Chinese Poker Rules | How to Play Chinese Poker

Chinese poker is a commonly played game among poker professionals during their down time.

Since Chinese poker doesn’t use any chips or betting, it’s technically not “poker,” but its usage of poker hands is what gives the game its name.

The game is played with two to four players, a standard 52-card deck and a few ways to keep score. Read on for the full rundown of the Chinese Poker rules.

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How to Play Chinese Poker

After shuffling, the dealer deals out the entire deck into four hands (13 cards per hand).

If you're playing with four players each player gets one hand. If you’re playing with three players, the fourth hand is discarded and left unused.

In a two-player game each player receives one hand and reserves a second for the next hand (saving the dealer having to re-deal). A player is only allowed to look at his own hand and in a two-player game he can only look at the hand he's are currently playing.

Keeping Score in Chinese Poker

Watch the video below to learn how to deal, set your hand and keep score in Chinese Poker quickly and easily. There's no betting or raising -- instead everyone agrees on a point value, for example $1 per point.

Everyone gets 13 cards and then has to organize their cards into three poker hands. Two of the poker hands have five cards and one has three cards.

The only rule is that the three-card hand has to be the worst hand, the middle five-card hand has to be better than the three-card hand, and the last five-card hand has to be better than both other hands.

When everyone's done setting their hands turn over your hands and compare them to each hand of every other player. Each hand is worth one point against each other player and if you beat someone in all three hands it's called a scoop and it's worth a three-point bonus.

Check out the video to see how it works in action!

Hand Selection in Chinese Poker

Your hand consists of 13 cards. It's your job to break these 13 cards into three hands: top, middle and bottom.

The bottom hand must be a five-card poker hand and must be the best hand of all three hands you select. The middle hand must be a five-card poker hand and must be worse than the bottom hand but stronger than the top hand.

The top hand must be a three-card hand and must be the worst hand of all three.

Five-Card Hands: The five-card hands follow the standard poker hand ranking; you can find a description of the poker hand rankings here. (there will also be a link at the bottom of the article).

Three-Card Hands: In Chinese poker the three-card hand can only be high card, pair or triples. There are no flushes or straights allowed for the three-card hand.

chinese poker hand

Example

The easiest way to understand how to make your three poker hands is to actually do it. Below is an example of one way to sort a 13-card hand, but it's always easier to do and understand when holding actual cards.

The best thing you can do is deal yourself 13 cards from a deck and work on making hands for yourself.

                          

Although you can separate this hand in many ways, arguably the best way to sort this hand would be:

Bottom:          

Middle:          

Top:      

As you can see, the bottom hand is the best with an ace-high flush. The middle hand is second best with two pairs, jacks and nines. The top is the weakest with a pair of threes.

Showdown and Scoring

Once all players have their hand sorted, you immediately score the hands. In scoring you compare each specific hand (top, middle or bottom) to every other player’s hand of the same type. The better hand earns a point off of the player with the weaker hand. For example:

Bottom

Player 1: Full House

Player 2: Flush

Middle

Player 1: Two Pair

Player 2: Straight

Top

Player 1: Pair (Kings)

Player 2: Pair (Fours)

In this scenario, Player 1 wins the bottom (1 point), Player 2 wins the middle (1 point), and Player 1 wins the top (1 Point).

For this hand, Player 1 won two points, while Player 2 only won one point. Because Player 2’s point is a wash with one of Player 1’s, it only makes sense to keep track of the profit, thus you would say that Player 1 would net one point.

If you have multiple players, each player evaluates his hand against all other players:

Bottom

Player 1: Full House (10’s full)

Player 2: Flush (9 high)

Player 3: Straight (Ace high)

Player 4: Two Pair (Aces and 4’s)

 

Middle

Player 1: Two Pair (7’s and 8’s)

Player 2: Straight (King High)

Player 3: Two Pair (Queens and 5’s)

Player 4: Pair (Jacks)

 

Top

Player 1: High Card (King)

Player 2: Pair (2’s)

Player 3: High Card (Ten)

Player 4: Pair (9’s)

 

A Simple Trick for Keeping Score in Chinese Poker

When you're playing with four people keeping score can get tricky. The easiest way to do it is for each player to keep track of their own scores against every other player.

When you're comparing cards in each hand, start with the dealer and compare his cards to the player to his left. You get a point for winning each hand and if you beat a player in all three hands it's called a scoop and you get a three-point bonus.

Next compare the dealer's hand to Player 3 and then Player 4. Then compare Player 2's hand to Players 3 and 4 and then Player 3's hand to Player 4. At the end of the game each player has to settle up individually with every other player.

As you might have figured out, scoring for four players can be tricky. Thus it’s best for each player to keep track of his own scores versus every other player.

Eg using hands above.

Player 1’s score:

Hand

Player 2

Player 3

Player 4

Total

1

-1

+1

+1

+1

 

Player 2’s score:

Hand

Player 1

Player 3

Player 4

Total

1

+1

+3*

+1

+5

 

Player 3’s score:

Hand

Player 1

Player 2

Player 4

Total

1

-1

-3*

+1

-3

 

Player 4’s score:

Hand

Player 1

Player 2

Player 3

Total

1

-1

-1

-1

-3

As you can see, scoring with four players is slightly involved (the fewer players you have the easier it is to score). The totals are really only for the player to keep track of how he's doing, as the payout when the players finish playing will have each player settle up against every other player individually.

Special Chinese Poker Rules

There are also variations in hands and rules in the game:

Scooping: When a player scoops (wins all three hands against one player), typically this player will win a bonus. The standard bonus is double the points, meaning Player 2 would win 6 points off of Player 3 for his scoop in this hand.

Fouled Hand: If a player fouls his hand (either sorting the hand against the rules or having an illegal amount of cards in a specific hand) the opposing players automatically scoop.

Lowball in the Middle: Instead of having the middle five-card hand as a standard poker hand, you can play with the middle hand being a 2-7 Lowball hand.

  • While some players award royalties to any player with a royalty worthy hand, it’s common for royalties to only be awarded to the player who wins the comparison for that hand. For example if player 1 had quad sixes, but player 2 had quad sevens, only player 2 would get the royalty
  • Some players make it even more complicated by attaching different point amounts to each specific royalty
  • In Chinese poker the rules for point awarding are never set in stone. You and your opponents can play any system, rules of combination you like - just make sure everyone agrees on all the rules before you start the deal

Royalties

Most people who play Chinese will play with royalties (or bonuses). Although there are a large number of variations in the royalties you can play, the most commonly played royalties are as follows:

Strong Hands: Typically quads or better in the bottom, a full house or better in the middle and trips in the top will earn you a Royalty.

13-Card Hands: Making one 13-card hand (straight from 2-A). These hands will automatically scoop regardless of the hand versus hand comparison.

Three of the Same: Another form of 13-card hand consisting of three flushes or three straights.

No People: Also a 13-card hand. Being dealt 13 cards without a single face card.

Open Face Chinese and Pineapple Royalties Chart

How to Play Open-Face Chinese Poker

Open-Face Chinese poker is one of the fastest growing games in the poker world. Originally developed in Finland it began to catch on in the U.S., more or less, around 2011/2012. Since then the game has exploded in popularity and is a favorite among pro players in particular.

The object of OFC is the same as standard Chinese Poker. Each player must make (set) three poker hands. Two of the hands are five-card hands and one is a three-card hand.

The bottom five-card hand must be higher in value than the middle five-card hand and the middle hand must be higher than the three-card, or top hand.

Watch OFC/Pineapple Tutorial Video

Check out our easy-to-follow video tutorial to learn open-face Chinese poker and Pineapple in under five minutes!

Start with 5 Cards Instead of 13

In standard Chinese poker all 13 cards are dealt at the same time and cards are not exposed while hands are being set. In Open Face Chinese players do not receive all 13 cards to start. Rather, they begin with five cards and then must set them face up.

From this point each player receives cards one at a time and must set them in a row before the next card is received. This continues until all 13 cards have been set in player hands.

Standard Open-Face Chinese Poker Rules

Most Open Face Chinese poker games consist of two to four players with the standard game online consisting of three-handed tables.

Chinese Poker Rules
OFC games typically run three-handed.

A dealer button is used for the sake of determining order of action and moves after each hand. The exception is a hand where one player is in "Fantasyland."

When a player is in Fantasyland the button freezes until all players are playing standard OFC.

Starting with the player to the left of the button, each player is initially dealt five cards which he or she must set. The player to the left of the button then sets his five cards face up into whichever row(s) he wishes.

This continues until the player on the button has acted. Please note that once you have set your hand and your turn is concluded, you cannot change your hand.

After the first five cards are dealt another card is then dealt to each player. Starting with the player to the left of the button, that card is placed and action continues to the button player.

This continues until each player has placed all 13 cards. Once the last card is placed players make comparisons and score their hands.

Scoring in Open Face Chinese Poker

Scoring in Open Face Chinese poker is done via points, sometimes called units. In a $1 OFC game, each point or unit is worth $1. Standard scoring is as follows:

open face chinese rules
Scoring in Open Face Chinese is done via points.
  • Player is paid 1 unit for each hand he wins against opponent
  • If a player scoops all three hands against an opponent he gets three bonus units.
  • If a player surrenders a hand he must pay two units to each opponent.
  • If a player "fouls" a hand he must pay six units to each player who doesn't foul.

Units are awarded at showdown via hand comparisons. In a three-handed game the player to the left of the button would compare first and comparisons would continue clockwise.

Fouling occurs when your hands are not set in proper order. For example you play trip threes in the middle and two pair on bottom. Fouling also forfeits any bonuses you may have received.

Open Face Chinese Royalties

Royalties are bonus units paid to each player for making certain hands. Bonuses are more generous in OFC since hands tend to be weaker than standard Chinese poker.

Royalties for Bottom Hand:

Straight

+2 units

Flush

+4 units

Full House

+6 units

Quads

+10 units

Straight Flush

+15 units

Royal Flush

+25 units

Royalties for Middle Hand:

Set

+2 units

Straight

+4 units

Flush

+8 units

Full House

+12 units

Quads

+20 units

Straight Flush

+30 units

Royal Flush

+50 units

Royalties for Top Hand:

Sixes

+1 unit

Sevens

+2 units

Eights

+3 units

Nines

+4 units

Tens

+5 units

Jacks

+6 units

Queens

+7 units

Kings

+8 units

Aces

+9 units

Trip Deuces

+10 units

Trip Threes

+11 units

Trip Fours

+12 units

Trip Fives

+13 units

Trip Sixes

+14 units

Trip Sevens

+15 units

Trip Eights

+16 units

Trip Nines

+17 units

Trip Tens

+18 units

Trip Jacks

+19 units

Trip Queens

+20 units

Trip Kings

+21 units

Trip Aces

+22 units

Bonuses are paid during comparison. As an example, aces on the top in a three-handed game would net the holder nine units from each player.

Please note that bonuses are paid regardless of whether a player wins that row. Also, bonuses negate each other in OFC. For example should two players hit quads on the bottom, no bonus would be paid.

Fantasyland in OFC Poker

In some OFC games Fantasyland rules apply. To enter Fantasyland a player must make queens or better in his or her top hand without fouling.

If this happens the next hand he will be dealt all 13 cards at once and can set the hand like a standard Chinese Poker hand.

The player that's in Fantasyland will not have his cards exposed until the other players have completed their hands.

OFChands

A player can remain in Fantasyland if he makes trips in the top hand, a full house or better in the middle hand or quads or better in the bottom hand.

Pineapple OFC

A popular variation of OFC is Pineapple OFC. The primary difference between Pineapple and standard OFC is the number of cards presented after the deal.

Both games start with five cards on the initial deal but in Pineapple players are given three cards in future rounds.

From those three cards players must set two of those cards and then discard the last one.

The main difference between this and regular OFC is that there are five rounds of play instead of nine and each player goes through 17 cards instead of 15.

As such, Pineapple OFC is always played with a max of three players.

Scoring, bonuses and Fantasyland rules all remain the same. Pineapple is a faster-paced version that is developing a significant following online.

Where Can I Play Open Face Chinese Poker Online?

If you want to play OFC online you can play for free on your smartphone or mobile device on apps such as the Chinese Open Face Poker app or the Secure Open Face Chinese Poker app.

If you want to access some real-money OFC poker cash games and tournaments, create a new account at TonyBet Poker via our review page for an up to £1,500 bonus!

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Johnny B 2013-08-23 11:50:58

Is it legal to set a hand in which the middle and bottom hands (the five-card hands) are exactly the same? For example, would a hand with two royal flushes (however unlikely) be considered legal, or would it be considered fouled? I my search of articles on CP, I haven't seen anything that addresses this situation specifically.

Grundy 2013-01-03 22:09:02

Peter is correct. The Jacks should go on top and the middle should be 9's and 3's.

Grundy 2013-01-03 17:07:47

I play Chinese Poker often and when I introduce the game to new players I try to remember to explain the only royalty hand we recognize, which is the 13-card straight. I have alluded to this rule on more than a few occasions mostly as humor because the odds are so astronomical.

“If you are dealt a 13-card straight, you automatically win”. (sweep; scoop; whatever)

The problem is that when people are just learning the game, they have enough concerns already that remembering this obscure rule about a remarkably rare hand is the least of their concerns and is easily forgotten….

Last night I was dealt a 13-card straight (Yes!) and I declared the hand before the others were set.

My declaration was met with disbelief from my opponents and a spectator all of whom I have played against many times. Two guys recalled me saying something but they thought I meant a 13-card straight-flush (can you imagine?).

They did not honor my “natural” hand even after I attempted to impress upon them two things:

1) I have told these guys about this before. We just never thought we’d ever see it so it didn’t sink in. I wouldn’t just make this up and they know it.

2) I attempted to impress upon them how rare the hand is. A month ago I was bragging about a huge hand. Trip 6’s on top; Quad 4’s in the middle and a Q-high straight-flush on the bottom.

The odds of being dealt a 13-card straight is a lot harder than the previous hand.

They weren’t buying it so I caved and set up my hand: AKQ + 6-high straight + J-high straight in back. I only won the middle from each of my opponents and lost two out of three hands to each of them instead of a full scoop. Quite a swing.

“What’s your point Grundy?”

Make sure you discuss all of the rules every time you sit down and play. Everybody plays with a wide variation of the rules so perhaps someone needs to type out your variations in advance.

Tony 2012-12-11 15:57:49

what if you have a 3 bomb do you have to put it down first?

tard police 2012-10-18 11:44:05

wtf, make more errors.

Peter 2012-03-28 17:52:22

Talking about the example, I'm new to this, but two pair in the middle is a weak hand, why not have it be 9's and 3's and then put the pair of jacks in the top where it improves your chance a little?

Phong, where is the calculator you are speaking of?

Frank 2010-12-09 22:32:50

phong le (if you have a chinese poker simulator or calculator to share it would be greatly appreciated). I had the orignal one and the book, but misplaced it. I think it was by (Don Smolen), and there were a few others I had.

phong le 2010-02-21 04:22:11

I have a chinese poker calculator to share.



Poker Hand Ranking
  1. Royal Flush
  2. Straight Flush
  3. Four of a Kind
  4. Full House
  5. Flush
  6. Straight
  7. Three of a kind
  8. Two Pair
  9. One Pair
  10. High Card

Complete Poker Hand Ranking

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