Pai gow is an ancient Chinese game played among up to eight players. One of the players is designated as the player-dealer (indicated by a dealer button). Each player receives four pai gow tiles (dominoes) from a stock of 32, which are arranged into two hands. Each hand consists of two tiles, a high hand and a low hand. After players have arranged their tiles, the house dealer reveals and arranges the player-dealer's tiles.
Hands then compete, one at a time, as in a blackjack game, against the player-dealer hand. The player-dealer hand competes against each player hand, beginning with the action hand, which is determined by the shaking of dice.
Pai gow uses the rankings in the accompanying chart to compare each of the two player hands with the two hands of the player-dealer. The player wins if both hands beat those of the player-dealer; the player-dealer wins if both hands beat those of the player. Anything else is a push (tie).
PAI GOW TILES IN DETAIL
Pai gow is an ancient Chinese game played among up to eight players. Pai gow tiles (also known simply as pai gow) is played with 32 tiles (dominoes). The game is an ancestor of modern dominoes, and the tiles look similar, with dot markings. Some dots are red and some white; the colors have no significance.
The full set of 32 tiles appears below. Some tiles have only one instance; some have two. There are 11 matching pairs and five nonmatching pairs.
The hand rankings appear in the illustrations and are also listed below them.
The player-dealer puts up a bank against which the remaining players make wagers.
Each player has the option to take the bank twice, then the button rotates counterclockwise. A player, in turn, may decline or accept the player-dealer position.
The house dealer deals eight hands (piles) directly in front of the chip tray, each consisting of four dominos. The player-dealer selects one of the eight piles as the first hand to be delivered. The house dealer places an action button on the selected hand.
The position the hands are dealt to is randomly decided by the roll of three dice. The player-dealer position counts as either 1, 9, or 17. The total of the three dice determines where the first hand goes. For example, if the dice total 15, the first hand would be dealt to the sixth position counterclockwise from the player-dealer's position (15 - 9 = 6). All hands are dealt to the seat position, except for the hand of the player-dealer, which goes directly in front of the house dealer. Hands are always dealt counterclockwise. After dealing the eight hands, the house dealer picks up any hands dealt to any empty seat. Those tiles are taken out of play.
Players arrange their hands into two sets of two tiles each, a high and a low hand, then place the hands face down in front of them. This is called setting the hand. A player can ask the house dealer to set the hand for him. If so, the hand is set house way, that is, in a predetermined manner. After all player hands have been set, the player-dealer reveals and sets his hand. The house dealer turns up each player hand, in turn, counterclockwise, and compares each hand, one at a time, against the player-dealer hand. All dealing, comparing, and payoffs begin with the action button and proceed counterclockwise.
The order in which hands compete against the player-dealer is important, because if the player-dealer loses his stake, not all player hands may get to compete. (The commonly used term for this is the bank does not cover.) Also, a hand may not get complete action. For example, the player-dealer puts up a bank of $200. The action button wagers $100 and the next five players wager $50 each. The player-dealer loses the first three hands, paying the action button $100 and the next two players $50 each. The bank is now empty, and the remaining three players get no action on their $50 wagers. It doesn't matter whether their hands would win or lose against the player-dealer. A player may never win or lose more than the total of his wager.
Each player, in turn, counterclockwise, has the opportunity to be the player-dealer (banker). No player is ever obligated to put up a bank.
The house dealer controls the shuffling and dealing of the cards, orderliness of the game, and the house collections for each hand.
Multiple players can wager on the same hand. When a player bets on a hand and is not seated at that location at the table it is called backline betting. Backline bettors often stand behind a seated player but may also be seated at another seat location. Whoever wagers the most on a hand determines how to set the hand.
To win, both player hands must rank higher than the player-dealer's two hands.
To lose, both player hands must rank lower than the player-dealer's two hands.
To push (that is, for no money to change hands) one of the player's two hands must rank higher and the other hand rank lower than the player-dealer's two hands.
Note: When two tiles are exactly the same, that hand is a push, except that the player-dealer wins all zero-zero hands (0-0 copy), regardless of which hand has the higher-ranking tile.