What is Chinese Poker and Chinese Poker Online?

Never heard of Chinese poker? We’re not surprised! It has a small following but has never taken off in the same way that Texas Hold’em or other forms of poker.  As with many card games, the history is a little difficult to trace. Chinese poker uses the familiar poker hands but in many other ways, it doesn’t resemble the original game.

Many believe that the game is around 1000 years old and comes from China since it has a lot in common with the game of Pai Gow, which developed around the same time. Others argue that Chinese poker is a form of Pai Gow that’s mixed with Western-style poker and that the game was created more recently. 

For many card players, a new game to learn with skills and strategy is an exciting prospect, and that is how Chinese poker has been received over the years. We’ll take you through the different types of games, how to play, and where you can play it, including Chinese poker online. 

Types of Chinese Poker

There are three main types of Chinese poker. The main version is straight Chinese poker and we will explain how to play in the next section. More recent developments have seen two new variations of the game. 

Chinese poker became very popular in countries like Finland and Russia. A particular variation of the game developed in Finland; it’s called Open-face Chinese poker. There is a further variation of this game called Pineapple Open-face Chinese Poker or Open-face Chinese Poker Pineapple. These games are often abbreviated to OFC or Pineapple OFC. We’ll explain the rules of each game below.

How To Play

Once you understand the basics of the main game, learning the different rules of the other variations isn’t too challenging.

Chinese Poker

The game is usually played with two to four people. Each player receives a 13-card hand. This is dealt out of a standard 52-card deck. Each player looks at their cards and divides them into three poker hands. This is known as setting your hands.  The first set, known as the back, should contain five cards, the second set, known as the middle, also contains 5 cards, and the front contains the remaining three cards. The hands are arranged by rank, with the hand at the back being the highest-ranking and the one at the front the lowest.  

All hands are placed face down in a particular order so that players know which hand is which. The back hand should be positioned closest to you on the table, with the middle hand placed in front of it, and then the front hand laid out furthest from you. All players now need to set their hands. When this is complete, moving from the dealers left in a clockwise direction, the players say whether they want to play their hand.

If you have a particularly strong hand, you will also announce your royalties at this point, which is a bonus for having a particular hand combination. For example, a straight flush, four of a kind, full house, or three of a kind in the front hand. If anyone makes three straights or three flushes they win no matter what anyone else has. 

This form of poker does not involve betting with chips, instead, you use units which is an amount of money agreed on before the game starts. A player collects one unit from each opponent if their front, middle, or back hand wins against another player. 

This is an important distinction from poker. Chinese poker scoring means that if you are second best you can still win money. One unit is given for the overall win if someone has won two out of the three hands or all three. When there is a tie, no money or units are exchanged for that round.

Open-face Chinese Poker

This variant sees players receive 5 cards to start, and then they receive one card at a time until they have the 13-card hand. It is often played as a 2 or 3 person game although it can be played by up to 4 people. The layout of the hands and the order is the same as Chinese poker. This variant gets its name from how the cards are positioned, as they are placed face up. 

Since you are arranging your cards as they are dealt, once a card has been set, it cannot be moved to a different row. This results in fouling or miss-setting where an illegal hand is made, and the hand is forfeited. The front hand must be the weakest, the middle hand must be better than the front but weaker than the back, and the back must be the strongest. Any hands that do not comply with the Open-face Chinese poker rules are deemed illegal hands., Points, units, and royalties no longer count.

When a player has a hand with a pair of queens or higher in the front hand and no fouls, they achieve Fantasyland. This means the next hand is given to them with all 13 cards at once and face down. 

Open-face Chinese Poker Pineapple 

It is very similar to OFC poker, however, after receiving the first five cards, players are dealt three cards instead of one. Each player places two of the cards in their rows and the third one is discarded face down. This continues until everyone has 13 cards. The Fantasyland rules are the same except that on the next turn 14 cards are dealt and they can discard one.

Online Chinese Poker 

As this is a more specialized form of poker, you won’t find it everywhere. However, its popularity has spread. Many casinos now have an Asian games or Macau section, with games like Pai Gow and at least one variety of Chinese poker. Online poker rooms, casinos, and gaming sites also offer Asian games, with many of them offering the option to play both for play or real money.

Final Thoughts

You can expect to see Chinese poker online and in tournaments all over the world. Now you understand the Open-face Chinese poker strategy, you can get in on the action yourself. Knowing the basis of the Chinese poker hands is the starting point of any variant of the game, so you’re now ready to enjoy and even take away real money. Play Chinese poker at casinos online or though a Chinese poker app.