right Pai Gow Poker Variant

  1. Personal preferences and playing style:
    • Consider your preferences regarding theme, graphics, and overall game atmosphere.
    • Determine if you enjoy faster-paced gameplay or a more relaxed and leisurely experience.
    • Assess whether you prefer a variant with additional bonus bets or progressive jackpots.
  2. Risk tolerance and desired level of complexity:
    • Evaluate your risk tolerance and decide if you prefer higher or lower volatility in a game.
    • Determine your comfort level with complex rules and strategies, as some variants may introduce additional betting options or unique hand rankings.
  3. Reading reviews and player experiences:
    • Seek out reviews and testimonials from experienced players to gain insights into various Pai Gow Poker variants.
    • Look for information on the gameplay experience, bonus features, payout rates, and potential drawbacks.
  4. Trying out free demo versions before playing with real money:
    • Many online casinos offer free demo versions of Pai Gow Poker variants.
    • Take advantage of these demos to familiarize yourself with each variant’s gameplay, rules, and special features without risking real money.
    • Use this opportunity to assess if the variant aligns with your preferences and provides an engaging and enjoyable experience.

Pai Gow Poker Variants

Pai Gow Poker, a captivating casino game that blends elements of traditional Chinese dominoes and poker, has captured the attention of players worldwide.

While the classic version of Pai Gow Poker offers an exciting and strategic gaming experience, players can also explore various variants that add new twists and features to the game.

From bonus bets to progressive jackpots, these variants provide fresh and exhilarating gameplay opportunities for seasoned players and newcomers alike.

This article will delve into some popular Pai Gow Poker variants, highlighting their unique features and rules and adding excitement to this beloved casino game.

1. Pai Gow Mania

Pai Gow Mania
Pai Gow Mania

Pai Gow Mania was developed in early 2004. The first casinos to carry this game were Fitzgerald Casino in Las Vegas and Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, CT. This version of Pai Gow offered two side bets.

The first was a side bet based on the first three cards dealt, similar to the 3 Card Poker’s “Pair Plus” betting option. The second option was based on the seven-card hand, similar to the bonus paid on the current version of Fortune Pai Gow’s Fortune bonus.

This game failed to grow in popularity as it required the cards to be dealt by hand so that the three-card bonus could be determined. Both dealers and casino executives were not too fond of this invention, which made the already slow-paced game of Pai Gow Poker even slower. The game still does, however, exist at Downtown Las Vegas Casino—Fitzgerald’s.

  • Pai Gow Mania is a variant of Pai Gow Poker that offers additional excitement and opportunities to win.
  • This game includes two side bets, one based on the player’s first three cards and another on all seven.
  • The three-card side bet allows players to claim a win based on the strength of their initial three cards before the remaining four cards are dealt.
  • The side bet on all seven cards allows players to win based on the overall hand ranking of their complete seven-card hand.
  • These side bets add an extra layer of anticipation and strategy to the game, potentially allowing players to win additional payouts.
  • Pai Gow Mania is an engaging option for players who enjoy the traditional rules of Pai Gow Poker but desire additional side bet opportunities for more excitement and potential rewards.

2. Fortune Pai Gow

Fortune Pai Gow
Fortune Pai Gow

Fortune Pai Gow poker was also developed in 2004 and offers players an optional side bet that pays out based on a player making trips/straights or better. This is the most popular version of Pai Gow, with bonus bets to date.

Another Fortune Pai Gow Poker is a progressive game developed by Scientific Games. Fortune Pai Gow Poker Progressive adds a twist to the game by allowing players to win all or part of a large growing jackpot. To begin each round, players make their standard Pai Gow wager and may also make the optional Fortune Pai Gow wager and the $1 progressive wager.

Once all players have made their wagers, the dealer follows house procedures for Pai Gow Poker. While reconciling standard Pai Gow poker wagers, the dealer also reconciles bonus and progressive wagers. 

  • Fortune Pai Gow is a variant of Pai Gow Poker that introduces a side bet called “Fortune.”
  • The Fortune side bet pays out based on the value of the player’s seven cards, regardless of how the player sets their hand.
  • The player’s hand arrangement does not affect the outcome of the Fortune side bet.
  • If any player at the table has a four-of-a-kind or better, players who placed the Fortune bet are eligible for an “Envy Bonus.”
  • The Envy Bonus is a fixed amount awarded to players who made the Fortune bet, regardless of their or the dealer’s hand.
  • The Fortune paytable determines the bonus payouts for qualifying hands.
  • The Envy pay table determines the bonus payouts for players who placed the Fortune bet, and another player has a qualifying hand.
  • Fortune Pai Gow offers an additional layer of excitement and potential winnings through the Fortune side bet and the possibility of receiving Envy Bonuses.
  • This variant is popular among players who enjoy the traditional gameplay of Pai Gow Poker but want the added thrill of side bet opportunities and potential bonus payouts.

The top hands pay a percentage of the progressive jackpot for the progressive wager, while the others pay a fixed dollar amount. Found at casinos powered by Bally technology, this version of the game is available both at land real casinos and online casinos

3. Commission-Free Fortune Pai Gow Poker

Commission free pai gow
Commission-free pai gow

Commission-Free Fortune Pai Gow Poker features head-to-head play against the dealer and two exciting bonus bets. This is a commission-free game developed by Scientific Games and is available at online casinos and real casinos.  In the game, players do not pay a 5 per cent commission when they beat the dealer; rather, when dealers play 9-high in their low hand, players automatically push. 

To begin each round, players make a standard pai gow wager. They may also make the Fortune Bonus and Dealer Bonus.

Fortune Bonus bet wins if players’ best possible five-card hand is three-of-a-kind or better. If players wager at least $5 on the Fortune Bonus, the dealer will place an “envy” button next to their bet. This qualifies the player for a bonus payout when any other player has at least a four-of-a-kind. Remember that players cannot envy the dealer’s hand or their hand.


The rules of Fortune Pai Gow are similar to traditional Pai Gow Poker, with a few notable exceptions:

  • Player banking is not allowed in Fortune Pai Gow.
  • A player wins pay even money (1 to 1) without any commission fees.
  • If the dealer sets a 9-high hand in the low hand, it results in an automatic push (tie) for the player.
  • A side bet called Tiger 9 is available, offering a payout of 30 to 1 if the dealer sets a 9-high hand in the low hand.
  • In addition to the main game, players can also choose to make the Fortune side bet and the Fortune progressive bet. These bets payout based on the poker value of the player’s seven cards.

The Dealer Bonus wager is based on the dealer’s 7-card hand. Players will only be paid for the single highest payout. 

4. Emperors Challenge

Emperor challenge
Emperor Challenge Pai Gow Poker

This Pai Gow variant came in 2006 and is another bonus game that works much like Fortune Pai Gow; however, the pay table is different, as bonuses are also awarded for players making Pai Gow hands with no pair, straight, or flush.

This game can be found in a few Las Vegas casinos, including Hooters and a few Boyd Gaming casinos downtown. Also, this Pai Gow variant is free to play online and with real money at online casinos.

  • Emperor’s Challenge is an online poker game developed by Galaxy Gaming.
  • It follows the standard rules of poker, with various card combinations determining the hand rankings.
  • The different combinations, from lowest to highest payout, include high card, one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, and royal flush.
  • In Emperor’s Challenge, if the player and the dealer have the same type of hand, the one with the highest-value cards wins.
  • The game offers a range of betting options, with bets between 5 and 500, allowing players to set their desired wager amounts.
  • Side bets, which can range between 1 and 25, are also available in Emperor’s Challenge, allowing players to enhance their potential payouts further.
  • Emperor’s Challenge provides an engaging and challenging poker experience for players who enjoy the thrill of the game and want the flexibility to adjust their bets and pursue different payout possibilities.

The game is fun and requires that the player has a minimum amount of experience and know-how in poker table games. The design is beautifully crafted, and no background music was played, which was welcome.

5. Pai Gow Insurance

Pai Gow Insurance poker
Pai Gow Insurance poker

Pai Gow Insurance was launched in 2008 and is a game where a bonus bet is offered on whether or not a non-ranking Pai Gow hand is made. For example, a hand 9-high with no pairs, straight nor flush, is worth a payout of 100 to 1, whereas an A-high hand with no pairs, straight nor flush, is worth a payout of 3 to 1. Las Vegas casinos offering this game include Red Rock, Aliante Station, Palace Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station and Sunset Station. You can find this Pai Go game variant at land and a few online casinos.

Pai Gow Insurance is a unique variant that offers players the option to protect their bet against the dealer having a specific hand combination.

  • Insurance Bet:
    • With Pai Gow Insurance, players can place an additional bet to protect their original wager against the dealer receiving a predetermined hand, such as a Pai Gow or a seven-card straight flush.
    • If the dealer’s hand matches the predetermined condition, the insurance bet pays out at a predetermined rate, typically higher than the regular payout for winning the main hand.

6. House Way Variations

House Way Variations
House Way Variations

There are differences in how a dealer is forced to set their hand (house way) from casino to casino.

  • House Way refers to the rules the casino or “the house” follows when setting their hand in Pai Gow Poker.
  • It is important to note that the House Way can vary from casino to casino, and these differences can significantly impact how the dealer sets their hand.
  • For example, a unique rule at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas states that two pairs, both under six, must be kept together, resulting in a specific hand arrangement.
  • This rule is not followed at other casinos, including Harrah’s, which is owned by the same company as the Imperial Palace.
  • To navigate the House Way variant effectively, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the casinos you frequent regularly.
  • When visiting new casinos, it is recommended to ask for clarification regarding their House Way rules if you have any doubts.
  • Awareness of the different House Way rules allows you to be vigilant at the table and ensures that the dealer sets their hand correctly.
  • By understanding the specific House Way rules at different casinos, you can adapt your own strategy and make informed decisions during gameplay.

If you suspect the dealer might have played the hand against house way at newly visited casinos, it’s always best to call the floor. For the most part, dealers always set hands based on the house way rules for their given casino; however, they’re human and with many 7-card hand combinations possible, mistakes do occur. These mistakes are quickly resolved in nearly all cases with a call to the floor.

Suggested read: Playing Dominoes Online for Money in New Zealand

Conclusion

Pai Gow Poker offers variants that cater to different preferences and playing styles. With variations like Pai Gow Mania, Fortune Pai Gow, Commission-Free Fortune Pai Gow Poker, Emperors Challenge, Pai Gow Insurance, and House Way Variations, players have many choices to explore. Each variant introduces unique features, bonus options, and rules that add excitement and variety to the traditional game.

Whether you prefer side bets, progressive jackpots, or different hand rankings, there is a Pai Gow Poker variant to suit your preferences. To maximize your enjoyment and potential winnings, it is essential to understand the specific rules and bonus features of each variant before playing.

So, take your time to research and explore the different Pai Gow Poker variants available at online casinos, and discover the one that resonates with you the most.

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Mamta Sharma

Mamta is a spirited writer hailing from Wellington, bringing a youthful zest to the world of digital content. Merging her love for narrative with an eye for detail, Ella crafts stories that resonate and engage the modern reader.