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Open Face Chinese Poker – Rules, Strategy and Tips

Open Face Chinese Poker – Rules, Strategy and Tips

Open Face Chinese Poker is a variant of poker that has gained tremendous popularity in the past years. The level of fun and complexity that this poker variant brings is unrivaled in many respects. Open Face Chinese is widely regarded as the poker game with the most skill involved. Poker and especially Open Face Chinese Poker is clearly more than just a game of chance, it is strategy and tactics, combined with a certain demand for acting and knowledge of the opponent. Open Face Chinese in particular is quite demanding in terms of tactics and strategy.

If you are looking for a new experience in poker and love a challenge, you should take a closer look at Open Face Chinese Poker. To help you understand the game and get started almost immediately, this article will provide you with all the relevant information – rules, strategy and tips on how to win at Open Face Chinese.

Open Face Poker - Rules

The rules of Open Face Chinese Poker are slightly more complicated than those of other poker variants. You will need some time to figure out the ins and outs of Open Face Chinese. But if you are an experienced poker player, don't be discouraged. After playing a hand or two you will get the hang of it.

The Deck

Open Face Chinese Poker is played with a normal poker deck with 52 cards. Up to 4 players can sit and play at a table with one deck. The most popular variant of this game - Pineapple Open Fcae Chinese (explained below) is played 3-handed.

Gameplay of Regular Open Face Chinese

Open Face Chinese Poker Rules
Open Face Chinese Poker Rules

The game is played over 8 rounds. The starting hand of each player consists of five cards. The other 8 cards that each player still needs are dealt one after the other during the eight rounds. The goal is to have the highest possible score at the end of the nine rounds or to receive as few minus points as possible.

In order for the players to get points, they have to form a front hand (three cards), a middle hand (five cards) and a back hand (five cards) from the 13 cards they have received in total at the end of the nine rounds. How exactly the points are distributed will be explained in more detail below.

The cards can be distributed freely by each player. Both, the five starting cards and the eight cards that are added over time can be put into every hand. The only rule that must be observed is that the value of the hands must increase. The front hand has to be the weakest hand, the middle hand has to be the second best and the back hand has to be the strongest of the three hands. If you fail to meet this rule on one of the hands, all your hands will be counted as a loss and your opponents will receive points, while you receive minus points.

Determining the Winner

Winning a round of Open Face Chinese Poker is based on a fairly simple principle. You have to collect the most points against all the players.

To calculate the points, the three hands of all players at the table are compared after the ninth round and points are distributed according to the scoring system. Additional points can be earned if you have certain card combinations. You get those extra points even if your hand is beaten by other hands as long as you don't foul that round.

Open Face Chinese Scoring System

As in virtually every form of poker, it's about your own hand having a higher value than the other player's hand. Ideally, each of your three hands should be the best at the table.

The points when comparing hands are distributed as follows. Each player compares his hands with all opponent’s hands.

  • A player beats all three hands of his opponent (called a scoop): he gets (+6) points.
  • A player is beaten in all three of his hands: he gets (-6) points.
  • A player wins two of his three hands: he gets (+1) point.
  • A player loses two of his three hands: he gets (-1) point.

Open Face Chinese Royalty Points

As mentioned above, you can earn points not only by directly comparing your hands with your competitor’s hands. It is also possible to get royalty points if you have a special combination of cards.

Betting on these can really pay off for you, as some combinations can bring significantly more points than a simple win against an opponent's hands.

Royalty Points Front Hand

If your front hand consists of any of those combinations, you receive the following amount of points from each of your opponents:


Royalty Points Middle Hand

If your middle hand consists of any of those combinations, you receive the following amount of points from each of your opponents:

Three of a kind2
Full house12
Four of a kind20
Straight flush30
Royal flush50

Royalty Points Back Hand

If your back hand consists of any of those combinations, you receive the following amount of points from each of your opponents:

Full house6
Four of a kind10
Straight flush15
Royal flush25

Open Face Chinese: Detailed Game Play

Open Face Chinese Gameplay
Open Face Chinese Gameplay

Now you know the basic rules of the game and the scoring system, which is essential if you want to win. But before you can really get started, you need to know exactly how each round of Open Face Chinese Poker is played.

Just like in other poker games, there is a dealer. The dealer distributes the cards clockwise to all players.

The five starting cards are dealt to every player at once. Afterward, the cards are dealt round by round. The cards can be freely assigned by each player to one of his three hands. The special feature of Open Face Poker becomes obvious in the first round. As the name suggests, the game is played openly. All the cards dealt and the three hands are always openly visible on the table. As soon as you receive a card, you add it to one of your three hands and then it's the next player's turn to receive his card.

After all the cards have been dealt and each player has built their 3 hands, it is time for the scoring. Here, all players compare their hands with each other, but always individually and one after the other. This way a direct comparison is made.

Special Open Face Chinese Variants

There are two variants to Open Face Chinese Poker which add complexity. Many OFC games are played with both variants. Those two are Fantasyland and Pineapple.

Pineapple Open Face Chinese

Pineapple Open Face Chinese is considered to be the faster variant of the classic Open Face Chinese Poker. The higher speed is mainly due to the fact that this variant is played with only three players instead of four. This is because the cards are dealt differently in Pineapple OFC.

Rules of Pineapple Open Face Chinese

  • Normal Open Face Chinese rules apply
  • Players start with 5 cards each
  • In each round, a player is dealt 3 cards, assigns two to his hands and discards the third

A single game ends after five rounds instead of nine. Scoring and royalty points are the same as in regular Open Face Chinese.

Fantasyland in Open Face Chinese

Fantasyland is the most common Open Face variant. This allows a player under certain conditions to receive all 13 cards (or more in specific variants) at once.

In order for a player to get into Fantasyland, they must build a valid Open Face Chinese hand and their front hand needs to have a pair of queens or better. A player who enters fantasyland receives all thirteen cards at once for the next round and can form his hands from those cards. As soon as the other players have received all their cards, the player who is in Fantasyland shows down his cards.

Staying in Fantasyland

In some variants, players can stay in Fantasyland for more than one round. A player stays in Fantasyland if he meets one of the following conditions:

  • A four-of-a-kind or better in the back hand
  • A full house or better in the middle hand
  • Three of a kind in the front hand

When played in tournaments, the variant of staying in Fantasyland is usually not used.

Fantasyland and Pineapple

It is possible to combine Pineapple and Fantasyland. The rules are varied a little bit when combining both variants:

  • Normal Open Face Chinese and Pineapple rules apply
  • A player in fantasyland receives 13 cards (or more) at once and discards one
  • The button doesn’t move when a player is in Fantasyland.

Open Face Chinese at The Festival Rules

Open Face Chinese at The Festival
Open Face Chinese at The Festival

Open Face Chinese is very popular among The Festival players and all stops offer several Open Face Chinese tournaments.

Those are the rules for Open Face Chinese at The Festival:

  • Game Variant: Open Face Chinese Pineapple and Fantasyland with 13 or more cards
  • Players: 3 players per table (Final Table is played 4-handed with the player at the button sitting out)
  • Start Stack: 20,000 Chips
  • Levels: 30 Minutes
  • Fantasyland rules - Depending on how a player enters fantasyland, he receives 13 - 16 cards
    • QQ in the front hand: 13 cards
    • KK in the front hand: 14 cards
    • AA in the front hand: 15 cards
    • Trips in the front hand: 16 cards
    • It is not possible to stay in Fantasyland

Point Values

LevelChips per pointLevelChips per point

The first two levels are played at 100 chips per point. Then the number of chips per point increases as stated in the table above.

Example for point distribution

Let’s say, we’re in the 3rd level and player 1 scoops player 2 and has a full house in the back hand. Then he earns 6 points for the scoop and 6 royalty points for the full house. Thus, he wins a total of 12 points, those are worth 12 x 200 = 2,400 chips.

Open Face Chinese Strategy and Tips

Many strategic aspects you know from other games of poker are not present in Open Face Chinese. The cards are face up on the table and there are simply no bets to call or raise. This also means, there are no bluffs and you don't need to study your opponents, their facial expressions and gestures. You see what's on the table. Winning in Open Face Chinese takes some luck, plenty of skill and experience, which you get by playing the game.

However, there are points that beginners, in particular, should pay attention to, otherwise they will have a hard time playing the game.

Focus on not Fouling First

Fouling in OFC
Don't foul!

As you may have guessed by reading the rules, royalty points can mean an uncanny advantage. However, earning royalty points is tricky as the requirements for them are rather difficult. The probability of getting the right cards for a full house and being able to make it on the middle hand is incredibly low. However, inexperienced players in particular, who have difficulty assessing the probabilities, too often focus on precisely these special points.

The result is often that they do not meet any of the requirements and their hand is dead, resulting in an automatic 6-point loss. It is not uncommon for the front hand of beginners to be the most valuable when their strategy goes wrong.

Especially beginners should focus on building valid hands and should more or less ignore royalty points. Meaning: try to build good hands without committing a foul. Make sure your front hand is the weakest and your back hand is the best. That way, you might end up in the middle of the pack, but you won't lose right away and still have a chance to gain points.

It is important to avoid fouling. This is especially true if you see that you can beat your opponent's board. This means that you should avoid having better hands in your front hand from the very beginning. Also, and this applies more to regular OFC than to Pineapple, it's usually better to fill the front hand before the last draw, especially if you don't have a very strong hand in the middle. This way you'll avoid having to take the last card in the front hand, no matter what it is, which might force you to commit a foul and give your points to the opponent.

Position is Paramount


Position is also very important in this game - if you act after your opponent, you know what to hit in which hand. Obviously, as the hand develops, you have an idea of what the other player is likely to have at the end of the hand, even if you are not in position. You need to be on the lookout for blockers. See what's out of the deck so you're not chasing cards that are already dead.

Practise Makes Perfect

OFC Practise

The most important strategic aspect is how to distribute the five cards your receive in the beginning. The key to becoming successful at Open Face Chinese Poker is practice. You'll gradually learn the probabilities for certain cards or constellations, and you'll be able to see what's possible by combining your cards and looking at your opponent's hands. This knowledge will eventually turn into flexibility, so you can look again every round to see if you're still on a good path or if you'd better adjust your strategy.