Chinese Poker: How to Play Chinese Poker

An Overview of Chinese Poker Game

Chinese poker has become quite popular among professionals. It is one of the games poker pros play at their down time. However, the game has started gaining traction and it is becoming a favorite of many at local poker rooms and at home games.


It is essential to point out that the game doesn’t use betting or chips, which means it is not exactly a poker game. Notwithstanding, it uses poker hands which is where it derived its name. Chinese Poker is played between two to four poker players. It entails a regular 52-card deck with a couple of methods to keep the score. In this article, we give a detailed overview of the standard Chinese Poker and Open Face Chinese Poker. We assure you it is going to be an enlightening read.


Let’s start with Open Face Chinese Poker. How is it played?

First, let us establish the fact that Open Face Chinese poker is becoming a big deal in the world of poker. As a matter of fact, it is becoming one of the fastest growing poker options in the industry. It was first introduced in Finland and within a short period of time, it began to gain ground and become accepted in the United States. Since its introduction into the U.S. market, it has begun to gain a lot of popularity in the poker community. Today, this game is one of the top favorite of many professional poker players across the world. The focus of the Open Face Chinese poker is similar to the standard Chinese poker.


In this game, each of the players has to make a set of three poker hands. From these three hands, two of them are 5-card poker hands while the other is a 3-card poker hand. Generally, the 5-card at the bottom has to be higher than the 5-card at the middle in value. In the same way, the middle hand should be higher in value than the 3-card or the top hand.


Open Face Chinese Poker vs. Standard Chinese Poker

Standard Chinese poker uses 13 cards while the Open Face version uses 5 cards at the start of the game. The 13 cards in the standard version are usually dealt at once and the cards are not shown when the hands are being set up. In Open Face Chinese Poker on the other hand, players don’t get all the 13 cards to start with. Instead, they start with five cards and they have to be played facing up.


After the initial set up with five cards facing up, each player will get cards one after the other and they must set the cards in a row before they receive the next card. They continue in this manner until each player receives 13 cards each.


Rules of Open Face Chinese Poker

Generally, Open Face Chinese Poker game involves two to four players at the table. On the other hand, the standard Chinese poker online has three handed tables. At the start of the game, a dealer button is utilized so as to determine the specific order of moves and action after each of the hands. However, there is an exception. This exception comes when a player is playing at the ‘Fantasyland’.


Now, you might want to ask; what does it mean for a player to be in ‘Fantasyland’? Well, a player is in a Fantasyland when the dealer’s button freezes until each player at the table plays standard Open Face Chinese Poker. It starts with the player that is at the left side of the button. Each of the players initially receives five cards, which they have to set. Now, the player at the left side of the button goes ahead to set his five cards facing up into any specific row he desires.


This process continues pending the time that player at the button acted. It is essential to mention that as soon as a player sets their hand and their turn is concluded, they cannot change that hand again. As mentioned earlier, each player receives five cards facing up at the beginning of the game. After these first five cards, the players are dealt another card. The new card is dealt starting from the player that is at the left side of the button. When the card has been dealt, it is placed and the action continues with the player with the button.


The game continues and each player is given one card each at every stage until each of the players has received and placed all the 13 cards. As soon as the last card has been dealt to each players and it is placed, they go ahead to compare the cards and then score their hands.


Scoring of Open Face Chinese Poker Game

It is important to mention that the process of scoring in the game of Open Face Chinese poker is performed through points. This is sometimes referred to as units. For instance, in a $1 Open Face Chinese poker game, each unit or point is worth $1. Let’s look at how this is being done.


Understand that the scoring is done through points. Below is the example.

  1. A player is given one unit for every hand they wins against an opponent
  2. When a player scoops all the three hands against their opponent, they get three bonus points or units
  3. When a player decides to surrender a hand, he has to pay two units/points to each of his opponents at the table
  4. When a player ‘fouls’ a hand, he has to pay six units/points to each of the players at the table that hasn’t foul.


Essentially, points are awarded to players at showdown through hand comparisons. How does this work? In a 3-handed game, the player that is to the left side of the button would be the first to compare and the comparison will continue in a clockwise manner. A situation is called ‘foul’ when a player’s hands are not properly set in an orderly fashion. For instance, let’s say a player plays trip threes at the middle and then two pair at the bottom. This is a clear case of foul. When a ‘foul’ occurs, the player affected will have to forfeit the bonuses they might have received up till the time it occurs.


Royalties in Open Face Chinese Poker

These are bonus units that are paid to each of the players at the table for attaining specific hands. It is essential to mention that bonuses in Open Face Chinese poker are more generous because the gaming hands are usually weaker than the regular Chinese poker.


Let’s look at Royalties for the bottom hand

  • Royal Flush: +25 Units/Points
  • Straight Flush: +15 Units/Points
  • Quads: +10 Units/Points
  • Full House: +6 Units/Points
  • Flush: +4 Units/Points
  • Straight: +2 Units/Points


Royalties for the middle hand

  • Royal Flush: +50 Units/Points
  • Straight Flush: +30 Units/Points
  • Quad: +20 Units/Points
  • Full House: +12 Units/Points
  • Flush: +8 Units/Points
  • Straight: +4 Units/Points
  • Set: +2 Units/Points


Royalties for the top hand

  • Trip Aces: +22 Units/Points
  • Trip Kings: +21 Units/Points
  • Trip Queens: +20 Units/Points
  • Trip Jacks: +19 Units/Points
  • Trip Tens: +18 Units/Points
  • Trip Nines: +17 Units/Points
  • Trip Eights: +16 Units/Points
  • Trip Sevens: +15 Units/Points
  • Trip Sixes: +14 Units/Points
  • Trip Fives: +13 Units/Points
  • Trip Fours: +12 Units/Points
  • Trip Threes: +11 Units/Points
  • Trip Deuces: +10 Units/Points
  • Aces: +9 Units/Points
  • Kings: +8 Units/Points
  • Queens: +7 Units/Points
  • Jacks: +6 Units/Points
  • Tens: +5 Units/Points
  • Nines: +4 Units/Points
  • Eights: +3 Units/Points
  • Sevens: +2 Units/Points
  • Sixes: +1 Units/Points


It is important to note that bonuses in Open Face Chinese Poker are paid at the point of comparison. For instance, aces at the top in a 3-handed game will naturally net the player holding it some nine units from each of the players at the table. Additionally, bonuses are paid irrespective of whether or not a player wins at that row. Furthermore, bonuses in the game of Open Face Chinese poker negate each other. For instance, when two players hit the quads at the bottom, there will be no bonus paid to the players.


Rules of Fantasyland in Open Face Chinese Poker

Basically, the rules of Fantasyland apply in some Open Face Chinese poker. In order to enter Fantasyland, a player has to make better or queens in their top hand and they must not foul. This is where it gets interesting. When a player meets this condition, they are dealt with the entire 13 cards all at once and they can set the hand just as in standard Chinese Poker hand. A player in Fantasyland is not required to have their cards shown to the whole table until other players have acted and completed their own hands.


Also of import is the fact that a player may remain in the Fantasyland if they are able to make trips at the top hand. Another option is to make a full house or better in quads or the middle hand, or better at the bottom hand.


Open Face Chinese Poker Variation

There is a popular variant of Open Face Chinese poker that is referred to as Pineapple. Now, the major difference between the Pineapple variation and the standard Open Face Chinese is in the number of cards that are presented after they have been dealt. Both games begin with five cards at the first dealing. However, players in Pineapple variation receive three cards in subsequent rounds. From these three cards, the players are required to set two cards and discard the other one.


Another major difference between Pineapple variation and the regular Open Face Chinese poker is that a play involves five different rounds as opposed to nine. Additionally, each of the players goes through seventeen cards instead of fifteen cards. The implication of this is that Pineapple Open Face Chinese poker is often played with a maximum of three players. Every other thing – Fantasyland, scoring, and bonuses rules, apply just as in the standard Open Face Chinese poker. Simply put, Pineapple is a faster paced variation that has continued to develop significantly at the online platform. It has begun to enjoy great following online.


Whether you are just starting out in the game or you are an experienced poker player, you can play Open Face Chinese Poker game online. You can play it on your Smartphone or any other mobile device. Simply download the app on your mobile device and follow the prompting. As soon as you complete the set up, you are ready to start gaming from the comfort of your home. There are various platforms online that offer this game. You can check through the online platforms to see the site that has the perfect playing terms that you prefer. It is important to mention that if you are just starting out in the game, it is recommended that you play the free mode to gain skills before you start playing for real money.


Standard Chinese Poker

First, the dealer shuffles the cards after which he deals out the deck of cards into four different hands with 13 cards in each hand. Now, if you have four players at the table, each of the players gets one hand each. However, if there are three players at the table, only three hands are used. The remaining hand (fourth hand) is discarded and not used. In a game where there are two players, each of the players gets one hand and then reserve the second hand for the next hand. This saves the dealer from having to deal the card again at the next round. It is crucial to mention that a player is only permitted to check his own card and not that of his opponent. Now, if there are two players at the table, a player can only look at his current hand that he is playing and not the one in reserve.


How are Scores kept in Chinese Poker?

In this game, there is no raising or betting. Every player at the table agrees on a specific point value. For instance, it may be $1 per point. Each player receives 13 cards each. When the cards are received, the players go ahead to organize their cards into three different poker hands. One of the poker hands will have three cards while two will have five cards. There is a rule though; the 3-card hand must be the worst hand, and the middle 5-card must be better than the 3-card hand, while the last 5-card hand must be better than both of the two hands.


As soon as each player is done with setting of their hands, they are required to turn over their hands and compare them with each hand of other players at the table. Now, each hand is equivalent of one point against one another. If a player beats someone at all the three hands, this is called a scoop and it is equivalent to three-point bonus.


Selecting Hand in Chinese Poker Game

Generally, the hand in the game contains a total of 13 cards. Each player is responsible for breaking their 13 cards into three different hands. These include bottom, middle, and top hand. The bottom hand has to be a 5-card poker hand and it has to be the best hand out of all the three hands that a player has selected. The middle hand has to be a 5-card poker hand and it has to be worse compared to the bottom hand. However, it has to be stronger than the top hand. Meanwhile, the top hand had to be a 3-card hand and had to be the worst hand out of all the three.


Let’s take a cursory look at the hands.

5-Card Hand: This follows the ranking of the regular poker hand. In case you don’t know what the regular poker hand is, it is recommended that you read up a bit about it. This will give you the full detail of what it entails and how to play it.

3-Card Hand: 3-card hand in Chinese poker can only be triples, pair, or high card. Generally, there are no straights or flushes permitted for 3-card hand.


Scoring and Showdowns in Chinese Poker

When all the players have sorted out their hands, the scoring of hands is immediately done. When scoring, you have to compare each hand (that is, bottom, middle, or top) to the hand of every other player at the table, bearing in mind that the hand must be the same. The hand that has better value earns a point against the player that has the weaker hand. Let’s look at an example.


Let’s say one player has Full House and the second player has Flush for the Bottom hand. And, the first player has Two Pair and the second has Straight for middle. Lastly, the first player has a Pair also known as Kings and the second player has a Pair known as Fours.


In this setting, the first player wins the bottom with one point and the second player wins the middle with one point. At the top hand, the first player wins and gets one point. For this specific hand, the first player won two points and the second player won only one point. Since the second player’s point is a ‘wash’ with one of the fist player’s, the normal thing to do is to maintain a track of the profit. Therefore, you can say that the first player has netted one point.


In a scenario where you have more than two players, each of the players will evaluate their hand against the other players at the table. Let’s look at an example of this too.


At the bottom hand, let’s assume the first player has Full House with 10-Full, and the second player has a Flush with 9-High, and the third player has a Straight with an Ace-High, and the fourth player has Two Pair with Aces and 4’s. At the middle hand, the first player has Two Pair with 7’s and 8’s and the second player has a Straight with King-High, and the third player has Two Pair with Queens and 5’s, while the fourth player has a Pair with Jacks. Now at the top, the first player has High Card with King, and the second player has Pair with 2’s, and the third player also has a High Card but with Ten, and the fourth player has a Pair with 9’s.


Now, it is critical to understand that when you have four players at the table, keeping track of the score can be a bit tricky. Therefore, you have to be careful and look for the easiest way out. The best way to go about this is to allow each of the players to keep track of their scores against the other players at the table. Here, each player is responsible for keeping track of their scores.


When comparing cards for each hand, it is recommended that you start at the dealer’s space. Then compare his cards with the other player at his left side. For each hand that is won, a player gets a point. Also, if a player beats another player in the entire three hands, it is called a scoop. The player that wins the hand will receive a 3-point bonus.


After comparing the dealer’s hand to the player to his left, compare the dealer’s hand to the third player and then the fourth player. Next, compare the second player’s hand with the third and fourth players’ hand and then compare the third player’s hand to the fourth player. At the end of this game, each of the players would have to settle with every player individually. Looking at the above, it is very clear that it can be really tricky to score four players at the table. This is why it is recommended that each player track their own hands instead of everyone tracking every other player’s hand.


No doubt, scoring four players is very involved but with fewer players, you have easier job of scoring. Each player should be focused on their totals and keep track of their performance. This is because at payout, each player will have to settle individually against every other player at the end of the game.


Special Rules of Chinese Poker

First, understand that there are also variations in the hands as well as rules in the game of Chinese poker. Let’s take a look at Scooping and Foul Hand.


When a player wins all the three hands against a single player, this is called scoop. Usually, the winning player will earn a bonus. Now, it is important to mention that the standard bonus is basically double points. Fouled Hand on the other hand refers to a situation where a player has an illegal quantity of cards or sorted the hand against the gaming rules in a particular hand. In this scenario, the opponents in the game scoop.


Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Lowball in the Middle

In Lowball in the Middle, instead of the middle 5-card hand as the standard poker hand, a player can play with middle hand. This is referred to as 2-7 Lowball hand.

  • Whereas at many tables, some players grant royalties to a player that has royalty worthy hand, royalties are generally awarded to players that win the comparison for the hand. For instance, if a player has quad 6’s and the second player has quad 7’s, in this case, only the second player gets royalty.
  • Many players also make it more complex by attaching diverse amounts of points to specific royalty.
  • Essentially, the rules for awarding points in Chinese poker are not rigid. It all depends on the players. You can set the rules with the players at your table. You and the other players can decide to play any system, and set any combination of rules you like. However, everyone at the table must agree with the rules before the dealer deals the card.


Understanding Chinese Poker Royalties

When many people play Chinese, they play with bonuses or royalties. Of course, there is a huge number of variants in the different types of royalties a player can play. Let us look at some of the most generally played royalties.

Strong Hands: These are basically quads or better at the bottom, trips at the top, and a full house or better at the middle. With these, you earn a royalty.

13-Card Hands: These make one 13-card hard, that is, straight from 2-A. Generally, such hands will scoop irrespective of the hand in relation to hand comparison.

Three-of-the-Same: This is another form of the 13-card hand. It contains three straights and three flushes.

No People: This is also a 13-card hand. This involves being dealt the 13 cards without one single card facing down.

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