Monday, March 18, 2013

Aces Casino "College of Casino Game Knowledge:" The Wild And "Wacky" World of Pai-Gow Poker

A while back on this infamous Blog, the crew from Aces Casino (the Orange County casino party leaders) took on the task of analyzing the game of Baccarat, a casino game that some experts feel is a game that has favorable gaming odds, but not much in the way of "playability."   (Ed. Note: You'll find that riveting blog article link here.)  And, when we DID, that choice of "casino game of the week" came under some serious scrutiny, especially from a large fan base of a fairly popular game called "Pai-Gow Poker."

Now, right off the bat, here's a disclaimer:  Pai-Gow Poker is one of my favorite games to play, when visiting "Sin City,"  for one simple reason -It "plays itself."  I used to think Baccarat was a game that "plays itself," until I saw Pai-Gow Poker.  If you walk up to any self-respecting casino dealer, floor man, shift boss or casino manager and ask him," which of all of these casino games is the easiest to play when you're three sheets to the wind," they'll invariably tell you the answer is Pai-Gow Poker.

That's good enough for THIS Aces Casino party crew member.  Remember, if you're considered the top Orange County casino party company in Southern California, you need a game that people can have a BLAST playing, while playing with valueless chips.  It's INSTANTLY going to be a staple of your lineup, right up there with Blackjack and the eternally-noisy Wheel Of Fortune.  (Ed. Note: The one with the upright wheel, not the one with Vanna White and Pat Sajak.)

I remember my first foray into the wild and wonderful world of Pai-Gow Poker - At least, I remember SOME of it.  What I DO remember was winning quite a lot of dollars at the Barbary Coast casino on a perfect three-team baseball parlay and wanting to celebrate my winnings by playing some casino game that wouldn't tear me a new one, while enjoying my favorite alcoholic beverage (Light beer).

Yeah, I know, HERE it comes.  "Stop right there, Aces.  LIGHT BEER???"  Hey, OK, I LOVE light beer.  Sue me.  I've got someone that I consider a good friend (Dennis Hamblin of San Diego Charger fandom) who rides me like an old mule because I love what HE calls "horse piss."  Hey, it tastes good to me, but that's his whole point - I have no taste.  I also love Godzilla movies, "Hardcore Pawn" and "Human Tetris." 

Yeah, maybe he's right. 

OK, where was I?  Oh, yeah, My first exposure to Pai-Gow..... I'm at the Barbary (Now Known as "Bill's"), and I sit down at the Pai-Gow table.  I tell the dealer that I've never even SEEN this game, and he responds with, "Don't worry, it doesn't matter.  I'll help you."  Yeah, I BET that you'll help me, I thought to myself, you work for the CASINO.  That's when he explained just how Pai-Gow Poker works......

1.  Each player gets seven cards, including the dealer, from a 53-card deck.

2.  The "Joker" is the extra card in the deck, good for "Aces, Straights and Flushes."

3.  Pure poker rules apply when it comes to rank of hands, like "what beats what."  You know, high card, then one pair, then two pair, then 3 of a kind, Straight, yada-yada-yada the bisque....

4.  When you receive your seven-card hand, you have to separate it into TWO parts - A five-card poker hand, and a two-card poker hand.

5.  Your five-card hand MUST beat your two-card hand, when you apply poker rules to it.  Let's say you open your 7-card hand, and you have K-K-Q-9-6-3-3.  You place the pair of threes "up front" for your two-card hand, and the rest of the cards, including the 2 Kings, in your five-card hand.

6.  When all the players have separated their hands, the dealer opens up HIS hand, and separates HIS hand.

7.  For you to beat the dealer (normally, the only player you play against), your five card hand must beat HIS, and your TWO-CARD hand must ALSO beat his.  If one of them does, and one of them doesn't, it's a tie, a push.  No winner.  If both of HIS hands beat both of YOURS, you lose your wager.

It's as simple as that.  AND...HERE'S the best part of ALL -- In THIS game, you can show your cards to not only the dealer, but to all the other players at the table, and ask for help.  The dealer has to play every hand like what is called "the HOUSE way," meaning there are certain rules for when he can split pairs, and other little scenarios. 

Find a GREAT Pai-Gow Poker trainer here.

As one of the more trusted members of Aces Casino, the Orange County casino party company that strives for casino night party excellence, I'm here to tell you -- THIS game plays itself.  There aren't multiple bets like Let It Ride or Three-Card Poker, and there aren't complicated strategy sessions that you need to follow.  All you have to do is place the one bet in the lil' circle, get your cards, and ask for help.  It's like Beer Pong with playing cards, only you don't have to be accurate as to where you place your two hands of cards.  

When I found this out, I was instantly hooked on Pai Gow Poker.  The first nine hands, I had two wins, one loss, and six ties.  I was up a little less than one win (you DO have to pay a 5% vig on all winnings - That's how the casino obtains it's edge), but better yet, I was up TWO beers on the HOUSE.  I can EASILY beat the house out of it's 5% vig when I'm drinkin' LIGHT beer.  You dangle free beer in front of THIS Aces Casino Orange County casino party guy, and you're in trouble. 

And they were.  And so was I.

I played that game for about four hours, or so I'm told.  I had enough Light Beer to put me to sleep right next to Rip Van Winkle for 20 years, so I left my rental car at the Barbary, caught a taxi back over to my hotel, staggered back to my room, and when I woke up the next day, I discovered $440 in Barbary Coast chips in my pants' pocket on the floor of my room.  

Is THIS a great game, or WHAT?

Pai-Gow Poker was cemented into my Las Vegas "must-play" list forever.  Any time I'm looking for action, while also looking to put on my "buzz," I know where I'M headed.

One problem with Pai-Gow, though.  (Well, actually, TWO.)  When the game's fan base asked for a ten-question "College of Casino Game Knowledge" test regarding the game, we couldn't come up with one.  We tried, but this game makes Baccarat look like trigonometry.  We couldn't even come up with three good questions.  We DID try, but you wouldn't have liked them.

The OTHER problem with Pai-Gow?  I once accidentally sat down at a Pai-Gow table at Caesar's Palace that was using these gigantic tiles instead of playing cards.  I've since found out that this is the traditional Asian was of playing the game.  MY problem was, I didn't know what the tiles MEANT.  I do, NOW, but that doesn't matter.  Reason?

Easy.  Take it from Aces Casino, the Orange County casino night leaders...

NOTHING kills your light beer buzz worse than those Pai-Gow tiles.

Words to live by, right, Dennis?

That's all for this edition of the Parakeet Paper.  Thursday, by popular demand (Ed. Note: 4 crazy staff members that love Bond movies?), We'll bring back that "Aces College" column on Baccarat.   That ought to cure some internet insomnia.  We'll see you on Thursday, kids...

No comments:

Post a Comment