Open-Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) is a variation of Chinese Poker that has recently become very popular among the high-stakes community.
Despite its name, the game originated in Finland and like Chinese poker it makes use of thirteen cards per player drawn from a standard 52-card deck, which are arranged in three hands, also known as rows.
The game spread into Russia and subsequently to the United States, where it has become a favourite among high-rolling gamblers. Mostly found in ‘bricks and mortars’ casinos and poker rooms, rare forms of poker like this can also be sometimes be found online.
Open-face Chinese poker is usually played between two to three players, although it can accommodate four players a well.
Each player is dealt a total of thirteen cards which have to be arranged in three hands: the front hand consisting of 3 cards, the middle hand which is made up of 5 cards, and the back hand which also contains 5 cards.
The hands are also known as rows, since the back hand is laid closest to the player, the front hand furthest away, and the middle hand is sandwiched in between.
Cards are dealt clockwise, starting from the player sitting on the left of the dealer.
In the beginning, the players are dealt five cards (one at a time) face down each and, after deciding in which hand to allocate the first five cards, they are given one card at a time until the full complement of thirteen cards is reached. Cards are always set face up.
Once cards are placed in a hand, they cannot be put in a different one later on. This rule gives OFCP its element of risk and luck places a major part in determining who wins the round.
When arranging their cards in hands, the rules of regular Chinese poker apply here. The back hand must be better than or equal to the middle hand, and the middle hand must be better than or equal to the front hand.
The ranking of the 5-card hands (middle and back rows) is determined by standard poker hand rankings.
The ranks from lowest to highest are: High card, Pair, 2 Pair, 3 of a kind, Straight, Flush, Full House, Straight Flush and Royal Flush.
For the 3-card hand (front) the rankings are different. You can win with either a High Card, Pair, or 3 of a kind. It is illegal to make straights and flushes in the front hand; therefore, the best hand possible is AAA.
The scoring system in Open-face Chinese poker is very simple. Your aim is to win the round by having the best hands in every row; you earn a point (also known as a unit) for each opponent’s corresponding hand you beat (e.g. back hand vs backhand), as well as bonus points (called royalties) for having certain good hands.
A point/unit corresponds to a predetermined amount of money that is agreed upon before the game starts.
If you beat your opponents on all three hands you earn a 3-point bonus for scooping (sometimes referred to as sweeping) the round.
Royalties, or bonuses, are extra points that are awarded for creating particularly good hands. The points you earn depends on the hand and the row it is placed in, as shown in the table below.
* The royalties awarded for a three of a kind in the front hand varies according to the value of the cards. This is shown in the table below.
After every player is dealt all their cards, the goal of the game is to achieve more points by comparing hands with your opponents and/or by collecting royalties/bonuses on premium hands.
The biggest risk in OFCP isn’t only losing a round, but committing a foul.
Fouling (or mis-setting) happens when the strength of your hands doesn’t abide by the rules of Chinese poker, namely that the back hand must be stronger than the middle hand and the middle hand stronger than the first hand.
When placing your cards in a row you must be careful not to make it stronger than it should be, in relation to the other hands. Since a card cannot be rearranged from its row, the final moments of OFCP are very tense as you risk getting a card that unwittingly makes your remaining unfinished hands stronger than they should be.
A player who fouls loses six points (one point per hand plus three point scoop bonus) per non-fouling player and each non-fouling player gains six points.
Fantasy land is a special bonus that is given to players who form a hand in their front row that contains a pair of queens (QQx) or stronger, without fouling. When a player triggers fantasy land, he or she will be dealt all thirteen cards at once in the next round, while the other players are dealt normally.
Open-face Chinese poker is played in major casinos in Las Vegas, such as The Venetian and the Bellagio, often as side game in poker tournaments. The game attracts high stakes players who often play for stakes as high as $1,000 per unit.
You can also try out OFCP on your mobile. Since 2013, there have been apps available for download on iPhone and iPad.