The best-known gambling game with roots in China is probably Keno, but Pai Gow runs a close second. Pai Gow — the ancient predecessor of what is now known as Bonus Pai Gow Poker — is hundreds of years old and is believed to be the first gambling game that utilized domino-like playing pieces.
It Started with Chinese Pai Gow
In the ancient version of the game, the dealer separated the tiles into four groups and rolled the dice to determine which group went to which player. Pai Gow (which means “make nine”) was a complicated game, military in nature, where the groups of dominoes were then divided into army units (represented by numbers) and civilian units (represented by pictures), symbolizing Chinese reality at the time.
In the 1800s, the game started spawning numerous variations, the history and specifics of which are not well known. Fast forward to the late 20th century and the game finally transforms into the current form of Pai Gow Poker, which is a combination of ancient Pai Gow and modern, traditional poker.
Pai Gow + Poker = Pai Gow Poker
The game of Pai Gow Poker (also known as double-hand poker) was created by the team of Sam Torosian and Fred Wolf in the late 1900s. Wolf was a a casino owner and he featured the game of Pai Gow Poker in his California casino, giving it the exposure it needed to become an instant hit. Within a few years of Pai Gow Poker’s first appearance in the U.S. in 1986, it was being featured in Las Vegas casinos and, subsequently, in Atlantic City casinos, as well. Most recently, online casinos have started offering this unique poker variation, and the demand seems to be growing as casual gamblers who don’t want to bother with flights and hotels in Las Vegas or Atlantic City have turned to the Internet to play Pai Gow Poker online.
One of the major changes that occurred when the Chinese game of Pai Gow transitioned into the American game of Pai Gow Poker was its transformation from a domino game to a card game. (In China you can still find the domino game of Pai Gow played regularly). In the American version of the game, the basic poker hand applies and one joker is added to the deck. As in blackjack, the players play against the dealer, not against each other. The maximum number of players at a Pai Gow Poker table is six (plus the dealer).
The game is a unique version of poker in that the player uses all of his cards to create two separate poker hands. Each player receives sevens cards which, under the Pai Gow Poker rules, he must split up to form a High Hand of five cards and a Low Hand of two cards. The player wins the Pai Gow Poker game if both of his hands outscore both of the dealer’s hands. If only one of the player’s hands beats the dealer’s corresponding hand, the game is a tie.
Add a Bonus to Make “Bonus Pai Gow Poker”
When Pai Gow Poker went online, the online poker casinos added an additional twist to make the game more interesting: the Bonus Bet. The Bonus Bet is won by looking at the player’s entire seven-card hand. This part of the game is not played in competition against the dealer, but is based solely on the value of the player’s hand. Three of a kind, a straight, or anything better will win the Bonus Bet and will pay out according to the posted payout table. A 7-card straught flush will pay out 8,000 to 1 on the Bonus Bet.
The ancient Chinese game of Pai Gow has thus metamorphosed into the modern Internet game of online Bonus Pai Gow Poker. Bonus Pai Gow Poker is easily learned and exciting to play, and is quickly becoming one of the most popular online poker variations in cyberspace.
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