Evaluation of the Fortune Bonus side bet in Pai Gow Poker.
Casino games come in all shapes, sizes and profitability levels. You have your common games that everyone is familiar with, like blackjack, roulette and slot machines. Then you have your niche-player games that only certain players tend to gravitate to. Fortune Pai Gow Poker is one of the latter.
Fortune Pai Gow Poker is a descendant of two other traditional gambling games. Pai Gow is the ancient Chinese version, played with tiles. Pai Gow Poker is the North American version, utilizing playing cards. The addition of the word ‘Fortune‘ in the title refers to an optional side bet that can pay as much as $8,000 for a $1 bet.
Fortune Bonus Side Bet in Pai Gow Poker
If there’s one thing that’s true of every side bet (a.k.a. proposition bet) in the gambling world, it’s that they’re all sucker bets. They are long-shot wagers with a high house edge. They are tempting because they are usually cheap, and boast enormous payouts if they happen to strike. But the odds are so far against players, casinos are guaranteed to bank a lot more money than they pay out on them.
The Fortune side bet in Pai Gow is no different. Before I explain why, let’s take a quick look at the basic rules of the game.
In the standard game, players are tasked with setting two hands—a 2-card hand and 5-card hand—from the 7 cards they are dealt. The object is to create high enough ranking hands to beat the dealer’s two hands. The Fortune bet has nothing to do with these hands, or whether the player wins/loses them. It is based entirely on the 7 cards that are dealt to the player to start the hand.
If a player can create a high enough hand rank using all 7 of these cards, the side bet will pay out according to its pay table. Players will need at least a 5-card Straight to win on the side bet. Pay tables will vary from one live or online casino to the next.
At Royal Vegas and other Microgaming-powered brands, a Straight is worth 2 to 1. Anything higher will deliver a larger payout, up to the highest 8000 to 1 for a 7-card Straight Flush. The standard 5-card Royal Flush will net 150 to 1.
The real question is, are any of these payouts worth the minimum $1 bet you’ll place to qualify?
No Fortune in Pai Gow Poker Side Bet
Unfortunately, there is no fortune in the Pai Gow Poker side bet—not for players, anyway. The only profitability here goes to the casino that’s hosting the game, and suckering players into making this bet.
All in all, the house edge on the Fortune Bonus side bet is 7.77% at online casinos. That’s a lot worse than the standard house edge of 2.77% in the base game. Wasting your money on this wager is almost as bad as betting on a tie in baccarat. Just don’t do it.
At a land-based casino, the side bet’s edge can be reduced. When playing among other players, there is an Envy Bonus (requires $5 Fortune side bet) attached to the Fortune Bonus. This extra pay table will deliver a smaller payout whenever one of the other players at the table is dealt at least a 5 of a Kind.
As such, each additional player at the table reduces the overall house edge on the side. However, most live casinos don’t employ as generous a pay table as Microgaming’s online casinos. With that table, a 6-player game would drop the edge to 3.13%. Most live casinos will apply a pay table that carries a minimum 5.3% edge on full tables. So again, it’s a bad choice. Making this bet is akin to choosing American Roulette (5.26%) over European Roulette (2.7%). You just don’t do it.