How to play Pai Gow Tiles with Mike Shackleford Part 2

Join myself and the Wizard of Odds as we explain how to play Pai-Gow Tiles and answer any questions you might have on your mind!

Heather: We will never hear from YouTube. YouTube is like the Wizard of Oz where he is the man behind the curtain. He is the one pulling the strings and everything but no one ever sees or talks to him.

We talked about the rankings. We talked about the methodology behind it. So now the next thing we need to learn is how to set up the hand.

Mike: Yep.

Heather: So when you are setting up the hand, are there any rules that you follow? For example, in Pai-Gow Poker you have the two pair rule that you always say over and over again to help you remember?

Mike: Yeah.

Heather: Is there something you say with this?

Mike: Well it is easy to say that the highest hands are the pairs. And if it becomes a pair against a pair, it’s the higher ranking pair that wins.

Heather: Okay.

Mike: Then right below the pairs are the…???

Heather: Oh you are asking me?

Mike: Yes.

Heather: Okay so you are looking for the pairs and then you are looking for low cards that are equal to seven, eight or nine. Right? So two low cards, if you put it together, equal seven, eight or nine. Or is that number three?

Mike: Well, yes. What would beat say a high nine?

Heather: Oh goodness. Oh that is what we are doing. So we would do a Gong or Wong.

Mike: Which is higher?

Heather: Nine. Which is Wong, and eight is Gong. What that is is if you have the teen or the day You see these, the next thing you do is you look for a seven, eight or nine. So the eight or the nine, let’s say we have this right here (this is an eight), you match it up with the eight. Now it is a Gong. If it’s a nine, let’s say we have this right here and we match it up with a nine, now that’s a Wong. So you have a Wong, a Gong. Wong is nine. Gong is eight. You are also looking for a seven. If you have a seven, then that’s a high nine. So that’s the next thing you look for. A teen or a day with a seven, eight, or a nine.

Mike: Yes. So the teen and the day are special tiles. You always look through your hand for those first. If you see them then you ask yourself, do I have a seven, eight or nine?

Heather: Right.

Mike: And then if you do then you are looking really good. Then again, Wong beats Gong, and a Gong beats a high nine. Because nine is higher than eight. Eight is higher than seven.

Heather: Right. So nine top is Wong, eight is under that, and that’s Gong, and then seven is high nine.

Mike: Yep. And even with a Gong and a Wong, they are not all – Let’s say that both players have a Gong, then – if it ever comes down to equally ranked pairs, then you look at the higher ranking tile to break the pair.

Heather: Yes. And that is where we were talking about the rankings before and how you remember the rankings.

Mike: Yes. And by the way if it came down to something like this, these are two Gongs. And then both high tiles are both the same. And you might think in poker then you would look to the second highest tile to break that tie, but you don’t. It’s only the high tile that breaks the tie. If that doesn’t break the tie then it’s called a copy. And copies go to the banker.

Heather: Okay. Just like Pai-Gow poker all ties go to the banker.

Mike: Yep.

Heather: Okay let’s see what you guys are saying.

Q - Does it have to be a Teen or a Day for it to be considered a high nine? A - Mike: Yes. Heather: Yes.

Mike: So then it becomes like Baccarat. Where you just add up the dots between two tiles. And if it’s over ten then you drop the tens digit and you look at the remainder.

Heather: And that’s where you take two small cards and you are trying to make an eight or a nine right?

Mike: Well the way I look at it, if you can’t make a pair, a Gong, or a Wong, then you can just pick any two tiles at random. So here we have 17 dots. So much like in Baccarat you drop that ten and it’s worth seven points.

Heather: And that’s how you figure out what the number is for that.

Mike: Yes.

Heather: Okay.

Mike: Yes it is exactly like Baccarat.

Heather: And if you don’t do that, another way to do it is you would like up the tiles from highest to lowest and then take the high low and put them together, right?

Mike: I would cover that more in the strategy section.

Heather: Oh that’s a strategy thing?

Mike: Yeah.

Heather: Oh okay never mind. I’m moving ahead too fast. So let’s mix some of this stuff up and try a couple hands. What do you think?

Mike: Sure

Heather: So we always flip them over like so. And then it’s really fun. We can’t shuffle them like normal so we wash the deck. Or we wash the tiles. Normally there is like a wood piece right here that dealers can use to help them control the tiles.

Mike: Okay. How about we each get four tiles. It will be you against me.

Heather: Okay that sounds good.

Mike: I will try to set my hand like the dealer would.

Heather: Oh house way?

Mike: Yeah.

Heather: Okay. Well yeah let’s definitely try to do house way. That makes it easier when we are explaining how to set a hand.

Mike: And by the way audience, I know we are just jumping right into strategy but maybe we should do another show some time that goes over strategy in more detail because we only have ten more minutes left.

Heather: Oh my God we only have ten more minutes left. Okay.

Mike: Time flies when you are having fun.

Heather: And when you are having technical difficulties. I will definitely put up that video later. So go ahead and take your hand. And we flip it over.

Mike: Okay I won’t –

Heather: Oh you don’t want to show?

Mike: Well, how about we let you be the dealer since you already flipped yours over. And then I will show – well this one is really obvious how to play it.

Heather: Right. So with these ones we have a pair right here. And then we put this together. No. No. What is a six?

Mike: Yep that’s a three over six.

Heather: So that’s a six pair right there.

Mike: Yep. Usually, when you have a pair, you keep it together, but not always. And we could go over that in the strategy sections. When you split up a pair. But I would say 80% of the time you would keep them together.

Heather: But with a Teen or a Day you would split those sometimes?

Mike: Yes. But tens by the way are something you never split.

Heather: Right.

Mike: Okay. Oh.

Heather: Oh so you have a Day.

Mike: Yes. So I could make a – I can play this – well any hand you could play three ways. So I could play this Wong two. I could play nine - four. Or I could play seven - six. As a rule of thumb, if you could play Wong and the low hand is a zero, one, or two, then that’s what you should do. You can see that if I played a high nine instead, then my low we bump up to a four. But I really don’t like a low hand unless it’s at least a five. If I can’t get that low, this is just a rule of thumb, if I can’t get that low to at least a five, I’m going to say to heck with the low, I am going to make my high as best as possible.

Heather: Okay.

Mike: So this is what the Wizard way would do. It also just feels right to me and it’s also – well how would the house play this?

Heather: The house would do a high nine.

Mike: Yeah. The house – So my rule of thumb is I like to get that low to at least a five. The house tries to get to what’s called a high six. I mean a high three. By the way this is not a high three. But I know that the house ways have a lot of exceptions and I don’t know exactly how they would play this hand.

Heather: Yeah. That’s one of those things where you call over, FLOOR! FLOOR! WE NEED YOUR HELP FLOOR! Come over here.

Mike: But I feel very strongly mathematically this is the best way to play it.

Heather: Okay now who would win? After you set yours and I set mine, who would win?

Mike: You do.

Heather: How would we — The first thing we would do is look at the high hand, right?

Mike: Yep.

Heather: So this is the high hand.

Mike: Yes. So your pair beats my Wong.

Heather: Okay. And then next we look at the low hand. I have a six, and you have a four. So my six beats your four.

Mike: Well actually I have a two. Because seven plus five is 12.

Heather: Oh you switched it.

Mike: Yes. Your six beats my two. So you win.

Heather: Okay. So that is how you would do a hand.

Mike: Yep. Want to do another one?

Heather: Yeah let’s do one more, and then we will probably be going after that.

Mike: Okay, this time I will be the dealer.

Heather: Okay sounds good.

Mike: As in the casino, you go first since you are the player.

Heather: Okay. And if you guys have any questions now is the time to ask. Speak now or forever hold your peace. So I got an easy one again.

Mike: Yeah.

Heather: I got a pair right here. And then we have a four right here.

Mike: And lot’s of times if you don’t know the exceptions to when to split a pair, you can just see what would happened if you did. And here we just have a terrible hand. We have one five which is awful. That’s pretty obvious. Okay so let’s see what the house has. Yeah. I think we said this in the technically difficult parts, these are both seven but this is not a mixed seven because there is another one exactly like this. This is just one of those things that you have to memorize. So we could put either of these sevens with this day tile to have a high nine, and here we have one. So I have nine - one. Which you win again.

Heather: Woow! We should be playing for money! We’ve got enough time for another one.

Mike: Okay.

Heather: Cool.

Mike: And maybe if we have a few minutes I can talk about the math of the game, like the house advantage.

Heather: Yeah. How many minutes? We have eight minutes.

Mike: Why don’t we play all these and then we will talk about math a little bit. This time I will be the player.

Heather: Okay.

Mike: So, what I like to do if there is no Teen or Day and there is no Wong and there is no Gee or Joon. I like to arrange them in order of dots, from highest to lowest. And then I will look at the two outside ones, the highest and the lowest. Well okay, before I would do that I would see, do I have two little ones that you could add up to be nine or less? If I do, then I'm probably going to do that. But here I don’t. Because the two lowest add up to 11. Which is more than nine.

So here I’m going to look at the highest and lowest that adds up to four. And then these two add up to five. So as I just said, if I played this I would have five - four and I just said before I like to get that low up to at least to a five. If I can’t then I sacrifice the low, to make my highest best as possible. This is not the way the house would do it. The house would play it like this…five - four. But mathematically speaking, since I can’t get that low up to a five, I’m going to sacrifice it and make my highest best as possible, which is an eight. And I only have one in the low. So I, as a player would play this eight - one.

Heather: Okay. Now when you are talking about the tiles and you are saying your hand, don’t you normally say the lowest tile fist and then the highest tile second. So it would be one - eight or four - five or something like that?

Mike: Yeah. That’s how most players do it. I don’t. That’s not required. It’s just a matter of style.

Heather: Oh okay. And then let’s see what I got. I have an eight – so I have an eight, I got eleven – so I got a five Gong.

Mike: Yep! Yep! So as usual if you can play a high nine or a Gong which you did, so you play that and the low is whatever it is. So you have Gong five.

Heather: Five Gong! Five Gong! Sorry go ahead.

Mike: So your five beats my one and your Gong beats my eight, so Heather wins again.

Heather: Yeah!!! We totally should be betting on this. And then watch and I will actually bet money and that is when I lose.

Mike: Do you want to bet a dollar on this one?

Heather: Yeah I bet you anything I’m going to lose now. Now that we are betting a dollar.

Mike: So we have a bet?

Heather: Ok one dollar.

Mike: How about we can each set it however we want.

Heather: Okay that sounds good.

Mike: And I’m not going to look at yours and you are not going to look at mine.

Heather: Okay, sounds good. Your going to hate me, by the way. Just saying.

Mike: Okay, I’m ready.

Heather: Okay.

Mike: Okay I have Gong - four.

Heather: Okay. Cool. And I have a pair - five. Five pair.

Mike: You win!

Heather: I get a dollar!

Mike: Okay I will pay after the show.

Heather: Okay so let’s talk about the math real quick.

Mike: Okay just in case you forgot, again this one is semi wild, it can be worth three or six. So here I’m counting it as six. So eight plus six is 14, you drop the ten and it’s worth four.

Heather: Cool. So let’s talk about the math real quick before we end this.

Mike: Okay. So this is from – you can find this all on my website or on my upcoming book.

Heather: and what’s the name of your upcoming book?

Mike: Gambling 102. And I know it’s already out but there is going to be a completely rewritten edition coming out hopefully soon.

Heather: Awesome!

Mike: I mean it’s basically written and is in the proofreading stage. Okay, so if you follow my basic strategy, which I’ve been trying to convey. And you're not banking, the house edge is 1.98% and if you are banking then the house edge is 0.08%. If you are bouncing back and forth playing by yourself then it averages to 1.03%. So yes you can get better odds in Blackjack, but this game is much slower. If you are looking for a challenging game that is not too volatile. This game has a very low volatility. It’s a really good choice and it also comps much better than blackjack.

Heather: Okay, sounds cool.

Mike: So there you go!

Heather: Now if you do the house way that’s almost 1.5% right?

Mike: Yeah that is 1.9% better, which goes to show that if you can bank, you should.

Heather: Yes you should always bank.

Mike: Yes and unlike Pai Gow poker. In Pai Gow if you are playing by yourself it alternates every single hand. So it cost you nothing to invoke your right to bank. Now it gets more complicated if there are other players. And a lot of other players don’t like it when another player is banking. And we could talk about this for a long time.

Heather: Now I just want to point out something real quick. Pai Gow pokers and Pai Gow tiles, they don't have just one house edge. It really just depends on a variety of factors and that determines the house edge. There are actually several house edge numbers for the game out there. It just depends on whether you are playing the house way or not. Whether you are banking or not. Whether you have optimal strategy. Whether you are playing basic strategy.

Mike: Yep!

Heather: All of that right?

Mike: Yep! Yes, now if you were playing the house way the same way the dealer plays then that house advantage goes up by half a percent. Both banking and not banking.

Heather: Wow.

Mike: Which goes to show the power of just my basic strategy. On my website I have strategies that are even more powerful than my basic strategy. For example the optimal strategy, the house edge there is 1.66% when you are not banking, and you have a player advantage of 0.2% when you are banking.

Heather: Wow that’s really cool.

Mike: So there you get an extra .28% by going from basic strategy optimal strategy. But optimal strategy is really complicated.

Heather: Oh really?

Mike: Yes. Even I don’t know it.

Heather: So it’s not something you can just print out and you can look at it and play it?

Mike: No it is ridiculously hard. I think there’s only – I think I’ve only met two people who knew optimal strategy, or really close to it.

Heather: Okay.

Mike: It invoices so many exceptions.

Heather: That sounds complicated.

Mike: Yeah.

Heather: So that’s pretty much it. I see you guys don’t have any more questions in the chat. That's it for today's show. Mike, thanks for joining us.

Mike: My pleasure. Any time.

Your support keeps this site free.

We believe in making education and information as accessible as possible. Help us keep the lights on by supporting financially. Every bit counts!


Support and get something directly back by picking up gear or a lucky trinket.

Shop Now


Access years of exclusive content immediately for a small monthly commitment.

Become a Patron


One of the first things we teach players is to tip their dealer. We accept PayPal!

Leave a Tip

Get gamewise, now.

Don’t miss interviews, upcoming games, dealer and player tips, and more.

Join over 1,500 Vegas Aces students at

Join in the conversation at Tapatalk.

Copyright © 2010-2024 Vegas Aces Services, LLC All rights reserved.