How to Deal Pai-Gow Poker
Part 7: A free Vegas-Aces guide.
Table of Contents
How to Deal without a Shuffle Machine or Random Number Generator
This is good for dealers because there will be times when the shuffle machine or the random number generator is broken and you’ll have to deal the game manually.
Since you have no shuffle machine, shuffle the cards by hand before offering the deck for a cut, just as you would if you were dealing blackjack. If the player is banking then they have the first option to cut the deck.
Take the deck and deal out 7 hands of 7 cards each starting from the dealer’s left hand side and going right. The dealer should keep the deck as low to the table as possible when dealing out the cards. In order for the cameras to verify that all 53 cards have been used, the dealer will spread out the last remaining 4 cards, face down, before being placed in the discard rack. The dealer will then straighten up the stacks, tilting the first hand on the left sideways a bit and the last hand on the right sideways a bit more. This is supposed to represent a dragon, with the lucky head on the left and the unlucky tail on the right.
Normally, this is the time the Random Number Generator would tell us where to deal the first set of cards, but since we don’t have a Random Number Generator, we’re going to have to rely on dice instead. Casinos usually don’t allow the players to shake the dice, but there is one exception to this rule and it’s when the Player is banking. The dealer will shake a dice cup, with 3 dice in it, a few times using only one hand. Every casino is different, some will want you to shake the dice exactly 4 times while others will say between 3 to 5 times, so make sure you know your house rules. The dealer will always be the one to uncover the dice cup; players are not allowed to touch the dice or the dice cup and if the dice bounce out of the cup or is touched by a player, then call over the floorman immediately and inform him of the situation. The floor will inspect the dice before putting it back into action. All bets must be in their betting circle before the dice are uncovered because once the numbers have been exposed no one can alter their bets.
If one of the die lies on top of another die, or is cocked sideways, then call out “No Dice” before shaking the cup again. The 3 dice will be totaled and the number shown will determine where the dragon’s head, or the first set of cards, goes. The dealer will announce the total of the dice before delivering the cards.
The number on the dice corresponds with the placement of the hands. The banker or the dealer will always be position number 1. Then starting from the right hand side going left the dealer will count the spots up to the dice total, giving each position a specific number. The banker-dealer position will always be numbers 1, 8 or 15. Remember, the dealer doesn’t need to count every spot starting from number 1. This would take too much time. Instead, the dealer will use the fact that the banker position is always 1, 8, or 15 and count forward or backwards depending on what number is shown on the dice.
After the dealer has delivered the first set of cards to the spot indicated on the dice, they will continue to distribute the hands, moving in a counter clock-wise rotation. All betting positions will receive a set of cards regardless of whether there is a player sitting there or not. After all of the hands are distributed and the last 4 cards proven to the cameras, the dealer will pick up all of the hands that are in unoccupied spots and place them in the discard rack.
The dice will remain uncovered and unmoved until all of the hands are dealt with, then the dealer will cover the dice, shake the cup and place it to the right of the layout. After that, everyone will continue the game as normal.
Pai-Gow Poker is naturally a slow game, but it’s the dealer’s responsibility to keep it moving at a good pace without rushing the players. The only exception to this rule is if you’re a break-in dealer and you’ve just learned how to deal the game. The house doesn’t mind if you deal a bit slower because you’re double checking to make sure that the hand is set correctly and that you didn’t miss any ranking hands. This is better than a break-in dealer who is dealing fast but is making a lot of mistakes.
When new cards are put into play, the procedure is the same as blackjack. First, the seal on the new box must be broken at the game. Then the dealer will check both sides of the cards for marks and to verify to the cameras that all of the cards are present and accounted for. The dealer will wash the decks before completing the house shuffle.
Every casino is different. Some houses will want you to riffle the single deck once before putting it in the shuffle machine, while other houses will want you to do a quick shuffle. Make sure you know your house way. If the shuffle machine is broken then the house will ask you to do a standard house shuffle for the single deck.
If the player requests to play a hand, other than the one in front of them, then they can as long as there are no other players playing that hand. Their wager must be on the same betting circle that they receive their cards from. Once the cards are dealt, the dealer will move the hand to the spot in front of the player. When the player has finished setting his hand, the dealer will move the cards back to their original spot.
There will be times when several players will want to wager on the same betting circle as another player and this is called backline betting. After the primary player has placed his wager, up to 4 other players may make their bets up to the remaining balance of the table limit. Notify the floor of the multiple bets before proceeding with the hand. The primary player must be seated at the table and it is their decision as to whether or not another player can bet on their hand. They will also have the final say as to how their hand is played. Watch out for trolls who allow backline betting, and then purposely play the hand badly just so they can screw with people. After the hand has won and the multi-bet paid, each player is responsible for their own commission.
If the player has multiple poker hand rankings that they can choose from, then they will want to pick the cards that give them the best low hand as well as the best high hand. If you have any questions, ask the floor.
At the end of the hand, when revealing the cards to the cameras, the dealer will make sure that all the cards are spread far away enough from each other that the cameras can see the pips clearly. The cards for each individual hand must be spread properly and neatly across the table. This can be tricky, especially when your house requires that all winning hands stay on the table. This procedure is essential because it allows the dealer, players, floor and cameras to read and recognize each hand to ensure that everything is set correctly and that the appropriate winner is determined.
If both the player’s cards and the dealer’s cards have identical hand rankings then the winner will be determined by the next highest card. This card is also known as the “Kicker”.
Continuously check the cards during the course of the game to ensure that they remain unmarked and clean. If there are any marks on the cards, errors, disputes or anything questionable call over your floor immediately. Any bonus payoff of $100 or more will need the floor’s approval.
When closing a game, remember to place the Dragon Hand button in the rack before putting the lid on and locking it up. Always clap out when touching your body or leaving the table. And if the floor needs to assist a player during a live game, then the dealer should keep an eye on all of the remaining players and make sure they don’t cheat.
If there is a machine malfunction, and anyone on the table gets more or less than 7 cards, then all hands will be declared dead. The dealer will call over the floor and notify him of the situation before reshuffling. Only the players seated at the table can handle the cards and set their hand. All cards must remain within the parameters of the table and cannot go over the railing. The dealer and the cameras must be able to see all of the cards at all times.
How does the dealer protect himself from giving bad advice to the player? The dealer should never give their opinion when advising a player on how to set their hand because if the hand loses, there’s a possibility that the player will blame the dealer for their loss and demand their money back. If the player asks you how to set their hand, then tell them the house way. This alleviates the dealer, hence the house, of any responsibility if the player loses, at least that’s what the casino lawyers told me.
Apparently, when the dealer assists a player with their cards, they’re supposed to do it after all of the remaining players have set their hands. But some dealers like to help the player immediately since this makes the game go faster. Remember, every casino is different, so make sure you know your house rules.
If a player requests assistance from another player, than the person with the largest wager should be the first to set their hand. To protect the table from cheaters, the dealer should discourage players from exposing their cards or looking at other player’s cards when it is felt that an advantage is being attempted by the player. This includes verbal communication as well.
Once the player has set both of their hands and placed them face down in the appropriate areas, they may not touch the cards again. Re-checking or re-setting their hands multiple times isn’t allowed at most casinos. The dealer should be cautious of players who check their cards often. Watch how the player handles their cards and sets their hand. Look for any unusual hand movements. Listen to what they say and be alert to irregular play or any suspicious behavior. If you see anything that doesn’t appear normal, make sure to notify your floorman the first chance you get.
This doesn’t mean that you should loudly call out to the floor across the pit and scream that you think one of your players is cheating. Instead, on your next break, go to the podium and speak to the floor discretely.