History of Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow is actually an ancient Chinese game that uses a set of dominos and means "Make Nine". The Chinese people have a reputation for having invented everything from Gunpowder to Paper, and in this case, Pai Gow is thought by many to be the basis of Baccarat or Chemin de Fer. Pai Gow is played using a set of tiles that are similar in appearance to Dominos, and the dealer would distribute these to the players. The dealer would roll a die to determine which player would receive which tiles.
Pai Gow Poker is a blend of the original game of Pai Gow and the game of Poker using a 52-card deck. It started appearing in different forms as early as the 1800's, but didn't really hit its stride until 1986, when the game made a proper debut in the gambling houses of California. The game is played between 6 people around a Blackjack sized table. There are 2 key differences between Pai Gow Poker and Classic Poker however:
Firstly, Pai Gow Poker is played with a 53 card deck, that is, 52 standard cards and one wild card. The wild card is usually the Joker, but the only time it can be used is to play an Ace card to complete a Straight or a Flush.
Secondly, any player at the table can be the banker on request. This means that during play, the other players will compare their hands to that of the banker, rather than that of the house dealer. In this case, the House will still collect a five percent commission on any winning hands, and will take over the role of banker every alternate game.
The players compete against the Banker (or House Dealer) for the best hand and are dealt 7 cards each. These 7 cards are divided into two separate hands: the higher-ranking hand must contain five cards and the lower ranking hand only two. The object of the game is to have both hands rank more highly than that of the dealer/banker.
Pai Gow Poker has origins in the complexities of an ancient Oriental game, a game that relies on a structure that must be memorized rather than which follows numerical logic. Thankfully, Pai Gow Poker is far simpler to play, with clearer rules and a much greater capacity for strategy. The pace of the game is slower, perhaps more thoughtful than some of its other poker counterparts, and this means that a modest stake can last for a much longer playing time. It is perhaps because of these reasons that the popularity of the game continues to increase in the illustrious casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as across the world.
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