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The Balance of Power in Pai Gow Poker Two Pair Hands

By: Mark Freedman, Thursday April 16th 2015
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Pai Gow Poker is a game that centers around the balance of power between the high hand and the low hand. While a number of situations like high card hands and one pair hands can be played on auto-pilot with a very basic strategy that plays perfectly 100 percent of the time, most spots are so easy. One of the most common situations that's also particularly difficult to play is that with two pair hands. What we're going to do here is look at the resulting balance of power for these hands and how you should play them.

The problem with two pair hands is that you have to decide to keep the lower pair in the high hand or the low hand. If you have a good high card hand to put in the low hand, then it makes sense to keep the pair in the high. If you don't, however, then you'll probably want to split up the pairs. One way to figure out how to play these hands is through the use of a scoring system where you add the value of the cards that make up the two pairs. For example, if you had a pair of jacks and a pair of fives, then that would be 11 (for the jacks) + 5 (for the fives), which gives you a total of 16. This total tells you how to play the hand.

Totals of 17 should always split the pair. In these scenarios, the pairs are so strong that they can hold things down on their own regardless of the other cards in your hand. With totals that range from 12 to 16, you're almost always going to split. However, if you have an ace-high that you can put in the low hand, then you'll want to keep the pairs together in the high instead.

Scenarios with seven to 11 points will have you split the pairs unless you can put ace-high or king-high in the low. Finally, the worst scenarios where you have six or fewer points will have you split the pairs unless you can put queen-high, king-high or ace-high in the low. Sometimes you're going to have a really weak two pair with no decent high cards to put in the low, and you just have to split the pairs and hope for the best.

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