Not to be confused with pai gow poker, pai gow is a Chinese gambling game, reputedly dating from the days before the Song Dynasty, which arose in Central China in the tenth century, which us played with a set of Chinese dominoes. The name ‘pai gow’ is an Anglicisation of the Cantonese phrase ‘páai gáu’, meaning ‘nine cards’.
A set of Chinese dominoes consists of 32 tiles, made up of eleven matched pairs of ‘civilian’ suit tiles and five unmatched pairs of ‘military’ suit tiles. Civilian suit tiles are known by names such as ‘heaven’, ‘earth’, ‘man’ and so on, and are ranked according to the cultural significance of their names. Generally speaking, military suit tiles are ranked by the total number of pips, or spots, but the 2-4 and 1-2 tiles, when played together, consistute the highest ranking pair, known as ‘Supreme’.
Each player receive four dominoes, which are arranged into a ‘high hand’ and a ‘low hand’, each consisting of two tiles. Starting with the betting position known as the ‘action hand’, determined rolling dice, players take turns to compete with the hands held by the designated player-dealer; to win, the player, or player dealer, must prevail in both hands.