Pai Gow is a Chinese gambling game that has been played for centuries. The name, which translates to “make nine” or “card nine,” refers to the maximum point value in the game. Pai Gow is played with a set of 32 Chinese dominoes, also known as tiles, and is a common fixture in Chinese communities and casinos that cater to Asian players.
Despite the game’s long history, its exact origins are unclear. It’s generally believed that the game originated during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), a time when many other forms of gambling and card games were also developed in China. The game was traditionally played in China during festivals and celebrations.
The objective in Pai Gow is to arrange the dominoes into pairs and have the highest combination of pairs. The game is generally played with up to eight people who are playing against a banker. Each player receives four tiles and arranges them into two hands. The player wins if both of their hands have a higher ranking than both of the banker’s hands.
In the 1980s, an American version of the game called Pai Gow Poker was created, which combined elements of the ancient Chinese game and traditional American poker. This new version, invented by Sam Torosian in Los Angeles, uses a standard deck of cards instead of dominoes, but retains the concept of creating two hands and comparing them to the dealer’s hands to determine the winner. It has since become a staple in casinos both within the United States and internationally.
However, the original game of Pai Gow continues to be played and is a testament to the lasting influence of ancient Chinese culture and its traditional games.