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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Livening Up the Game of Pai Gow Poker

26 September 2000

The relatively slow-moving casino "concentration game" of pai gow poker has begun to take on a new personality in some gaming jurisdictions around the country with the introduction of a bonus feature that's paid to players for premium hands.

Although pai gow poker is not an approved game in Illinois, you can find it close by in northwest Indiana, including the Majestic Star Casino and the Trump Casino, destinations which share the same pavilion in Gary. At present, however, the new bonus feature is not being played there.

Pai gow poker with the bonus isn't too far away, however. Two regular readers of this column, Ross and Bobbie V., paid a visit to The President Casino in Davenport, Iowa recently and came home with quite a casino adventure! Here's how Ross explained what happened in his e-mail to me:

"What are the odds that players can catch three royal flushes in a matter of two hours at pai gow poker? My wife Bobbie and I went to The President in Iowa and after losing our fair share at the craps tables, we just started to concentrate on pai gow poker. There were only three of us playing. After an hour or so the other man at the table caught a royal flush. After checking the cards, changing the cards, and checking the video tape, we resumed playing. Around a half hour later my wife Bobbie caught a royal flush with $5 on the bonus and was paid 150 to 1 or $750. After they did all their checking to make sure it was all legit and then changed the cards again, approximately four hands later with a new deck of cards and a different dealer she caught a second royal flush with $10 on the bonus, which paid $1,500. We played out the red chips and headed to our car and back to home. Just playing regular pai gow in Indiana gets boring sometimes, but with the bonus it makes the game a lot more fun."

Well, Ross, not only does it sound like you discovered an exciting new twist to an old game, you and your wife experienced quite an exhilarating fling with Lady Luck! Good things, in this case the elusive and much-coveted royal flush came in threes at your pai gow poker table. I'm glad your wife took advantage of it.

Pai gow poker affords you the opportunity to stay in action for a period of time without subjecting your bankroll to the volatility of slots or some other table games. Playing perfect basic strategy keeps the house edge down to a very manageable 2.5 per cent.

Pai gow poker is a "hybrid", a cross between Chinese dominoes (pai gow) and American seven-card poker. It's played at a blackjack-style table using a 52-card deck plus one joker. The joker is not wild in pai gow poker. It can be used as an ace or as a card to complete a straight, flush, straight flush, or royal flush.

Each player and the dealer is dealt seven cards face down for each round of betting. The object of the game is to arrange the cards into a 2-card poker hand and a 5-card poker hand. The dealer sets his hand according to established house rules. The 2-card hand cannot outrank the 5-card hand.

When all the hands are set, the dealer compares his two hands with those of the players. The player wins if both of his hands outrank both of the dealer's hands. If one is higher and one is lower it's a push. You lose if the dealer beats your hands or his hands are identical in rank to yours. All winning bets are paid off at even money. Every time you win, however, the casino collects a five per cent commission.

The new bonus feature certainly seems to bring a new dimension of excitement to the game, even though it involves an extra expense.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp