When I first started visiting Las Vegas, my friends and I would almost exclusively play blackjack. I played craps for the first time a few years later at the Hard Rock and fell in love with the game. We’d mix in some penny slots when drinking coffee in the morning but that’s typically how I gambled when first visiting Las Vegas.
Then I learned about Pai Gow Poker and everything changed! Moving forward I’ll switch between “I” and “we” often because I never play Pai Gow Poker alone.
Learning About Pai Gow Poker
I’m not sure of exactly how we found out about Pai Gow Poker but it was at Mandalay Bay. There wasn’t much to the introduction. The dudes that introduced us to the game just said to keep drinking (like never stop) and show the dealer our cards if there were questions. The somewhat confusing rules or $25 minimum bet didn’t really matter. Everyone was playing for the “free” drinks.
We had fun but it mostly because everyone had too much to drink. Chalk this up as another new experience in Las Vegas. The game was interesting enough to go in the back of my mind after this visit.
A year or two later the same friend and I actually learned how to play Pai Gow Poker at a $5 table at the Gold Coast one night. We had a very kind and patient dealer. We also had a very kind and patient cocktail waitress who delivered drinks quickly and sometimes had to wait while class was in session.
I was hooked on Pai Gow Poker now that I knew what I was doing!
Pai Gow Poker is a fun game for drinking and hanging out with friends but didn’t become a part of every gambling trip until a few years ago. Blackjack has lost its some of its appeal on the Vegas Strip. Almost every table in every casino pays 6:5 for a natural blackjack instead of 3:2 when playing a game below $25.
Depending on the other rules this kind of blackjack game has a house edge close to, or over, 2%. I gamble at the tables to have a little action while hanging out with friends. The larger house edge reduces the length of time one can play with a set bankroll. The more it costs to hang out and gamble the less interesting the game is.
I’ve almost entirely moved away from playing blackjack on the Vegas Strip.
Craps is still my love but Pai Gow Poker is probably the game I play most when I’m, specifically, on the Vegas Strip. I’m a bit more open to playing blackjack when I’m in downtown Las Vegas. It’s still easy to find a 3:2 game where a bankroll can last awhile and a session may end with a win. It’s nice to have options of good games in a close proximity.
Playing Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker probably suits me better today than ever. The game is played with seven cards dealt to each player. Every hand must be split into two poker hands. (Wizard of Odds has a very detailed “how to” for the game.)
A player wins the game and bet if both hands are better than the dealer. Likewise, the player loses the game and bet if both hands are better for the dealer. Nearly 50% of the hands dealt in Pai Gow Poker are pushes and the player doesn’t lose a bet. There are a lot of pushes which keeps the bankroll alive longer.
The pace of play can be sloooooooooow. The dealer has to check both hands for every player and compare to their hand to see who wins or loses. When sitting at a full table this can take awhile – especially if there’s a Bonus Bet in play and the dealer has to double check each hand. The slow pace is a good way to extend the fun but the game gets better from here.
The house edge in Pai Gow Poker is just 1.46%. This is among the lowest in the casino. The low house edge allows a bankroll to last longer than other games. Add in a slower pace of play than many other casino games and you have a game that will let you have fun for a longer time.
There isn’t much skill involved with Pai Gow Poker but it does take knowledge to set hands correctly. The game takes more skill than playing 3 Card Poker but less than blackjack. This the perfect game to hang out with friends, enjoy a few drinks and have a little gambling action. The pushes and low house edge allow the bankroll to last longer so we can enjoy casino fun times for a longer period.
Playing Pai Gow Poker At The Cromwell
My favorite place to play Pai Gow Poker on the Vegas Strip is The Cromwell Las Vegas. The dealers, pit bosses, and cocktail waitresses are very personable. The limits are respectable starting at $10 or $15 and the drinks are a step above most non-luxury casinos. During my recent vacation, a friend and I played Pai Gow Poker for at least six and a half hours according to the pit boss.
I don’t even sleep for six and a half hours! Limits on that Wednesday night were $10 but went up to $15 for the weekend. In fact, every Caesars Entertainment casino had $15 limits or higher for Pai Gow Poker on July 4th weekend.
Sad note about The Cromwell – they no longer serve complimentary Macallan Scotch. They now offer Basil Hayden as the fancy brown booze. It’s fine but not quite the same as a delicious complimentary glass of Macallan.
Pai Gow Growing In Popularity
Pai Gow Poker is growing in popularity. In the past year, I’ve noticed a lot more chatter about the game. When I visited casinos on the Vegas Strip I could see that translate into real life. Finding a seat or three at a table wasn’t a problem in previous years.
There were barely seats available at the Pai Gow Poker tables on the Vegas Strip during July 4th weekend. Our home casino for vacation, Planet Hollywood, had at least one packed $25 table all day long – even at 7 am. The casino often had multiple tables in action.
You can find a list of casinos and table minimums for Pai Gow Poker in Las Vegas here.
Players Clubs Don’t Love Pai Gow Poker
As my friend and I said good night/morning to the crew at The Cromwell the pit boss mentioned that it was probably a good time for a break since we played for six and a half hours. My friend joked that we’ll enjoy the “5 Total Rewards credits we just earned!”
That joke isn’t too far from the truth. Pai Gow Poker isn’t a game to play if you’re looking to earn players club points. Playing $10 Pai Gow Poker definitely won’t return many points. Heck, $25 hands won’t return many players club points for that matter.
Playing any game for that length of time in a casino will keep you on their radar for future promotions. The offers won’t be spectacular but they’ll be there. Casino players clubs like when a player is willing to commit 25% of a day to gambling. There’s always a chance that the $10 or $15 bets can become a $15 or $25 bets.