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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Pai Gow Poker Good Slot Alternative

26 November 2003

Breaking away from the slots is a difficult transition for a majority of casino players, but a very necessary one if you wish to enjoy the total casino experience and attempt to derive the most bang for your gambling dollar.

A couple of weeks ago I explored the opportunities that await table games neophytes at the roulette wheel. Today let's take a look at Pai Gow Poker, a game that is enjoying a popularity renaissance in Las Vegas.

Pai Gow Poker is a great way to stay in action for a long period of time without subjecting your bankroll to the volatility of big short-term losses. Perfect basic playing strategy keeps the house edge to about 2.5 percent, which isn't bad at all when compared with Caribbean Stud Poker.

It's an easy game to learn and progresses at such a leisurely pace that I'm sure you'll enjoy the playing experience, especially if you like kitchen table poker but are intimidated by casino poker rooms.

Pai Gow Poker is a casino "hybrid", a game that's a cross between Chinese dominos (pai gow) and American 7-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. Rather it can be used only as an ace or as a card to complete a straight, flush, straight flush, or royal flush. A game consists of a dealer and up to six players, each of whom is dealt seven cards face down for each round of betting.

The object of the game is for each player to arrange his cards into a 2-card poker hand and a 5-card poker hand. The dealer sets his hands according to established house rules. Your 2-card hand cannot outrank your 5-card hand or you automatically lose your bet. Beginners may even request that the dealer set your hands for you.

When all the hands are set, the dealer compares his hands with those of the players. The player wins his bet 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 your bet if the dealer beats your hands or his hands are identical in rank to yours.

All winning bets are paid off at even money, however, every time you win, the casino collects a five percent commission, or 25 cents on a five-dollar hand.

There is definitely a skill factor involved in setting your hands. Computer studies have shown there are optimum ways to play, the precepts of which keep the house edge down and increase your chances of winning.

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