How to Play Asia Poker

Björgvin Guðmundsson

Poker is one of the most popular card games in the world, and the number of variations of this classic game continues to grow each and every year. One of the games that is currently finding its way into more and more casinos is Asia Poker, which is based on the more well-known Pai Gow Poker. To an outsider, the game may appear intimidating, but in fact, it’s a very easy game to learn.


Find a casino that offers the game of Asia Poker. This isn’t blackjack, so you might not find this game at every casino, but in Atlantic City, for example, you can find tables at the Borgata and Bally’s.

Take a seat at the table, and buy your chips. The amount of money you’ll need will depend on the posted table minimum, but you should be able to find a $10 table during off-peak hours without too much difficulty.

Place your bet on the marked circle. Each hand, you are playing heads up against the dealer, with the winner taking all. Unlike Pai Gow Poker, there is no commission taken out of winning hands, so if you bet $25 dollars and win the hand, you will win $25.

Wait for the dealer to deal out all the cards. You will receive seven cards, face down, from a standard 52-card deck, plus one joker. Once the hand begins, you will need to sort your cards into three separate groups: a high-hand with four cards, a middle-hand with two cards, and a low-hand consisting of a single card. Place these hands on the marked location on your table.

Learn the ranks of hands in Asia Poker to help you figure out how to set your hand. For the four-card hand, the rankings are: four of a kind, royal flush, straight flush, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, one pair, high card. For the two-card hand, there are no flushes or straights. You either have a pair, or the hand is judged by the high card. For the one-card hand, the higher card wins.

Watch carefully as the dealer, once all the players have set their hands, turns over his/her cards and sets his/her own hand. Each casino has a written set of rules, called “house ways” which can be made available to any player who requests to see them. Using house ways prevents a dealer from cheating. There may be many different legal ways for a player may to set any hand he may receive, so this prevents a dealer from playing a seemingly “weaker” hand that might beat you when a seemingly “stronger” hand might actually end up losing.

Verify that the dealer has not made any mistakes when he decides who wins. The hands should be compared high versus high, middle versus middle, and low versus low. Whoever wins two out of the three comparisons is declared the winner. There are no “ties” in Asia Poker. If the dealer and the player have the same exact hand, the house is declared the winner. (This is to account for the fact that the player has a 50-50 chance to win any given hand, and gives the house its only edge in the game.)


  • It takes time to perfect the setting of hands, but you can always ask the dealer or floorperson for advice, as the dealer must use “house ways” and therefore gains no advantage by knowing your cards.

    To maximize your chances of winning, always go with the hand that has the strongest possible two-card hand. Most hands are either “top-heavy” with a strong four-card hand and a low single card or have an Ace as the single-card, which the dealer cannot lose. Therefore, it is likely that the only chance you have at winning your wager is to win the two-card hand comparison.


  • “House ways” help the casino to minimize their risk, and therefore may not always choose to play the strongest hand. Use them as a guide for your decisions, but recognize that it might be wise to go against them from time to time. Remember, you only have to beat the dealer. The dealer is trying to beat as many as six opponents.

    The joker may only be used as an “ace” or to finish a straight or flush. Don’t make the mistake of using it to finish a pair, as that may result in your hand being disqualified. When in doubt, ask the dealer.

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  • Björgvin Guðmundsson