Pai Gow is an ancient Chinese game which has been played throughout Asia for centuries.
The game is played with a set of 32 dominoes or ”tiles.” Each tile has a numeric value and a symbol ranking. The 32 dominoes used in Pai Gow are shuffled by the dealer. The dominoes are placed in eight stacks of four. The players place their wagers and the dealer announces, ”no more bets.” The banker then shakes the Pai Gow Shaker containing three dice, three times. The sum of these dice determines which player will receive the first stack of dominoes. The banker is always counted as seat number 1, 9 or 17 and the count precedes counterclockwise beginning with the banker. The dealer and each seated player are dealt one stack each and arrange their dominoes into two hands of two tiles each (a high hand and a low hand) and then sets both hands face down on the layout behind their bet. The object of the game is to have players set their hands so they have both combinations higher than the hands of their opponent. Once players have set their hand and they place their dominoes face down on the table, players are not allowed to touch the dominoes again. Players must keep the four tiles in full view of the dealer at all times. Players are responsible for setting their own tiles and no other player may touch the tiles. a player may ask for assistance from the dealer in setting their hand according to the House Ways. The dealer is the only other person allowed to touch a player’s tiles. The dealer will always set their hand using a set of rules known as ”House Ways.” When a player and the banker have two dominoes totaling the same number, the combinations with the higher ”single ranking” domino is the winner. When the two tiles that form the highest ranking hand ”The Supreme Pair” (Gee Joon) are used separately, the numeric value is interchangeable. The 3 can be counted as a 6 and the 6 can be counted as a 3. When two hands have the same numeric value and identical high tiles, it is called a ”Copy Hand” all Copy Hands are won by the bank.
To play Pai Gow well, a player must have a solid knowledge of the first 16 rankings. The highest is the Supreme Pair or Gee Joon. The second through the sixteenth ranking pairs are called ”Bo” pairs. The thirteenth to sixteenth ranking pairs are not identical dominoes; they are called mixed (Chop) Pairs. After the pair ranking, the best combinations are the ”Wong” which is the 12 and any 9. This is followed by the dominoes 2 and any 9. Next is ”Gong” which is 12 and any 8 followed by 2 and any 8. If the Bo pairs, Wong, or Gong combinations cannot be made, the next combinations are ranked from 9 to 0. When two hands have the same numeric value of zero, they are considered equally bad, regardless of the high tile. The bank will win all 0 – 0 tie hands regardless of ranking. To see the ranking of each domino, please refer to the ranking chart below.
An interesting aspect with Pai Gow is the banker can be any player or the dealer. Each player has an opportunity to bank the play against all of the other players including the dealer. Players have the option to pass the bank to the next player if they do not wish to bank the game. Any player who wishes to bank accepts responsibility for all wagers made during that round of play. Players must be able to cover all bets and must have wagered in the last round in which the dealer acted as banker. The house will handle all bets and charge a 5% commission on all winning wagers. A winning wager pays even money. There is no commission on a ”Pushed” or losing wager.