Pai Gow tiles isn’t a very popular casino game in the United States. It’s overshadowed by its more popular sister game, Pai Gow Poker.
Nevertheless, Pai Gow tiles is definitely a game worth considering if you can find it. It offers some of the best odds in the casino along with intriguing gameplay.
I’m going to discuss more on why you should consider playing Pai Gow tiles. First, though, I’ll go over how to play this game if you’re unfamiliar with it.
How to Play Pai Gow Tiles
This game uses a set of 32 dominoes (tiles). You, the dealer, and other players each receive four dominoes.
All players and the dealer separate the four tiles into low and high hands (two dominoes apiece). This method of setting hands is similar to that in Pai Gow Poker.
- Pairs – 16 pairs exist in this game. Most pairs consist of tiles with matching pips/dots. However, some pairs can differ slightly in their markings.
- Wong – A 2- or 12-pip tile combined with a 9-pip tile.
- Gong – A 2- or 12-pip tile combined with an 8-pip tile.
- Points – The rankings of all other hands are determined by the total number of pips. Totals can only range from 0 through 9. If two dominoes combine for a score of 15, then the score will actually be 5. This scoring system is the same one used in baccarat.
After setting your low and high hand, you compare both to the dealer’s two hands. Here are the potential results:
- You win both hands and the bet. You’ll be paid 1:1, minus a 5% commission.
- You win one hand and lose one, thus resulting in a push.
- You lose both hands and the bet.
Assuming you and the dealer have a tying wong, gong, or points hand, then the tie is broken by whoever holds the highest-ranked tile.
If you and the dealer both have the same high-ranking tile, then the croupier wins. The croupier also wins any 0-0 points hand without considering the high-ranking tile.
Some casinos give you and other players the chance to be the banker. This opportunity normally zig-zags between a player and the dealer.
You can either accept or decline this opportunity. Many gamblers decline acting as the banker because they don’t want to be responsible for paying winning players.
Recap on Playing a Pai Gow Tiles Hand
Here’s a synopsis on how to play hands based on the information above:
- You and the dealer each receive four tiles.
- You group these tiles into a low and high hand (two tiles apiece).
- Once hands are set, you and the dealer compare hands to see who wins.
- You win by winning both hands; push by winning one and losing one; and lose by losing both.
- The dealer wins all points ties that can’t be broken with the highest-ranking tile. They also win a 0-0 tie.
Again, you’ll be paid 1:1, minus a 5% commission, on all wins. You can also act as the banker at some casinos if you choose to.
Extra Rules Worth Noting
You can get the jest on how to play from the instructions above. Of course, Pai Gow tiles has some other in-depth rules beyond just playing the hands.
Next, you may be able to co-bank with another player. When co-banking, you back the player who’s acting as the banker. Your wager must be equal to the last one you placed against the dealer.
The catch with co-banking is that it takes away your next turn to act as the bank. Therefore, you must choose between solo and co-banking.
Where Can You Find This Game?
As mentioned before, Pai Gow tiles isn’t exactly the most popular US casino game. Nevertheless, it is found in Las Vegas casinos and some other gaming destinations.
Las Vegas casinos that carry Pai Gow tiles include:
- Caesars Palace
- Lucky Dragon
- MGM Grand
- Palace Station
Some non-Vegas casinos that offer this game include:
- Borgata (Atlantic City)
- Foxwoods (Connecticut)
- Hammond Horseshoe (Indiana)
- Harrah’s (Lake Tahoe)
- Mohegan Sun (Connecticut)
- Peppermill (Reno)
- Sands Bethlehem (Pennsylvania)
- Silver Legacy (Reno)
Reasons Why Pai Gow Tiles Is Worth Playing
Pai Gow tiles gives you a strong chance to win in comparison to the average casino game. As you’ll see below, it also provides plenty of other reasons to give it a try.
Interesting Casino Game
If you like gambling, then you’ve probably tried most of the popular gambling games like baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, and video poker.
All of these games are worth checking out in their own right. However, you might get tired of seeing the same options in casino after casino.
Pai Gow tiles is something different that you won’t find in every gambling establishment. It’s a unique game that’s only available in gaming hotspots.
You may need time to get acclimated to the gameplay. After all, Pai Gow Tiles does have some extensive rules. Once you get the basics down, though, you’ll be good to go.
Low House Edge
When played with the optimal strategy, Pai Gow Tiles only carries a 1.50% house edge. This is one of the lower house advantages in gaming.
You can see how it ranks in comparison to other casino games below:
- Video Poker = 0.46% house edge (9/6 Jacks or Better)
- Blackjack = 0.5% to 2.0% (differs based on rules)
- Baccarat = 1.06% (banker bet)
- Craps = 1.36% (don’t pass line)
- Pai Gow Poker = 1.46%
- Pai Gow Tiles = 1.50%
- Online Slots = 2.0% to 5.0%
- Let It Ride = 3.51%
- Caribbean Stud = 5.22%
- American Roulette = 5.26%
- Big Six (11.11% and above)
- Keno (15% and above)
As seen above, some games feature a lower house advantage. However, not many games can match Pai Gow Tiles with regard to odds of winning.
Slow Play Rate
Depending upon how you look at it, a slow play rate can be a good thing. Games that move slower help you extend your bankroll and enjoy the casino atmosphere longer.
Other table games like baccarat and blackjack, in contrast, move much faster. These games see up to 100 hands or more an hour, depending upon the number of people playing.
Great Game for Playing Long Hours
The slow play rate combined with the low house edge leads to lengthy gambling sessions. If you’re somebody who likes making your bankroll last, then you’ll really appreciate this aspect.
Here’s an example on how long your bankroll can last with this game:
- You bet $5 per hand.
- The table sees 30 hands per hour.
- Only 60% of these hands result in a win or loss (other 40% push).
- 5 x (30 x 0.6) = $90 in solved wagers an hour
- 90 x 0.0150 (lowest-possible house edge) = 1.35
- You’ll theoretically lose $1.35 per hour.
- Your bankroll is worth $100.
- 100 / 1.35 = 74.07
- Your bankroll will theoretically last for 74.07 hours
Of course, anything can happen in gambling. You could have a rough patch and quickly lose your funds. On average, though, you’re going to enjoy long sessions with Pai Gow tiles.
Pai Gow Tiles Strategy
The following strategy will boost your chances of winning with Pai Gow tiles. When reading this strategy, note that pairs count as 12 points, wongs as 11, gongs as 10, and points hands as their respective values.
- Always keep 11s and 10s together.
- Split if the total points from splitting the pair will be higher than keeping the hand together.
- Split if the total points from splitting or keeping the pair together is the same, and the total will be lower than 15 points.
- Keep pairs together in all other instances.
When Wong, Gong, or 9-High Are Possible
- Play the best-available high hand.
If You Have Two or Three Options for Playing a Wong, Gong, or 9-High
- Use the 12 in the high hand when holding 2 and 12 tiles.
- Load the high hand with 11 or 10 points.
- Load the high hand with 12 points, unless you have an 8-high gong. In this case, you should balance the low and high hands.
- Load the high hand with 13 points, unless you have an 8-high gong. In this case, play a 9-high.
- Play 9-high with 14 points if possible. If not, go with 8-low gong and 5 in the low hand.
All Remaining Scenarios
- Balance the low and high hands with 6 points total or less.
- Play the best high hand with 7-9 points total.
- With a total of 10-15 points, put 5+ points in the low hand for balanced hands.
- Play the best high hand with 16+ points.
Our Final Thoughts
Pai Gow Tiles may not be the first table game you think of when entering the casino. However, it can certainly be one of the most-entertaining games.
It presents complex strategy and intriguing gameplay. If you’re patient with learning strategy, you can reduce the house edge to just 1.50%.
Additionally, Pai Gow Tiles doesn’t play at a very fast rate. This slow rate allows you to enjoy yourself at the tables longer—especially when accounting for the 1.5% house edge.
Availability, however, is the biggest problem with this game. If you’re not in Asia, Las Vegas is your best bet for finding it.
Assuming you are visiting Vegas, though, then you should definitely consider stopping at a casino that offers Pai Gow Tiles. You’ll find this game in other major gambling destinations, too.