Pai Gow Poker – The Game That Thrived But Failed Its Creator

Just by its name many people think Pai Gow Poker had its birth in Asia, probably China where Pai Gow tiles are a game, but that couldn´t be further from the truth. One of today’s most popular casino game was invented in California by the Bell Card Club casino owner, Sam Torosian.

Back in 1985, Torosian was taught the game of Pusoy by an elderly Filipino player in his establishment. The game sparked his attention, but the 13-cards with players arranging 3 hands would be too slow for a casino clientele. He modified the game to two-hand with seven cards. He made it faster and easier to learn.

By the end of the 80’s, the new card game named Pai Gow Poker, was being played all across the United States and soon all of the big casinos in the world would include it into their gaming options.

Pai Gow poker saw a huge success, of which Torosian profited zero from as he failed to patent the invention on time. Torosian consulted an attorney that informed him the 52-card deck wasn´t patentable. This was based in basic poker player ethics that regular card decks should not be patented. Turns out that information was totally false and many card games that came after where patented and made a profit to its creators, like Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, and even Pai Gow Poker Variations.

If Pai Gow had been patented, experts say Torosian should be cashing in a minimum of $70,000 a month. His fortune would have crossed the 100 million barrier by now. The way casino game patents work, game inventors receive a royalty for each table offering the game a casino has.

How to Play Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow uses a 52 deck of cards plus one joker. A max of six player’s sit around a table facing the dealer.

Goal: To beat the banker, which is usually the dealer.
You have two poker hands, one of 5 cards and another of 2 cards.

5 card deck – This is the high hand. It must beat the 2 card deck.

2 card deck – This is the low hand, and it should be lower than the high deck.

For example: if your low hand deck of 2 cards is a pair of 7´s, then your 5 deck must have something better, like a pair of JJ and 5 three of a kind. Both decks compete against its opposite from the dealer.

There are some Pai Gow strategy tips that can increase your odds of winning. The way you arrange the hands leveling both the high and lower hands can increase your chances of winning, or help force a push if you feel the cards are not strong enough.

Once you have made your hands, the dealer reveals them compared against the banker. 3 things can happen:
1. The player wins both hands (the high and low), and wins the bet.
2. The dealer wins both hands, and the player’s losses the bet.
3. The player wins one hand and the dealer the other, the bet is a push and nobody wins but the player does pay a commission.

What happens when both player and dealer have the exact same hands? In the case of a draw, like both having a QQ, the dealer always wins.

Commission: Each casino chargers a certain amount from a player winnings. This is usually 5% or a flat fee.

Creating Your Hands
For the two-card hand, you can make pairs and high cards.

The five-card hand you can create all of the standard poker hands like a straight, flush, 3 pairs, etc. Just make sure this hand is higher than the 2-card hand.

What about the joker? It can be used to complete a flush or straight. If you cannot use the joker for any of those situations, then it acts as an Ace.

What if you cannot even create a pair with your 7 total cards? This is called a Pai Gow, which kind of translates to none-hand.

Side Bets
Pai Gow variants allow for side bets. These do not affect the basic two hands, they are just extra bets that can increase a player’s winnings.

A player is betting extra on whether they get three of a kind, a full house, four of a kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush. The higher the hand, the higher the bonus payout.

There are many other different types of side bets casinos have come up with. All are related to a specific outcome, like the “Emperor’s Challenge”, which is a side bet on being dealt a Pai Gow.

Pai Gow poker is a fun and easy game to play at the casino by players who are just visiting for the first time and wish to enjoy a table game with some company, order some drinks and have a good time. This is also a game you can play at home, although there a ton of weird and interesting card games like Poison Bottles and XYbrid.

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