How to Play Open Face Chinese Poker: Rules, Strategy & Odds
Chinese Poker has been mildly popular throughout the years, being one of those niche card games that some people can’t get enough of, and others could do without altogether. However, a new variation of the game has emerged, and it is taking the poker world by storm. I’m talking about Open-Face Chinese Poker; a game that has snagged the attention of esteemed poker pros like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and many others.
In many ways, the rules of Open-Face Chinese Poker are closely aligned with that of its predecessor. All players are working on their own behalf (no teams) and each is given 13 cards with which to develop 3 hands (two 5-card hands and one 3-card hand), each descending in rank. However, there can be 2, 3 or 4 players, the way in which the cards are dealt is dramatically altered and, combined with a bolstered royalty-based scoring system, the dynamics of the card game are changed completely.
In Open-Face Chinese Poker, each player is initially dealt only 5 cards, not all 13. After studying these cards, they are required to place them face up on the table in any of the three hand positions they wish. They could place all five into a single hand, or split them amongst the five and three card poker hands however they wish. From this point on, 1 card is dealt to each player at a time. The card must be placed face up in one of the hand positions before the game proceeds with the deal of the next card until all players have 13 cards arranged into three complete hands.
Once a card is placed, it cannot be moved to another hand group, and if the hands do not follow the precise order of descending ranks, the hand is deemed foul. A fouled hand is automatically scooped, meaning it is a complete loss and cannot earn any points or royalties. This happens very often in Open-Face Chinese Poker, with the majority of hands ending in no points earned for any player.
The three hands to be developed are the Bottom Hand, the Middle Hand and the Top Hand. The bottom hand must contain 5 cards and must be the strongest of all three hands. The middle hand also contains five cards and must be weaker than the bottom hand, but stronger than the top hand. The top hand contains only three cards and may only result in a high card, pair or three of a kind (there is no three-card flush or straight option), and it must be weaker than the bottom and middle hand. If the ranks do not descend properly, the hand is deemed foul.
Players are scored based on their number of winning hands versus each individual player. Players can also receive royalty points by achieving strong enough hands in each position. Because Open-Face Chinese Poker is such a new game, there is no standard set of royalty points surrounding the game. Individual casinos who offer Open-Face Chinese Poker will have their own set of rules regarding the royalty system.
Traditional points are scored by beating your opponents in at least two of the three hands. Having two winning hands and one losing hand scores 2 points. Having two winning hands and a tie on the third scores 4 points. If all three hands win, the player scoops the hand, earning 6 points.
All hands are compared against each individual opponent. This means that a player may lose against one opponent, but beat the other opponent. Every point is worth one betting unit. If the betting units are $10, then a player who loses by 2 points against one player would pay them $20, but they may have won against another player by 3 points, thereby receiving $30.
When you add in the royalties, the points can multiply to monumental heights, making Open-Face Chinese Poker much more interesting, and certainly more lucrative, than a standard game of Chinese Poker. Based on the most common Open-Face Chinese Poker royalty system, players can earn anywhere from 2 to 100 points based on the strengths of each individual hand.