How to Play Pai Gow Tiles

 What equipment is needed to play Pai Gow.

  1. A set of 32 Pai Gow tiles, or ICA Pai Gow software,
    or you can print a practice set from here.
  2. A tile ranking chart. If you don’t have a ranking chart we provide one here: Ranking Chart
  3. You can speed up your learning curve by using the Traditional Way Flowchart.

How the game is played.

The game can have up to eight players, one of the players is called the dealer, he is responsible for dealing the dominos. All players play against the dealer. The dealer will give you 4 dominos, it is up to you to arrange these four dominos into two separate hands. The trick here is to get the best possible combination in each hand. There are only 3 different ways you can play your four dominos, this means you have a one in three chance of playing the hand correctly without changing their order. Once you decide how to play your dominos you turn them face down in two separate piles. This tells the dealer he can play his dominos and display them. After the dealer displays his dominos in two separate hands he will turn over each of your two piles. He will compare his best set of dominos with your best set. Next he will compare his worst set of dominos with your worst set. In Pai Gow you must win both sets of hands to win or lose both sets of hands to lose. If you win one set and lose one set the game is a tie.

About the Dominos.

There are 32 dominos in the game of Pai Gow. Each of the 32 dominos has a twin. The first eleven dominos have an identical twin, meaning both dominos look exactly alike. The remaining dominos have non identical twins. The non identical twins have the same number of dots incoming on both dominos, there is one exception, it is a pair called the “supreme pair”. The supreme pair is made up of a domino with 6 dots and a domino with 3 dots. The colors of the dots do not matter in Pai Gow but they do help you differentiate one domino from the next.

A simple look at the winning order of the dominos.

  1. Best : Pairs There are 16 pairs
  2. Next : Wong then Gong Eight ways to make Wong, and 16 ways to make Gong.
  3. Next : 9 down to 1. There are thousands of way to make 1 through 9.

How to play your dominos.

For this discussion I will use the terms “high hand” and “low hand”, a hand is two dominos played together. The strategy of Pai Gow becomes apparent when trying to put your four dominos into two winning hands. Pai Gow which means “make nine” is the goal of this game. In most cases you will try to get your high hand and low hand as close to 9 as possible. This means you add up the dots on the dominos, if you have a domino with 4 dots and a domino with three dots then you have a hand we will call seven. If the number of dots ever exceeds 10 then keep counting and strip off the left digit.
For example if you have a domino with 9 dots and a domino with 8 dots you have a total of 17 dots, strip of the left digit of “1″ and your hand is a 7. Try to arrange your hands so that both hands get as close to 9 as possible. If you follow the patter below you will play most of your hands correctly.

If you have a pair.

Because there are 32 dominos, and each has a twin you have 16 pairs. Each pair is ranked from one being the best pair to 16 being the worst pair. If you have a pair, then most likely that pair will make up your high hand. Even the worst pair is a great hand. Consult the pair ranking chart for order of pairs. If your high hand has a pair and the dealer has a better pair then your high hand loses, this does not mean you lost the game, your low hand still has to be compared to the dealers low hand. If your low hand is better than the dealers low hand then the game is a tie, if you lose your low hand then this game is a lose. NOTE: watch for the mismatched pairs.

If you have the two domino or the 12 domino.

If you do not have a pair look for a domino with 2 dots or a domino with 12
dots. Now look for a domino with 7,8 or 9 dots on it and play it with the 2 or 12 domino. This is just a general rule. A domino with 9 dots played with a 2 or 12 domino is called a “Wong”. A Wong is the next best thing to a pair. If you play a domino with 8 with a 2 or 12 domino it is called a “Gong”, it is not as good as a Wong but better than all the rest of the combinations. A domino with 7 dots played with a domino with 2 or 12 dots make a high 9, you can just think of a 7 + 2 = 9 or a 7 + 12=19 and pull off the
left digit of 1 and you have 9.

If you have two small dominos that add up to 7, 8, or 9.

Hopefully if you do not meet the above criteria you will have two small domino that the total dots add up to 7, 8, or 9. An example would be a domino with 5 dots played with a domino with 4 dots.

If you are not in any of the above 3 category’s.

In this case you have to hope the dealer has a very bad hand because your hand will not be too good. Play the domino with the most dots with the domino with the least amount of dots. This should bring your low hand up as high as possible and hopefully you will get a tie out of it.

Odd features.

The highest Pair is a mismatched pair called the supreme pair. This pair is a domino with a 6 on it and a domino with a 3 on it. These dominos are also considered wild. Individually these dominos can be played as a 3 or as a 6. A good example would be if you have a domino with 5 dots on it and you had the wild 6 domino. You would play your wild 6 domino as a three and add it to your 5
to make a hand of 8.

The ranking of the dominos.

The rank of a domino is very important. You must use the ranking chart in order to determine a dominos rank, there is no easy to remember rule. If the dots on your high hand equal the dots on the dealers high hand then we look to the rank of the dominos to determine who is the winner. We only look at the highest ranking domino of the two. If both yours and the dealers high hand add up to 8 and you have the higher ranking domino in your combination then you win the high hand. If you and the dealer have the exact high ranking domino in the high or low hand then it is an exact tie and the dealer wins that hand. The dealer wins exact ties. In Pai Gow a player may choose to be dealer and gain this small
advantage.