A Detailed Guide on Chinese Poker Game

Last updated on : 01 Jan, 1970

Guide on Chinese Poker Game

With the increasing popularity of poker game around the globe, more and more people are taking an interest in playing this game professionally. And there is more keenness than ever to try out different poker game variants than ever before. The result has been that many different poker game variants like open face Chinese poker (ofc poker) or the traditional Chinese poker are gaining popularity.


Are you new to poker? You can try your hand at this ofc game or the normal Chinese poker game as it is very easy to understand. You will be able to learn it in quick time. And since this game involves more luck, it shall give beginners like you a great chance of winning some money against better poker players as well.


Ok, if you are not a beginner and have played quite a lot of poker, even then you must try this game of Chinese poker as it is quite different to your other popular poker games like Omaha, Stud, Texas Hold’em, etc. that you might be playing. Of course, Chinese poker is lesser known and not as popular as those games, but, you are sure to enjoy playing it and have a different type of experience. Moreover, it’s a game that does not involve betting. Yes, you read it right! Instead of bets, Chinese poker points are used to manage the scoring of players.


Want to know more about all of this related to the traditional Chinese poker and its highly popular variant – open face Chinese poker? Read further as we shall cover everything you would need to start playing Chinese poker and start winning!


Overview of Chinese Poker, and what makes it different?


We have mentioned above that Chinese poker is quite different from other popular poker game variants. So, what exactly is different about this game? Let us check out some major differentiating points for Chinese poker below:


  • For starters, as many as 13 cards are dealt to each player who is on the table to play chinese poker.
  • From the initial cards dealt to you in Chinese poker, you form three different hands, thereby giving you three different chances to win against the opponents (during comparison of each of those hands).
  • As mentioned earlier, the points system is used in place of bets to determine the winner and loser.


It is believed that this game has been played in China for several players, but, the world has got exposed to it only in recent decades. In fact, its first major professional appearance to the Western side of the world happened in 1995, when Chinese poker was introduced in the WSOP (World Series of Poker). It was part of the event schedule for WSOP for two years and then taken off. But, that was enough for the game to get a decent number of eyeballs and get its own loyal audience who liked this poker game with a difference.


The chinese poker game has been known well in Asia, and in recent years it has grown in popularity in the other regions of the world.


How to Play Chinese Poker?


While a lot of things about this game are quite different, it does consider the same poker hand rankings for determining the winner while the comparison of hands between players. So, you have to arrange the three hands for your cards in order of the below poker hand rankings (from highest to low) while playing poker tournaments.

  • Royal Flush
  • Straight Flush
  • Four of a Kind
  • Full House
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • Three of a kind / set
  • Two pair
  • One pair
  • High Card


As you are dealt with 13 cards in Chinese poker, you have to divide them into three hands:


  • One hand of 3 cards (known as top or front hand)
  • Second hand of 5 cards (known as middle hand)
  • Third hand of 5 cards (known as bottom or back hand)


Your objective is clear – to mandatorily have your bottom hand as the best out of all three hands, followed by the middle hand being the next best, and then the top hand. The above discussed poker hand rankings are suited for the standard five-card poker hand. So, what about the three-card hand that you form in Chinese poker?


For the three-card hand, you cannot make any flushes or straights. For this hand, the only possible hand rankings/combinations are:


  • Three of a kind
  • One Pair
  • High Card


The golden rule for this game of Chinese poker is as follows:


“If you manage to get all flushes or all straights for the three hands, then you are the default winner for the entire hand, regardless of the holdings of your opponents.”


Since you are now aware about the basic objective of this game along with the poker hand rankings applicable for both five-card hands and three-card hands, let us go through the steps involved during actual gameplay.


  • Just like betting is not involved in this game, blinds or antes are also not used for open face Chinese poker or the traditional one. Before the game begins, all the involved players will mutually agree upon a pre-determined monetary amount called ‘units’.
  • Another agreement required before the start of play between players is to decide upon the rule with regards to allowing players to ‘surrender’. This is optional, but you can pre-decide certain amount (points) that a player who is opting to ‘surrender’ will give if he/she does not play a particular hand against the opponents. That particular player who ‘surrenders’ will not get any bonus points (royalties) if those are applicable for that round. Similarly, that player will miss out from gaining any points if another player does a foul.


  • A player becomes the dealer for the first round and deals 13 cards to all the players on the table, starting from the one who is seated immediately left to him/her. Now for the next round (next hand), the player who is situated immediately clockwise to the current hand dealer will become the new dealer.


  • This game is often played between two to four players. If there are four players, every player will be dealt with 13 cards. However, if there are just three players, one set of 13 cards is left unused (discarded), and the other three receive their set of 13 cards. If there are just two players involved, each of them received their respective set of 13 cards, while the other two sets of 13 cards are kept aside for their usage for the next hand (thus the dealer has to deal less in case of two players).


  •  As discussed above, you need to form three different hands from the 13 cards received. Your bottom hand has to be the best of the three hands, followed by the middle one being the second best, and then the top hand being the worst of the lot. If you fail to do so, you are likely to incur certain penalties during scoring, which involves giving away three points to every other player who has not surrendered.


  • As soon as you have decided your three hands, you can go ahead and place each hand (with cards face-down) on the table. You have to follow a sequence for others to understand which hand corresponds to the three hands we discussed. For example, the bottom hand has to be placed closest to you, followed by your middle hand, and finally, the top hand.


  • Now, every player gets his / her turn to suggest whether they will play the hand or surrender. The round starts with the player who is situated immediately left of the dealer, followed by the player who is immediately next to him/her in that specific direction.


  • Following this very same sequence of player turns, each player will take turns to announce the royalties.


  • Now, every player will turn their hands by keeping their cards face-up and compare every hand with the players who are playing and have not surrendered.


  • During the comparison, points (units) are allocated to all the players who are playing by determining the winning hands. Every hand comparison is worth a single point against each player in the game. If your top hand beats the top hands of all the 3 players, you will get a maximum of 3 points. Same goes for each of the three hands. Will discuss scoring separately below. This finalization of the Chinese poker points (scoring) is the last step for that particular hand.


Understanding the Chinese Poker Scoring System


As seen in the final step for every hand of the Chinese poker gameplay, points are allocated /deducted to each player depending on how many winning and losing hands they have (against every other player) for each of the three hands. The points are accumulated for every round, and the settlement is done at the end.


For every hand of yours, you get a point allocated if it beats the corresponding hand of one player, and you lose a point if it loses to the corresponding hand of a player. For better understanding, let us consider an example where your top hand is better than top hand of two other players (giving you 2 points), but is less than top hand of the last player (taking away 1 point).


Your final points total for top hand = 2 – 1 = +1


The same calculation is done for the middle hand and for the bottom hand. Other than these points, you can also win some bonus points and royalties, the system for which can be decided before the start of the game. If you happen to beat all the other players in each of the three hands, you are said to have done a ‘scoop’.


Popular Chinese Poker Game Variants

  • Open Face Chinese Poker (Ofc Poker)


This ofc game is a popular variant of Chinese poker. Most things like the forming of three hands, order/sequence of play from the immediate left of the dealer, rules related to foul, etc. remain the same. Here, the big difference is right at the start. Every player is dealt with five cards instead of 13 cards at once. They can place these five cards on the table in their preferred row with the objective being the same as that for Chinese poker.


Once they place these five cards, they will draw/pick up one card (at a time) from the deck and keep it face-up on the table in their bid to form their three different hands (top, middle and bottom). This process will be followed to ensure every player has drawn a total of 13 cards and placed them face-up on the table to form their three hands. Of course, you have to follow the same rule of having the best possible bottom hand, with the middle hand being next best and the top hand being the worst. But, it is much more difficult to do it in open face Chinese poker as compared to traditional poker. This is because you do not have all the 13 cards at the start to decide these hands in a better way. Clearly, your chances of doing a fault or mis-set increase significantly with open face Chinese poker.


Conditions for Foul and Surrender


When a do a foul in this ofc game, you have to give 6 units to each of the players who don’t foul. And if you surrender a hand, you have to give 2 units to each of the players who don’t surrender. These terms can be agreed before the game begins.


Fantasy Land – the Additional Component


There is an additional excitement with the open face Chinese poker because of the opportunity to enter ‘Fantasy Land’. So, what does this mean? Well, if you happen to form a pair of Qs (Queens) or higher without committing any foul with your top hand, then, you are considered to have entered ‘Fantasy Land’. Once you manage to enter this, you get a big edge over all other opponents in the next hand of open face Chinese poker. This benefit is that you will be dealt all the 13 cards at once initially in your next hand.


Not only will you get to see all your 13 cards initially and decide your best hand combinations, but you will also be able to keep them hidden from all other players till they manage to finish their hand arrangement on the poker table.


Once you are inside the ‘Fantasy Land’, you can continue to remain in it even for the next hand by achieving any one of the following:


  •  Quads or higher in your back hand (bottom hand)
  • Full house or higher in the middle hand
  • Trips in your front hand (top hand)
  • Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker (POFC Poker)


This poker game is very similar to ofc poker, but it can be played only between a maximum of three players. Just like Ofc poker, every player is dealt with five cards initially. But, after that, every player receives three cards at a time, out of which you need to place two cards face-up on the poker table (to form your hands), and one card has to be discarded face-down. This game requires less number of turns (only five) to deal all the 13 cards, as compared to the nine turns required for dealing all the cards in open face Chinese poker. And once you enter ‘Fantasy Land’ in this poker game variant, you will receive 14 cards in your next hand at once, out of which you will discard one card.


The Verdict

Chinese poker is a unique poker game that gives you multiple opportunities to win points against every other opponent who is playing on the table. The gameplay is quite simple and straight-forward once you have played any other popular poker game or have a good understanding of the poker hand rankings/combinations. This game is slowly catching up with other popular versions, and one of the reasons is the ‘winning’ chance it gives even to beginners in poker.


You can start playing the Chinese poker or its variants like ofc poker of pineapple ofc poker at online poker platforms like Spartan Poker. Just download the application of Spartan Poker and start enjoying a different poker game!

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