Face Up Pai Gow can be player friendly
February 27, 2019 3:00 AM
by Elliot Frome
Through the years, I’ve probably seen hundreds of table games. A few dozen have made it to the casino floor and probably no more than two dozen are considered any type of financial success.
One of the classic lines you get from many inventors is how their game is going to outperform Three Card Poker. It is very likely that no game will ever outperform Three Card Poker in terms of the number of tables. I’m not sure of its current count, but at its peak, there were about 2,000 tables.
Of course, there are probably more total tables out there today (of all titles), but there is also countless more titles than there were 10 or 20 years ago.
The point of all this is that if you want to make some money in table games, it might be nice to have the top selling game. But no one is going to corner the market with a single title.
There is a simple reason for this that is known as “Different strokes for different folks.” One needs to take only a quick peek at the casino floor to realize this is a reality. Maybe there are more Wheel of Fortune slots than any other type of slot, but it’s still a small percentage on its own.
Then, the other day, it hit me that one of the hottest games out there right now is Face Up Pai Gow Poker.
This is a game that essentially has zero strategy. So, has the pendulum swung the other way? I don’t think so as there are still new popular games like Free Bet Blackjack and Zombie Blackjack.
The original game of Pai Gow Poker was never one that involved a lot of strategy in the first place. The casino allows the player to ask that his hand be set according to the house way, which will get him to within about 0.25 percent of playing computer perfect.
Playing the house way will get you about 97.27 percent while playing computer perfect is 97.52 percent.
Playing computer perfect, however, is extremely difficult for a human to do. This is not the subtle difference of playing Queen High vs. Q-6-4 High in Three Card Poker.
Along comes Face Up Pai Gow to make it even easier, although this was not its main goal. Pai Gow Poker has a significant drawback where the casino is concerned. Winning hands pay 19 to 20 (i.e. a 5 percent commission) which has a tendency to slow the game down. Adding to this is that players who don’t quickly play the house way have a tendency to spend some time really thinking about how to play their hand.
Face Up Pai Gow solves both of these problems. First, the commission is done away with. If the dealer has an Ace High Pai Gow hand, the hand is automatically a push. This is a hand that the player would win most of the time. This compensates for the 5 percent and then some. That ‘and then some’ is where the other interesting part of the game comes in.
In Pai Gow Poker, the player gets his 7-card hand and has to decide how to play his hand without any knowledge of the dealer’s hand. In Face Up Pai Gow, the dealer sets and reveals his hand first. Now, the player can set the hand any way he wants that maximizes his bankroll.
Ideally, he sets the hand so that he beats the dealer on both hands and wins even money. It doesn’t matter how much he beats him by so all that time deciding should he play it this way or that way goes away.
If he can’t set his hand to win both the High and Low, then he tries to set it so that he wins at least one and can walk away with a push. Again, no hand wringing about how to set the hands. It doesn’t matter which one of the hands wins, as long as one does by any margin, it is a push.
Lastly, if the player realizes he can’t do either, he simply leaves his cards in one big pile of seven cards and surrenders his whole wager. All of this greatly speeds up the game.
Interestingly enough, the house advantage for Face Up is about 2/3 of the original. Casinos are okay with playing the game with a smaller advantage because the game speed is so much higher. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if players like the game more. Even though the original has a strategy, the casinos make very little from this.
While I like what Face Up has to offer relative to the original, I’m not sure that I could sit and play it for very long. I happen to be one of those guys who likes my games to have a lot of strategy. But as Face Up is showing up in more and more casinos, it only proves my original premise of “Different strokes for different folks.”
At Gaming Today we are dedicated to providing valuable up-to-date information on the casino industry and pari-mutuel race wagering. With news and features, plus expanded coverage in key areas – race and sports analysis, picks, tips, and handicapping.