According to the rules a player must make his five card high hand higher than his two card low hand. If he doesn't he has set a foul hand and his bet is forfeited (not playing five cards in the high hand and two cards in the low hand also causes the player to forfeit his bet). In setting his hand, a player wants to make his low hand as high as possible unless by doing so he overly sacrifices his high hand.
It is with these two dynamics in mind that casinos create their own house ways that determine how the dealer will set his hand and how he will advise (if asked) a player to set their hand. House ways are intended to be used by determining the highest five card hand out of the seven cards and then referring to that rule and following the instructions, that may or may not have the dealer use the strongest five cards in the high hand.
Play the highest card in the high hand. Then play the second and third highest card in the low hand. The remaining four cards will of course be played in the high hand.
Understanding the no pair rule is essential for understanding how to set your hand as it epitomizes the strategy of making your low hand as high as possible. We have obeyed the rules and made the high hand higher than the low hand by playing the ace in the high hand. But we have also made the low hand as high as it can be by playing the king and queen.
Play the pair in the high hand and then play the two highest singletons in the low hand.
The joker is an ace since there are no straights or flushes for it to complete. The pair of nines is played in the high hand, the ace and jack are played in the low and the remainder of the cards are relegated to the high hand.
The no pair and one pair rules are identical in every casino in the world because there is no other logical way to play those hands. The two pair rule often varies but most casinos (and players) seem to be gravitating towards the two pair rule I will present here.
The easiest way to remember and apply his rule is to count the number of aces in the hand.
If there is NO ACE the high pair must be sevens or higher to split the pairs.
The highest of the two pairs is sevens or higher so the two pairs will be split.
The highest of the two pairs is less than sevens, so the two pair will be kept together and the two highest singletons will be played in the low hand.
If there is ONE ACE
If there is one ace, then the high pair must be jacks or higher and the low pair must be sixes or higher for the pairs to be split.
The high pair is jacks or higher but the low pair is less than sixes, so the two pairs will be kept together. The ace and the highest available card will be played in the low hand.
The high pair is jacks or higher and the low pair is sixes or higher, so the pairs will be split, even though there is an ace.
If there is TWO ACES and any other pair, the aces will be played in the high hand and the smaller pair will be played in the low hand.
Yes, the joker is an ace. Yes, playing the king and queen up (in the low hand) would be almost as strong as a pair of deuces. And yes, the chances of the dealer being able to put an ace in the low hand is greatly diminished by the fact this hand contains two of the five aces. But still, this is the way most casinos would play this hand.
If there are THREE ACES then you are looking in the wrong place. Please refer to the three of a kind rule.
Play the highest of the three pairs in the low hand and the other two pairs in the high hand.
The high hand is still higher because it contains two pairs. We have certainly made the low hand as high as it can be. This player could only lose the low hand in the case of a copy tie.
Three of a kind
Three of a kind will always be kept together and played in the high hand with the exception of three aces. A pair of aces will be played in the high hand and the third ace will be played with the highest remaining card in the low hand.
The three of a kind are played in the high hand and the two highest singletons are played in the low hand.
Three aces are the only three of a kind to be split.
Two - three of a kind
A pair from the highest three of a kind will be played in the low hand.
When having a six card straight, use the highest card of the straight for the low hand.
When having a six card straight with a pair on either end: use the pair in the low hand.
When having a straight and two pair, disregard the straight and use the two pair rule when having jacks and sixes or higher, two pairs and an ace or a pair of aces and any other pair.
Jacks and sixes or higher.
Two pairs with an ace.
A pair of aces and any other pair.
The first two of the three flush rules are the same as the straight rule:
With a six card flush use the highest card in the flush for the low hand.
9-8 ain't much of a low hand but a flush is pretty much a flush and we take whatever opportunity possible to pump up the low hand.
With a six card flush and a pair, play the pair in the low hand.
I've seen plenty of people (including dealers) play A-7 in the low hand, forgetting the joker can be used to replace the seven of clubs.
Play straight instead of flush if an ace or king can be played in the low hand.
Since playing the flush will only get us an 8-6 in the low hand and playing the straight will get us K-8, we choose straight over flush.
Always split a full house and play three of kind in the high hand and a pair in the low hand.
Play three of a kind in the high hand and the pair for the low hand.
And of course, what would a rule be without an exception. In the case of a full house, the exception is when the pair is a pair of two's and the the singletons are A-K.
Play A-K in the low hand and keep the full house intact. When you think about it, A-K is just one rank below a pair of deuces.
In the case of a full house and an additional pair: play the highest pair in the low hand.
Four of a kind
Always play the four of a kind in the high hand if they are sixes or less.
The four sixes will be kept together and the two highest singletons will be played in the low hand.
Split four 7's, 8's, 9's or 10's unless an ace or a pair can be played in the low hand.
The high hand is still higher than the low hand because it contains singletons. In this case 7-7-K is higher than 7-7.
We split 7's - 10's unless we can play an ace up.
Split four jacks or higher unless a pair of sevens or higher can be played in the low hand.
If those sixes were sevens then we would keep the four jacks together.
Since the pair is sevens or higher, we keep the four aces together.
When a hand contains a six or seven card straight flush or a straight flush and two pairs: use the straight rule.
Play the straight or the flush instead of the straight flush when there is an ace or king to play in the low hand.
The choices are playing a king high straight flush with an 8-6 up or play a queen high straight with a K-6 up. Since an ace or king can be played in the low hand we play straight over straight flush.
Keep in the high hand unless:
There is a six or seven card straight flush and then play the highest cards in the low hand.
We play straight flush over royal flush because by doing so we can play A-6 up instead of 9-6.
If there are two pairs of tens or higher and then play the smaller pair in the low hand.
We play two pairs over royal flush when the pairs are tens or higher.
Play a straight or flush instead of a royal flush when a pair of tens or higher can be played in the low hand.
We played flush over royal flush because we can play a pair of tens up instead of 10-6.
Always split and play a pair of aces in the low hand unless there is a pair of kings.
As good as those pair of sevens might look in the low hand, they aren't kings, so a pair of aces is played in the low hand.
The only time you don't split up the best high hand in pai gow poker.