Chinese Poker

Chinese Poker

Have you been playing poker for a long time? Want to try a Poker game variant which is not similar to some of the popular ones like Texas Hold’em, Omaha, or Stud? Then, you can try out Chinese Poker online even if you are a beginner


The reason for exploring this is because it is very different to other Poker game variants. At the same time, you can play this game and enjoy it by being familiar with the traditional poker hand rankings. It is a rare variant of poker where there is no betting involved.


You get multiple opportunities to do well. How? Well, you are dealt with 13 cards at the start of every round of gameplay, instead of the starting two cards that are dealt in most variants. And since Chinese Poker gives you the chance to arrange these 13 cards into three different hands – two hands comprising of 5 cards and one hand comprising of 3 cards. Your aim is to make the best possible card holdings for each of these three hands. It is totally up to you about how you can arrange those cards for giving yourself the best possible chance to win each of those hands.


Clearly, this game has more luck involved. And this is why you don’t need to be a poker pro player to excel in this game. All you have to do is have a solid understanding of the poker hand rankings before you start playing this game!

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Overview of Chinese Poker Rules


One of the major differences for Chinese Poker game is experienced right at the start of the game -when you receive 13 cards instead of the maximum four cards that are possibly dealt with other poker variants. The other difference is that there are no bets to be placed during the various rounds of play. In place of the bets, points are utilized to score in the game.


Once the cards are dealt, you divide them into top hand (3 cards arrangement), middle hand (5 cards arrangement), and the bottom hand (5 cards arrangement). The same is done by every player in this this game (which can be played between 2 to 4 players).


You can either surrender or opt to play your hand. Similarly, other players can start to reveal their holdings in clockwise direction. These hands will be measured against the corresponding hands of other players – for example all top hands are compared, all medium hands are compared, and all bottom hands are compared. During every hand comparison, you will win or lose points based on how your hand measures up against that of your competitors (using scoring as regular poker hand).


Because of the kind of scoring involved, your aim should be to have the bottom hand as the best, followed by your middle hand, and finally the top hand.  


Knowing the Chinese Poker Hands


As discussed above, the one thing that is similar to other Poker games, is the requirement to know the standard poker hand rankings well so that you can arrange your cards in the best possible manner for the three hands.


Royal Flush

This one is a straight high flush of A, K, G, J, and 10, of the same suit.

Straight Flush

This one comprises of five cards for the same suit in peculiar numerical order. For example – 8,7,6,5, and 4.

Four of a Kind

In this poker hand, there are four cards of equal rank for any suit. For example, an ideal example could be 4 Kings and Eight of diamonds (8,K,K,K,K) or an Ace and four 4s (A,4,4,4,4)

Full House

Also known as full boat, this one comprises of three of kind and a pair. For instance, you can have three Kings (except for diamonds one) and any two sevens (K,K,K,7,7) or three aces and two jacks (A,A,A,J,J).


Here, you can have five cards of the exact same suit, irrespective of the order / sequence. For example, you can have King, and 3,4,5,6 of diamonds (K,3,4,5,6) or cards in any order / sequence of diamonds like A,J,8,4,2.


This comprises of five cards of the same suit, in numerical order for citizens. For example, a hand will be 8,9,10, J, and Q.

Three of a kind / set

It refers to the three cards from any three cards of the same rank from any suit, along with two cards of any suit. For example – A,K,5,5,5.  

Two Pair

Here, you can have two pairs from two ranks each, with the last card (fifth) to be of any rank for any suit. For instance – A,A,J,J,8.

One Pair

It comprises of one pair of one rank, with the remaining three cards to be of any rank and that too from any suit. For example – A,A, J,9,5.

High Card

This ranking indicates that the person with the highest card wins. Here, there is no relevance of having cards from the same suit, or a pair, or so on.

All the above poker hand rankings are appropriate for a five-card hand. But, as you know, you also have to make a three-card hand in Chinese Poker. So, how do you go about doing so? You cannot make any straights or flushes for your three-card hand. The only possibilities for this hand are to make:

  • High Card
  • One Pair
  • Three of a kind

One important point to note is that if you manage to get all straights or all flushes for the three hands (two five-card hands and one three-card hand), then, you win the entire hand by default, irrespective of what holdings the other players have.

Actual Gameplay – Steps to Play

Having understood the poker hand rankings and the basic objective of the game, you are now ready to learn about the different steps involved in this game. Let us deep dive into the same below:

  • All players who are going to play the game will agree upon a pre-decided amount (monetary) known as ‘units’, before the start of the game. It is clear that you do not make use of blinds or ante structures as for other games of poker.
  • The rule of allowing players to surrender is optional, but, is often used in most games of Chinese Poker. You need to agree upon this rule prior to actual gameplay. When a player decides to surrender during any hand, he / she will pay a pre-decided amount (points) and not play the hand against other players. The surrendered players will not have to pay any royalties (bonus points) if there are any applicable ones for that round. The one who surrenders will also not receive any points from the player who is later found to mis-set or foul.
  • 13 cards are dealt to every player from the deck by the dealer, starting with the player who is seated immediately left to him / her. For the next hand, the dealer will be the player seated immediately clockwise from the current dealer.
  • In case the game is played between four players, every player gets 13 cards. In case of a three-player game, one hand of 13 cards is discarded as well as left unused. In case of a two-player game, two sets of 13 cards are used one each by the two players for the current hand, and the other sets of 13 cards are kept aside to be used for the next hand (when the dealer won’t have to deal the cards again).
  • You need to start setting your cards for each of the three hands – top (front) hand of three cards, middle hand of five cards, and bottom (back) hand of five cards. As discussed earlier, you need to ensure that your top hand is the worst of the lot, middle one is better than the top, and the bottom one is the best of the lot. If you don’t do it this way, you will incur penalties during the scoring.
  • Once the arrangement of the three hands is done, you then have to place all cards for each hand on the table, face-down. The bottom (back) hand will be placed closest to you, followed by the middle hand, and then, the top (front) hand.
  • The player who is seated immediately left to the dealer will inform everyone whether he / she will surrender or play. Similarly, every next player to the left in that direction will announce the same.
  • The next step involves every player announcing the royalties following the same order as for the previous step.
  • Then all players will turn over their hands (cards will be turned face-up) and carry out comparison of each hand with the corresponding hand of every other player who has announced that he / she is playing.
  • Now is the step when actual scoring happens to determine which are the winning hands and accordingly units are assigned to every player. Every hand has a worth of one point against every player in the game. So, if you win a hand (top, middle or bottom) against all the 3 players, you stand to gain a maximum of 3 points. If you are able to beat the other players for each of the three hands, then, it is known as ‘scoop’. We will discuss about how scoring works in Chinese Poker later.
  • There needs to be a check done on the hands played by every player to find out if any foul (or mis-set of hand) has been done by any player. What does this mean? Well, if any player misses to place their five-card hand stronger than the three-card hand, then, such a player is said to commit a ‘foul’. Similarly, if any player missed to place their bottom hand to be stronger than their middle hand, then, such a player is also said to commit a ‘mis-set’ or ‘foul’. A player who mis-sets his / her hand, has to give away 3 points / units to every player involved in the game (except for the ones who have surrendered).
  • Once all the points are awarded, this hand comes to an end, and the dealer button moves to the immediate left of the dealer who dealt the cards in that round. Cards are shuffled again, distributed and the next hand kickstarts.


Understanding Chinese Poker Scoring


There is no betting or poker chips involved here, and you can maintain Chinese Poker scoring using just a pen and a paper for every player. And there is no need for players to pay out during every hand comparison – as points (units) are allocated / deducted and settlement can be done at the end of the session. But, how does this allocation of units work? Let us find out.


For every hand (top, middle and bottom), your comparison with the corresponding hand of another player will either fetch you a point (unit) or take away a point (unit).


For example, let us consider comparison of your bottom hand with three other players playing the game with you. Say, your bottom hand is better than the bottom hand of two players, but, is lesser than the bottom hand of one of the players. In such a case, you get 2 points / units (+2) for those two players whom you were able to beat with your hand, but, you lost 1 point / unit (-1) for the player who managed to beat your hand. In a nutshell, you gained just 1 point / unit (subtracting the lost point from the two points gained) for your bottom hand.


Similarly, the units allocation calculation will be done for every player visa-vis the performance of their respective hand against each of the players involved in that game of Chinese Poker. You can ensure the correctness of the calculation by tallying the units allocated / deducted – the sum of points / units allocated to all players will be zero. Let us understand this with our example.


You gained a total of 1 unit because two players had better bottom hand as compared to you and one player had lesser bottom hand.


You (Player 1) = +1

One (Player 2) of the three players had the best bottom hand. So, for that player, the final units allocation will be +3 (having gained 3 points).

Player 2 = +3

The next player (Player 3) had better hand than only one player (who had the worst bottom hand amongst all 4). So, this player gained 1 units for the same. At the same time, this player had lesser bottom hand than two other players (including you and Player 2 who had the best bottom hand). So, for that comparison, this player lost 2 units. Effectively, this player lost 1 unit (-1) for this comparison of bottom hand with all the remaining 3 players.

Player 3 = -1

For the last player (Player 4), his bottom hand was the worst as compared to all the other 3 players. So, the units allocation for this player was -3 (having lost one point each against every other player for comparison of the bottom hand).

Now, let us do the addition of units / points allocated to all the players playing the game:

Player 1 (You) + Player 2 + Player 3 + Player 4 = 1 + 3 + (-1) + (-3) = 0

This proves that the units allocation was done correctly for all the four players for this bottom hand comparison. You can follow a similar method to carry out units allocation for the middle hand and the top hand for this round. As you would have realized by now, the process followed is quite simple.


Winning Bonus Units

Before the start of the play, you can mutually agree with all the players involved with regards to the method to be used for allocation of bonus points / units. Basically, you can use any one of the following two methods for the same:


  • Method #1 (1-6 method):


Here, there is a chance for you to win 3 additional units from each of the other players. How can you do so? By simply winning all the three hands. If you win two out of the three possible hands, you do not get this bonus.


  • Method #2 (2-4 method):


Using this method, you can win 1 additional unit from each of the other players. How? By simply winning majority of the three hands, i.e., by winning either 2 or 3 of the possible hands.


A highly effective way of maintaining this scoring for Chinese Poker game is by tracking the scores of every player against every other player separately for the various hands. This way each player can settle the monetary amount against the points individually (with each player) after the game.


Winning Royalties


Royalties are also bonus units that you (as a player) can gain in the game of Chinese Poker, for having some real strong holdings with your cards. The precise number of units for every royalty needs to be decided prior to the game. Royalties can be given if your hand qualifies for the same. At the same time, if there are two or more players in a specific hand that qualify for royalties, then, the player with better royalty can be awarded.


The two different types of royalties that can be awarded are as under:


  • Hand Ranking Royalties


These royalties are set and pre-decided amounts (units) which get awarded on the basis of specific poker hand rankings as well as the type of hand (top, middle, or bottom). The units allocation for all the three hands for specific hand rankings is done as under:


1. For Front Hand:

Three of a Kind – 3 units


2. For Middle Hand:

Full House – 2

Four of a Kind – 8

Straight Flush - 10

Royal Flush - 20


3. For Bottom Hand:

Full House – 0

Four of a Kind – 4

Straight Flush - 5

Royal Flush - 10



  • Naturals


This type of royalty gets awarded on the basis of all the initial 13 cards falling into a special hand category. You get awarded with this royalty before any of the players surrender. Once you get this royalty, you cannot play your hand and other players continue to play. The classification of the special hand category is as under:

Six Pairs – 3 units / points

Three Straights – 3 units / points

Three Flushes – 3 units / points

Dragon (all 13 different cards – from Ace through to King) – 13 units / points

Hand – 3 units / points


Chinese Poker Game Types


Within the Chinese Poker game, you can play different variants of the same. Let us have a quick look at some of the Chinese Poker game variations below:


1. Open Face Chinese Poker


This game is pretty similar to the standard Chinese Poker. So, what is different? Well, every player is dealt only five cards initially, out of the entire set of 13 cards to be dealt. You have to first arrange / set these cards and place them face-up on the table in a row as per your choice, with the aim being the same as for standard Chinese Poker, i.e., to form three different hands (two five-card hands and one three-card hand). The sequence followed is similar – from the immediate left seated player (from the dealer) and heading in that direction.


Once this is done, the players will pick up / draw one card at a time and place it face-up on the table to continue forming their three different hands. This process continues till every player draws a total of 13 cards and has them all placed on the table to form their three hands to play for.


As you can see, the chances of you committing a ‘fault’ or ‘mis-set’ in Ofc Poker is much higher as compared to normal Chinese Poker, because here you do not know all the 13 cards from the start. So, while trying to form hands with one card at a time, you may accidentally end up creating a bottom hand that is not the strongest or a top hand (three-card hand) that is stronger than the middle hand (five-card hand).


Foul and Surrender


If you commit a ‘foul’ in this game, you lose out 6 points / units to every player who doesn’t ‘foul’. If you surrender in Ofc Poker, you have to pay 2 points / units to every other player who continues to play the hand. Of course, there is the possibility of having a different arrangement agreed upon with regards to such cases before the game begins.


Scoring, Bonus Points and Royalties


The scoring is exactly similar to normal Chinese Poker, where you lose / gain 1 point / unit for every comparison against a player for every hand.

For bonus points allocation, the 1-6 method is generally used where you get 3 points from each of the players when you do a ‘scoop’ – beat all the other three players in each of the three hands.

As you do not know all the 13 cards from the start, the chances of you making those specific hands that qualify for royalties are quite less, in comparison to the chances in a game of normal Chinese Poker. It is for this reason, that the bonus points awarded for the royalties that your hand qualifies for are higher as compared to the units awarded in standard Chinese Poker.

A standard allocation of the bonus points for royalties (hand-ranking royalties) is shown as under. However, you can pre-decide this allocation prior to the start of gameplay.

For Front Hand:

Pair of 6s – 1

Pair of 7s – 2

Pair of 8s – 3

Pair of 9s – 4

And so on …. till

Pair of Ks – 8

Pair of As – 9

Set of 2s – 10

Set of 3s -11

Set of 4s - 12

And so on…til

Set of Ks – 21

Set of As - 22


For Middle Hand:

Set - 2

Straight - 4

Flush - 8

Full House – 12

Four of a Kind – 20

Straight Flush - 30

Royal Flush - 50


For Bottom Hand:

Straight - 2

Flush - 4

Full House – 6

Four of a Kind – 10

Straight Flush - 15

Royal Flush - 25


Fantasy Land


With Open Face Chinese Poker, there is an additional element of ‘Fantasy Land’ (which is optional and can be predetermined prior to the start of the game) that adds a nice little twist to the overall game. What exactly is this Fantasy Land?


If you manage to make a pair of Queens or higher (without committing foul) with your top (front) hand of three cards, then, you are said to enter ‘Fantasy Land’. Once you enter ‘Fantasy Land’, you get a big advantage. So, what is this major advantage?


Instead of getting just five cards initially in your next hand, you will receive all the 13 cards at once in your next hand. And you can keep these 13 cards hidden from all the other players till they complete the arrangement of their cards on the table. Isn’t it a massive advantage to know all your 13 cards initially? It makes the Ofc Poker game more of a standard Chinese Poker game for you.


Now, once you get this benefit, you would want to remain in Fantasy Land even for your next hand, wouldn’t you? And you can do that by doing any of the following:


  • Quads or higher in your bottom (back) hand
  • Full house of higher in your middle hand
  • Trips in your top (front) hand


2. Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker (POFC Poker)


This poker game is quite similar to the previous one, with some differences like it can be played between a maximum of three players. It starts with the same step of having five cards dealt to all the players. Now, instead of every player being dealt with one card at a time henceforth, each of them receives three cards at a time. Out of the three cards received, you have to place two cards on the table in your attempt to make the three hands and discard one of the cards face-down. You can be smart and discard a card that you think any other player is looking for to form their hand.


As compared to Ofc Poker, this variant takes less time to complete as the cards are dealt in a total of 5 turns (instead of the 9 turns required for Open Face Chinese Poker). Rest of the rules and requirements remain similar to Open Face Chinese Poker. Once a player is in Fantasy Land in case of POFC Poker, then, he will get 14 cards in the next hand, out of which he will discard one card.


3. Criss Cross Chinese Poker


This is a two-player game variant of Chinese Poker, where every player is dealt with two hands of 13 cards each. Then, the players can play head-to-head across the table for each of the hands. However, you cannot mix the cards from one hand of 13 cards with the other hand. This game allows the players to play more hands within less amount of time as you do not have to deal for the second hand of 13 cards separately.


There are many more variants possible using double decks and so on. But, the most popular ones we’ve seen here.


The Verdict


It may not be as popular as Texas Hold’em or Omaha Poker, but, Chinese Poker is surely a very fascinating poker game that gives you a chance to play poker differently. You can start playing poker games, such as Chinese Poker at Spartan Poker online and try out your luck. Because this game involves more luck as compared to some other poker varieties, even beginners can start winning games more consistently here. Try something different with Chinese Poker online now!


Chinese Poker FAQ

1) Is Chinese Poker easy to learn?

Yes, it is very easy to learn and adopt as it does not involve complex strategies like some other Poker game variations. All you need to know to start playing and winning at Chinese Poker is the poker hand rankings!

2) How is Chinese Poker different to other poker variations?

It is quite different to many other poker games as per below points:

  • No betting or chips are involved, as you play with simple allocation of points / units.
  • Less number of players are involved (2 to 4).
  • More luck is involved as your hand formation depends on the cards dealt.
  • Possible to win some points even if you are not the winner, by having a hand that beats majority of the other players (except one). In most poker games, there is generally only one winner possible (except for may be split pot variants).


3) Is there any limit to the number of players in this game?

Yes, with one deck of cards this game cannot be played between more than four players. However, you can play some variants of this game using double decks of cards to accommodate more players.

4) Is there a minimum number of players required for Chinese Poker?

Yes, minimum of two players are needed.

5) Does Chinese Poker provide better winning opportunities?

Yes, to an extent. This is because it involves more luck as compared to other poker game variations. So, you stand a chance to win any round depending on the kind of cards you receive and how smartly you place them on the table for each of the three hands where you can potentially win (against different players on the table).

If you know your basic poker hand rankings, you are ready to get going for this unique poker variation called Chinese poker.
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