Pai Gow Poker is now my favorite casino game to play on the Vegas Strip. The game is always fun but it’s specifically great on the Vegas Strip. It’s been a long trip for Pai Gow Poker to become one of my favorite casino games.
Craps was my favorite casino game for years. I’d play blackjack out of obligation because my friends would only play that game. I added video poker and slots to my gaming repertoire because they led to better comps from casinos. I started playing carny games like 3 Card Poker and Mississippi Stud Poker because I hate myself sometimes. Haha.

Learning About Pai Gow Poker

It was many years after first gambling in casinos that I found Pai Gow Poker. One night at Mandalay Bay a friend and I noticed the Pai Gow Poker tables were loud. That always draws some interest and we dropped $100 each to play four hands. This was a high limit but we were curious. A few drinks and many hands later we were hooked.
Playing $25 hands of any game at that time of my life wasn’t in the cards (pun intended). One late night on that trip we ended up at Gold Coast. The low limits make the Gold Coast one of my favorite low rolling casinos in Las Vegas to this day. We had a very patient dealer who taught us Pai Gow Poker at very reasonable $5 limits. Don’t expect anything lower than $10 minimum bets today.
Five hours and hundreds of hands later we were in love with Pai Gow. Copious amounts of vodka, whiskey, and coffee didn’t hurt. We found a fun new game that’s easy to play, has a low house edge and moves slowly.
Everything about playing Pai Gow Poker is fun if you’re sober. However, because there are so many pushes (more on that in a second) drinkers can enjoy plenty of complimentary drinks (don’t forget to tip the waitress).
After learning how to play Pai Gow Poker I was almost hooked.

How to play Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker looks more confusing than it is once you learn how to play. The tutorial below will be more helpful than my quick explanation. Players are dealt seven (7) cards to make two poker hands. One hand must include two (2) cards and the other must include five (5) cards.

  • The two-card hand is the High hand. This hand must include the highest card in the player’s hand.
  • The five-card hand is the Low hand. This hand will use the remaining cards. This hand may include the second highest card.

Setting the cards isn’t all that complicated. There’s only a little strategy involved in setting the hands. When a player is confused about how to set hands a dealer is allowed to help. They often show the “house way.” This is how the dealer would set there hand. The goal of the game is to beat the dealer so this is usually fair advice.
Sometimes it makes sense to set the hands differently. The Wizard of Odds website has information that can help. The website also has a game to practice how to play.
When I learned it was because we had a very patient dealer during the overnight shift at a casino that wasn’t very busy. Unlike most casino games, I’ve never practiced Pai Gow Poker online because dealers are so willing to help.
Once again, the tutorial below will help if you’ve never played Pai Gow Poker.


Playing Pai Gow Poker On The Vegas Strip

I moved most of my gambling funds to Pai Gow Poker after one too many brutal gambling trips on the Vegas Strip. My table game budget used to be split almost equally between craps, blackjack, 3 Card Poker/Mississippi Stud Poker, and Pai Gow Poker.
I went a few years getting destroyed playing just about every other game on the Vegas Strip. Bad blackjack rules, limited odds at craps, and new dealing patterns on the carnival games (3 Card/MS Stud) were bleeding my bankroll. I was crankier than usual because I was just losing so quickly and so often.
The only game that I enjoyed playing on the Vegas Strip was Pai Gow Poker. The low house edge and ability to push so many hands allowed for more time at the table gambling, more drinks, and more fun.
The probability of pushing a hand in Pai Gow Poker is about 40% according to Wizard of Odds. If 100 hands are dealt each hour then 40 will not be losers (or winners). The casino still has an edge but it’s small. The dealer wins approximately 30% of the time while the player wins about 29% of the time.
Over time, about 69 of 100 Pai Gow Poker games will be a winner or a push. Altogether, the house edge for the casino is about 2.7%. This is small enough where losses or wins shouldn’t be big. I’m okay not winning big jackpots all the time. The small wins are fine. So are small losses – especially when it takes a long time to lose.
Pai Gow Poker is relaxing, easy to play, and doesn’t make a major dent in a bankroll. I’ve had hours of fun gambling on the Vegas Strip since moving most of my funds to Pai Gow Poker. My trips are much more memorable – in a good way. I no longer leave my trips to the Vegas Strip with a bad taste in my mouth.
I still play the other games on the Vegas Strip but much less often. Playing Pai Gow Poker makes me feel like a better person. My experiences are so much better and I almost always walk away in a good mood – winner or loser. That’s the best feeling for a recreational gambler.
As a reminder, The Cromwell is my favorite place to gamble on the Vegas Strip. The Pai Gow Poker dealers are especially fun.


Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gaming and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Check out his blog at Edge Vegas.
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