History of Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker only made its debut in American casinos in the late 1980’s but it proved to be an immediate hit amongst poker and other card playing buffs. The probable reason for its enormous popularity is that it was allegedly first launched, with great success, by Californian casinos, where the incumbent Asian population is pretty sizeable.Paigow Poker

As with most card games the origin of Pai Gow Poker is a contentious one, but all experts do seem to agree on one thing, China is the unchallenged source of the relatively modern game.

Sam Torosian in Nevada?

The one version of Pai Gow’s origin claims the owner of the Bell Card Club in Las Vegas, Sam Torosian, created the new game from a Chinese card contest called Puy Soy, in an effort to rejuvenate his failing business. In Puy Soy players each receive 13 cards and then cut them into three poker hands which are played against a banker’s three hands. Torosian allegedly thought that a 13-card game would be far to slow, and he came up with the idea of a two hand game, one with five cards and one with two cards, which would be played against the banker’s hands.

He launched the fledgling poker, offering at only two tables in his card club, but by the end of the week, he had over 30 tables filled to the brim with Pai Gow enthusiasts. The game proved to be an unprecedented success and soon caught on at the prestigious Bicycle Club in LA, and the rest is casino card game history!

Torosian made one huge error of judgement, he never patented the newly conceived card game, and had he done so it is estimated that he would have been earning in the region of $70 000 per month!

Or Fred Wolf in California?

The second version of the origin of Pai Gow is the story of Fred Wolf. Pai Gow Poker is effectively the re-invention of the ancient tile game of Pai Gow, which has its origins in the Chinese hinterland. Translated into English, Pai Gow means ‘to make nine’, and although both versions share a common name, there are very few similarities between them. In Pai Gow the dealer splits the tiles into 4 groups and, with a roll of the dice, determines which tiles will be allocated to which player – this is virtually the only rule that has been brought forward into the new edition, although it has been tweaked here and there.

Current professional poker player, Fred Wolf, took the difficult and symbolic game of Pai Gow and converted it into the popular rendition it is to day. He replaced the conventional domino-like tiles with a standard 52-card deck, plus joker, and incorporated the traditional hand rankings of poker, and voila, we have one of the most popular versions of casino poker available in gaming houses throughout the world.

Wolf was the manager of the largest card room in the states, the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, when he came up with the idea of unleashing the innovative game of poker into the burgeoning casino and gaming market.