Open Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) is a poker variant where each player gets a start hand consisting of five cards, and is then gradually dealt more cards until the hand consists of 13 cards. OFCP is played with a standard 52 card deck, without any jokers or other wild cards. Using only one deck, and giving each player 13 cards, means that the number of players is limited to a maximum of four. Playing OFCP with just two or three participants is more common than playing with four.
Open Face Chinese Poker was not developed in China, but in Finland. From Finland, it spread to Russia in the mid 2000’s. One early player was Russian poker pro Alex Kravchenko, who was instrumental in introducing OFCP to the wider international high stakes poker community. Examples of well known top-notch players known to enjoy OFCP are Sergey Rybachenko, Jason Mercier, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth.
In the early 2010’s, international poker media picked up on the strange and novel poker game played by a clique of tournament players as side entertainment during major poker events such as World Series of Poker (WSOP) and Aussie Millions. This reporting helped boost the interest in the game outside the international high stakes and tournament circuit.
Dealing Open Face Chinese Poker
If you have played normal Chinese poker, you are probably used to getting all 13 cards at once. With Open Face Chinese Poker, this is not the case. The dealer will give you a start hand consisting of five cards. You will then get another eight cards – one at a time.
The dealer deals clockwise. The player to the left of the dealer is the first one to be dealt and also the first one to act.
When playing Open Face Chinese Poker, each player must use 13 cards to form three hands.
- The front hand must consist of 3 cards.
- The middle hand must consist of 5 cards.
- The back hand must consist of 5 cards.
In the beginning, you can set the cards freely in front of you. You can for instance elect to put all the five cards in the same row, or divide them over two or three rows. However, as soon as a row has been completed (which means 3 cards for the front row and 5 cards for the middle and back row, respectively) you are not allowed to put more cards into it.
You are never allowed to move a card from one row to another row when playing Open Face Chinese Poker, so it is important to place the cards wisely from the start.
Just as in standard Chinese Poker, the back hand must be stronger than or equal to the middle hand, and the middle hand must be stronger or equal to the front hand.
Since the front hand only consist of three cards, having a straight, flush or straight flush is not possible. The strongest front hand is three of a kind in aces.
Collecting points (units)
Each of your hands will be compared with the corresponding hands of your opponents. If you have the strongest front hand, or the strongest middle hand, or the strongest back hand, that is one unit – also known as point.
Example: Your front hand is the strongest front hand, and your middle hand is the strongest middle hand, but your back hand is not as strong as the back hand belonging to player XYZ. In this situation, you get two points (units) and player XYZ gets one point (unit).
As mentioned above, the back hand must be stronger or equal to the middle hand, and the middle hand must be stronger or equal to the front hand. If you hand does not fulfill this requirement, it is considered fouled.
If you foul, you lose six points (units) per non-fouling player, while each of the non-fouled players gain six points. The reason why it is six points is because its one point per line (1 x 3 = 3) plus a three point scoop bonus.
Important: A player that has fouled can lose additional points if any player with a non-fouled hand achieves royalty.
Fouling is also known as mis-setting.
If you have a pair of queens or stronger in the front, without fouling, you achieve fantasyland. During the next round of play, you will receive a 13 card start hand (unlike the 5 card start hand given to anyone not in fantasyland). When it is your turn to act, you will set your rows face-down.
It is possible to reach fantasyland again while being in fantasyland. If you fulfill the requirements of fantasyland while being in fantasyland, you must declare this to the other players.
To remain in fantasyland requires higher royalties. You must fulfill at least one of the following requirements:
|Row||Strength of hand|
|Front||Any three of a kind|
|Middle||Full house or higher|
|Back||Four of a kind or higher|
It is possible for two or more players at the table to be in fantasyland at the same time.
The 1-6 scoring method
Before a game of Open Face Chinese Poker starts, the players must agree on a scoring method and the stakes played for.
One of the most popular scoring methods is the 1-6 scoring method. With this method, a player will receive 1 unit for each hand they win. The player will also receive a 3 bonus units if the player win all three hands. (This is known as a scoop.)
The 1-6 scoring method also stipulates that a player will lose 1 unit for each they lose to each player. The player will also lose 3 units to a player that achieves a scoop.
To put it simple: points are taken away from the holder of a losing hand and given to the holder of a winning hand. Also, the extra points for scooping are taken from the other players.
As mentioned above, the players must agree on the stakes before starting a game of Open Face Chinese Poker. The sakes are set as amount of money per unit, e.g. $2 per unit. Due to the head-to-head nature of Open Face Chinese Poker, two players at the table can agree to play against each other using a different stake than what is used by the rest of the table.
Example: The four players K, L, M and N agree that the stake is $3 per unit. However, player L and player M separately decide to play each other for $10 per unit.
Royalties are extra units awarded to players with especially strong hands.
- You are eligible for royalties if your hand is strong enough, even if the hand does not win.
- You are not eligible for royalties for a fouled hand.
- In Open Face Chinese Poker, royalties cancel out. Example: In a game of OFCP between two players, player A has four of a kind in fours (4-4-4-4) in the back hand, while player B has four of a kind in threes (3-3-3-3) in the back hand. Player A wins the back hand and gets 1 unit for that, but do not receive a 10 unit royalty since player A’s four of a kind is canceled out by player B’s four of a kind.
Royalties for the front hand
Royalties for the middle hand
|Three of a kind||2|
|Four of a kind||20|
|Royal straight flush||50|
Royalties for the back hand
|Four of a kind||10|
|Royal straight flush||25|
Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker
Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker is a variant of Open Face Chinese Poker. Pineapple OFCP is only played by two or three players, never four.
Each player is dealt a five card starting hand. Each player is then dealt three cards at a time, keeping two of them and discarding one. This continues until each player has 13 cards in front of them.
This is how it works:
- You get 5 cards.
- You get 3 additional cards. You keep 2 and discard 1. You now have 7 cards.
- You get 3 additional cards. You keep 2 and discard 1. You now have 9 cards.
- You get 3 additional cards. You keep 2 and discard 1. You now have 11 cards.
- You get 3 additional cards. You keep 2 and discard 1. You now have 13 cards.
If you are in fantasyland, you will be dealt 14 cards at the start of the game and discard 1 of them.
Standard OFCP rules apply for reaching fantasyland. Once you are in fantasyland, you need three of a kind in your front hand and/or four of a kind in your back hand to remain in fantasyland. A full house in the middle hand will not be enough to keep you in fantasyland.
Double Deck Open Face Chinese Poker
Double Deck Open Face Chinese Poker is played with two standard 52 card decks shuffled together. This makes it possible for more than four persons to play. It also makes it possible to form a five of a kind hand. Players must agree before the game starts about how large a royalty should be awarded for a five of a kind. (Awarding the same royalty as for straight flush is common.)
Doubled decks can be used for both standard OFCP and Pineapple OFCP.