Open Face Chinese Poker – A Gambler’s Game

Staff : August 2nd, 2013
Open Face Chinese Poker (羅宋牌九)


Daniel Negreanu, Shaun Deeb, Scott Seiver, and Jason Mercier all sit down at a table. What game are they playing? High Stakes Open Face Chinese Poker. This new game sweeping the poker scene is high variance with a lot of gamble. Shaun Deeb commented that “it has all the qualities people want…a lot of action; there’s big suckouts, there’s a lot of gamble and the most important thing is no one really knows what’s the right play.”

So what is this game that has captured the attention of high stakes grinders? It is a variation of Chinese Poker where cards are face up. Players are dealt 13 cards in total. The person to the left of the dealer is dealt 5 cards for the first round and 8 cards one at a time after. The object to make three hands: one five card hand in the back (the strongest hand), one five card hand in the middle (second in strength) and one 3 card hand in the front (the weakest hand). After you place your card in a spot it is there to stay and not able to be moved throughout the hand. If the hands you have are not in proper order (from strongest to weakest) the hand is fouled and the player is deducted points therefore losing the hand. The object of the game is to make the strongest possible hand while achieving royalties and avoiding fouls. Reference Jennifer Shahade’s guide at Cardplayer for a solid guide.

The Royalties are what stops this game from becoming a game of “not fouling”. The Royalty system consists of 20 points in the back for a Royal Flush, 10 points for a straight flush, 8 points for quads, 6 points for a full boat, 4 for a flush, and 2 for a straight. If you make any of these in the middle the points are doubled. On top you get one point in royalty for every pair over 6’s up to 9 points for Aces. If you foul or get swept by an opponent you lose 6 points plus any Royalties. You win one point for beating an opponent (winning 2 of 3 hands). Your own royalties only count if your hand is legal and still count even if your opponents hand is better (higher royalty).

So why play Open Face Chinese Poker? Indeed it is a lot of fun and it appeals to both the recreational and professional poker player. This atmosphere can lead to a lot of action and great poker discussion while you are at the table. Next home game sub out NLHE and try a game of Open Face Chinese. Stay tuned for the next article in this series as we dive into strategy and “Fantasy Land”.

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