Lifting the Mask: Open Face Chinese Poker Strategy
OFCP at a Glance
Each player is dealt 13 cards (five initial cards then one each until they reach 13) in a clockwise manner to the left of the dealer.
The aim of the game is to set three hands:
— Back (five cards)
— Middle (five cards)
— Top (three cards)
with the strongest at the back and the weakest at the top.
The winner of a round earns one point and six points if they scoop all three boards.
Bonus points are available for certain hands as are negative points if you foul.
The overall winner is determined by the player with the most points at the end of the game.
It's the game that's swept the poker industry recently, but what exactly is Open Face Chinese Poker and how on earth can you make a profit from it? In this article we're going to outline the basis of the game, give you some handy hints on how to win and find out what the pros have to say about the latest craze.
Mastering the Basics
If you've never seen Open Face Chinese Poker being played before you might find yourself somewhat overwhelmed by its set-up. However, if you're able to understand a few key concepts you'll find it's a relatively easy game to master.
In essence Open Face Chinese Poker is the same as Chinese Poker but with a few twists to help make it a more skilful yet variant heavy game. In the same way as Chinese Poker, Open Face Chinese Poker (from now on referred to as OFC) deals each player 13 cards and asks them to make three hands: a back hand (five cards), a middle hand (five cards) and a top hand (three cards). According to the rules, the strength of these hands must be descending, i.e. you're strongest hand must be in the back and your weakest at the top.
The main difference with OFC compared to Chinese Poker is that instead of receiving all 13 cards face down at once, a round starts with players getting five cards face up. At this point the player to the left of the dealer is then asked to arrange their opening fives cards. The cards can be placed in any position the player chooses: for example, one in the top, two in the middle and two in the back hand or all five cards in the back etc. After the first player finishes their set, the rest of the players in the game set their hands in a clockwise order before the second stage starts.
Now unable to alter the order of their cards, each player is then dealt one card face up until each player has received a total of 13 cards (so they receive eight more cards in a singular fashion after the initial five). As these cards are being dealt, a player is free to put them in either their middle hand or their top hand and once the deal is complete all hands must be set.
Once each player is happy with their boards it's time to determine which players have the best holding (ranking are based on standard poker rules) in each of the three hands and assign scores appropriately.
The Scoring System
In a nutshell the scoring in OFC is based on the outcome of each hand. Before the start of a game each player must agree on how much money a single point is worth as this forms the basis of how you make profit (or loss). Once the basics have been established, the players go through each of the three hands and determine which player has the strongest one in each instance. The player who has the strongest overall boards (that is if they win two of the three hands) gets one point plus any bonuses.
Generally you'll find that a player might win one or two hands but not all three; however, if they do manage to beat every player in all three sets then it's known as a "scoop" and they get 6 points. In addition to scoops, a player can also increase their winning score by hitting a Royalty Bonus. These extra points are awarded for the strength of a hand and add an extra element of skill to the game.
Open Face Chinese Poker - Top Hand
Hand Strength: Royalty Points
Open Face Chinese Poker - Middle Hand
Hand Strength: Royalty Points
Any Trips: +2
Full House: +12
Four of a Kind: +20
Straight Flush: +30
Royal Flush: +50
Open Face Chinese Poker - Back Hand
Hand Strength: Royalty Points
Full House: +6
Four of a Kind: +10
Straight Flush: +15
Royal Flush: +25
The final element to OFC's scoring system is penalties. If at any point you set your hands incorrectly (i.e. your hands don't decrease in strength from the back to the top) then you have a pay a foul of six points to your opponent.
Entering Fantasy Land
Players can stay in Fantasy Land for infinity so long as they can either make quads or better in the back, a full house or better in the middle or trips up top.
So now we've taken you through the mechanics of the game and filled your head with numbers, how do you actually make a profit from OFC?
On a basic level the game is all about scoring more points than your opponent so they have to pay you some money, so the main thing you need to think about when setting your hands is: "how will this hand either beat or block my opponent?"
Indeed, one of the biggest skills you'll need to develop is getting a sense of the strength of your 13 cards. While some deals you'll find it easy to make three strong hands that will scoop you the round, other time you might find that you can only make one strong hand or three mediocre one. It's at this point you need to consider the moves of your opponents.
Because of how the game runs you'll find that the closer you are to the button the greater your advantage because you'll be able to see the moves of your rivals before you make a play. Based on this it's fair to say that you should be more willing to take a chance when you're first to act (because you don't know what anyone else is going to do) and be somewhat more conservative (if necessary) when you're on the button.
You should always have a plan for your hand before it develops. For example, if you are going for a flush in the back then you basically have to commit to this or risk a weak hand. Thus, you need to think a few moves ahead and have a contingency plan if things start to go wrong.
One skill you should also master is spotting which cards are live and which are dead. By tracking the cards and noting which ones have already been dealt you'll be able to narrow down your options and better set your hands.
Putting it All Together
OFC is one of the most exciting poker variants you can play, especially if you love to gamble. Because it offers just the rights mix of luck and skill it means you can find yourself raking in huge wins against more experienced players. Indeed, as yet the game isn't "solved" like some poker variants; therefore, it gives you a much greater chance of success against professional players than if you were to play a game such as Texas Hold'em.