A relative of Pai-Gow Poker, this game is played in private gambling casinos in the Philippines and in one or two public casinos in Manila. Pusoy (pronounced "poo-soy") is also played in home games in both the Philippines and Hawaii. It is loaded with action and requires more skill than Pai-Gow. In fact, it is such a good game that it really deserves worldwide attention. Unlike Pai-Gow, where tied hands are frequent, in Pusoy no result between a player and dealer can end in a standoff - there is always a payoff.
An unusual feature of this gambling game is that it is inflexible as to the number of players - exactly four are required for casino play. Two or three persons, however, can play in a home game.
A player's goal is to form two or three winning Poker hands from the 13 cards that are dealt. There is a hand of five cards, called the "back" hand, another hand of five cards, called the "middle" hand, and a hand of three cards, called the "front" hand. To win the bet, two out of three of a player's hands must beat the three hands of the dealer. If all three hands beat the dealer's three hands, the player wins double the bet. If only one hand wins, the player loses the bet. If all three hands lose to the dealer, the player loses double the bet. A loss or win of double the bet is called a "pusoy," which in the main language of the Philippines means "zero," since one side wins none of the three hands played.
A basic knowledge of Poker is needed to play Pusoy. The hands rank as in Poker, from a royal straight flush down to no pair. While A, 2, 3, 4, 5 is the second highest straight in Pai-Gow, it has no special standing in Pusoy because no joker is used. Thus, it is the lowest ranking straight. For the three-card hand, straights and flushes do not count. Thus, the highest "front" hand is three aces, and the lowest is four-high (4, 3, 2).
The players buy chips for cash, and each player bets by placing one or more chips in a designated area in front of him. The minimum and maximum bets are established by the casino, or in a home game, by all the players.
In the home game, each player picks a card from a shuffled pack spread face down. The highest card deals first (Ace is highest). Thereafter, the turn to deal passes to the left. The dealer shuffles the cards thoroughly and selects one player for the cut. That player separates the deck into two packets, and the dealer completes the cut.
The dealer deals out the entire deck out one card at a time, face down, clockwise, beginning with the player to his left. The players will have 13 cards each.
Each player picks up his hand and arranges it to make three poker hands: the "back" hand of five cards must outrank the "middle" hand of five cards, which must outrank the "front" hand of three cards. When a player is satisfied with his arrangement, he places the "back" (five-card) hand face down farthest from the center of the table. The "middle" (second five-card) hand is placed next face down, and the "front" (three-card) hand is placed closest to the table's center.
All players at the table, including the dealer, are responsible for setting their hands, and no other player may assist. Once any player has placed all three hands, he is not permitted to touch the cards again.
When all four participants have finished setting up and placing their hands as detailed above, the dealer turns up his three hands, and the players do likewise. Beginning with the player to the left, the dealer compares that player's three hands to his own by mentioning the poker hands for each and indicating who has won two out of the three hands, or three out of three. The dealer then collects or pays off single or double accordingly. The dealer does this for the next player to the left and then for the last player. If one of the player's hands and the dealer's corresponding hand are exactly tied, the dealer wins. For example, if both the "middle" hands are A, A, 10, 9, 6, the dealer wins that hand.
Once all bets are settled, the cards are gathered by the dealer and prepared for the next round. If the deal rotates, as in the home game, the cards are collected, and handed over to the next dealer for preparation.
Often it is a good strategy to split two pairs. If there is a chance to make a full house, a player should use three-of-a-kind for a five-card hand and the pair for the other five-card hand or for the three-card hand.
The skill and the fun of Pusoy is similar to Pai-Gow: Should the player make two fairly good hands and one relatively poor one? Or, should he make one outstanding hand and two fair ones to try and eke out a second winner? Or, should the player make three reasonably good hands and hope to win on two somehow, or at least not lose on all three? It is important to note, though, that the back hand must be better than the middle hand, which must be better than the front hand. If this rule is violated, the participant's hands are fouled (called "totyo" in the Philippines), and the player at fault automatically loses double the bet.
Two popular variations of Pusoy are often played, and participants should decide before the session begins whether either or both options will be used:
In this variation, a player or dealer who thinks he has poor cards may concede and pay the single bet. This avoids the possibility of a "pusoy"- paying double the amount bet for losing on all three hands. If the dealer is considering surrender, he should make no sign of it until the players have indicated their intentions. Once a player has placed his three hands, it is too late to surrender. When a player does surrender, the dealer immediately collects that player's bet, and the player's cards are left unseen. When the dealer surrenders, he pays only those players who have not surrendered-that is, only those participants still in the game.
In this delightful variation, a player who is dealt an unusually good combination may expose it before the settlement period begins and immediately win "royalties" or single the bet. The combinations that fit into this category are: a straight flush, four-of-a-kind, or six pairs. Note that the player does not have to declare royalties. Instead, he may continue to play by setting up the three poker hands and possibly earning double the bet by winning on all three.