What Is the Joker in Pai Gow?

What Is the Joker in Pai Gow?

Knowing how to use the joker in Pai Gow is an important part of winning strategies for this popular casino game. Not only does it add another card to the deck, but there are also strict rules for using the joker card.

Pai Gow poker first hit casino floors back in the 1980s and became a pioneer for all of the poker-based table games that we see today. The game has managed to remain a favorite of gamblers, especially at online poker sites.

In this article, we are going to explain how to use the joker in Pai Gow. I will explain the Pai Gow joker rules and tell you how you can use the joker to your advantage. 

What Is The Joker In Pai Gow?

So, what is the joker in Pai Gow? Well, to start, it is a lot of fun! On the surface, the Pai Gow joker doesn’t look any different than a joker you would use in your home poker game.

But you have to be careful, as there are very specific rules surrounding the Pai Gow joker. It isn’t as wild as you might assume.

Let’s take a look at which hands the Pai Gow joker can be used to make. If you want an easy way to remember these Pai Gow joker rules, just remember the words aces, straights, and flushes!

As An Ace

The most basic way that you can use the Pai Gow joker is as an ace. If you have a Pai Gow, then the joker would play as an ace in your hand. It can also be used as an ace to make the following hands:

  • Pair of aces
  • 3 of a kind
  • 4 of a kind
  • 5 of a kind

Essentially, you can use the joker as an ace if your final combination is made up of only aces.

Pro Tip: What Is A Pai Gow?

Other table games, like blackjack, are named after the best hand in the game. But Pai Gow shares its name with the worst hand that can be made! A Pai Gow is when you don’t have any pairs, straights, or flushes.

Nobody wants to make a Pai Gow, as you are very likely to lose.

If you do end up with the dreaded namesake hand, make sure that you set it correctly. In order to not foul your hand, you must play your highest card on the bottom and your next highest card on your top hand. If your bottom hand doesn’t outrank your top hand, your hand is fouled, and you immediately lose.

Casinos pay the same odds for making a hand with a joker as they do for making the hand naturally. 5 aces is one of the highest-paying hands that can be made, offering a 400-1 payout. If you use the joker as an ace to complete a flush, your hand will rank as an ace-high flush.

To Complete A Straight

Having to use the Pai Gow joker as an ace feels like a waste of the most powerful card in the deck. The exception is if you are using it to make three-of-a-kind or better. Otherwise, you should try to use this versatile card to make a bonus hand.

Pro Tip: What Is A Bonus Hand?

A bonus hand, or Fortune Bonus hand, is a hand that is good enough to warrant an additional payout. To win a Fortune Bonus, you must play the optional bonus side bet.

The payouts are a little bit wonky at the Pai Gow table.

For instance, a 3-of-a-kind pays out more than a straight, despite a straight beating 3-of-a-kind. But when we talked about Pai Gow being an exciting game, all of that excitement comes from making bonus hands. Fortune Bonus payouts start out as low as 2-1. Payouts can go all of the way up to as high as 10,000-1 for a 7-card straight flush.

The most common way to make a bonus hand with the Pai Gow joker is by completing a straight. A straight is 5 cards in sequential order. The Pai Gow joker can be used as any card in the deck to finish off your straight.

Also, keep in mind that a wheel, an ace through 5 straight, is the second-highest straight in Pai Gow. It is right behind an ace-high straight. Straights are going to pay out at 2-1 on your Fortune Bonus bet.

To Complete A Flush

A flush is when you have 5 cards all of the same suit, and it pays out 4-1 on your bonus bet. Flushes come up quite a bit more often than you might think. This is because you get 7 cards to use to make your Pai Gow hand.

But, that being said, a flush is still a great hand to play on the bottom. It beats all pairs, 2 pairs, 3-of-a-kind, and any straight.

You don’t have to set your hand as a flush to get paid for the bonus, either. Players can split up that flush to go for the win and still get paid for the bonus. You also get the same payout for using the Pai Gow Poker joker to make your flush.

To Complete A Straight Flush

Straight flushes are where the big money starts to kick in at the Pai Gow table. A straight flush is the combination of the hands we just talked about above. It is a straight, with 5 sequential cards, and a flush, as the cards are of the same suit.

Payouts for some of these bigger hands are going to vary from casino to casino. But you can expect at least a 50-1 payout on your Fortune Bonus bet when you make a straight flush.

You will hit the jackpot if you can manage to make a 7-card straight flush. Payouts for this high-ranking hand start at 10,000-1. Many online casinos now offer progressive payouts for Fortune Bonus hands.

It is possible to win 7-figure payouts for your 7-card monster. The largest ever Pai Gow jackpot was worth over $3 million bucks!

To Complete A Royal Flush

Technically, a Royal Flush is just an ace-high straight flush. But a Royal Flush is so much more than just another straight flush. It is the most glamorous hand in the game and makes you eligible for a Royal Match in Pai Gow.

Pro Tip: What Is A Royal Match?

A Royal Match is when you make a Royal Flush in your bottom hand and a suited king and queen in your top hand. It is one of the highest payouts you can get in Pai Gow, ranking just below a 7-card straight flush.

A Royal Flush isn’t the highest-paying hand that you can make while playing Pai Gow. That honor goes to the 7-card straight flush. But making a Royal is still well worth your time, as you are going to snatch up a 150-1 payout.

If you add a Royal Match to go along with your Royal Flush, you can expect that payout to significantly increase to a whopping 2000-1. Using the Pai Gow Poker joker makes it easy to complete this rare hand.

Where Is the Best Place to Play Pai Gow Poker Online?

As you can see, you need to have a good understanding of the Pai Gow joker rules to succeed at this popular table game. One way to master the rules above is by practicing the game online.

I recommend using Bovada Casino if you are interested in playing Pai Gow Poker online. It is one of the safest poker sites available online. There are even free versions of Pai Gai Poker available, so you can practice without spending any money.

You can play for free while you master all of the Pai Gow joker rules. This casino site is also mobile-friendly, so you can play Pai Gow Poker at any time from your mobile browser.

Bovada also has great bonuses for poker players that you can use to fund your Pai Gow gambling sessions. The Crypto Casino Bonus, for instance, offers up to $3,750 in bonus funds on qualifying deposits. Taking advantage of these bonuses will give you even more money to use when playing Pai Gow.

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Have You Mastered the Pai Gow Joker Rules?

The joker is an important card in Pai Gow Poker. Check out the blog above to learn how you can use the joker to get the most out of your Pai Gow Poker hand. Then, head over to Bovada Casino to put your new skills to the test.

About the Author
Finn Archer profile picture
Finn Archer
Finn is an experienced writer (having published articles under the name Phil Bowman) and longtime sports enthusiast based in Europe. His particular passion lies in soccer, as both a die-hard fan and seasoned bettor. That said, he’ll dabble in anything involving a ball, bat, or boxing gloves! He’s learned from his share of bad bets over the years and is keen to impart his wisdom so you don’t make the same mistakes. Since joining TSG, Finn has also gained valuable knowledge in the world of online casinos.

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