Although usually played as a side game for points (which are then converted in a cash amount), OFC’s recent surge in popularity has led to it being introduced in a tournament format both live and online in America.
The Basics of Open Face Chinese
So how exactly do you play Open Face Chinese?
At the start of each game the players involved are all dealt 13 cards each. After this initial deal no more cards are taken from the deck and it’s the player’s job to then make three hands: a back hand (five cards), a middle hand (five cards) and a top hand (three cards). To add an element of skill and forethought to the game, the strength of these hands must be descending, i.e. your strongest hand must be in the back and your weakest hand 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, two up top, two in the middle and one in the back hand. Once the first player has set their hand, the rest of the table are then free to set their hands in a clockwise order.
After setting their first five cards, each player is then dealt one card face up until everyone has received a total of 13 cards. As these cards are being dealt each 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.
After the deal is complete and each player’s hand is set, scoring for each of the three rounds takes place and the winner is the person with the highest score overall.
Five things You Need to Know about Open Face Chinese
- OFC is played with a full deck and each player is dealt 13 cards.
- The aim of the game is to set three hands: back (five cards), middle (five cards) and top (three cards). The strongest must always be at the back and the weakest at the top.
- The winner of a round earns one point. On top of this, six points are given to a player if they scoop all three boards.
- Bonus negative points can impact on a player’s score.
- The winner is determined by the player with the most points at the end of the game.
The Scoring System
Before starting any OFC cash game, each player must agree on how much money a single point is worth. Once a figure has been agreed, players then assess who has the strongest hand on each street. The strength of a hand is based on traditional poker hand rankings as they evolved in the US and elsewhere.
The player who holds the strongest overall board (that is if they win two of the three hands) is awarded one game 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.
Because the size of each OFC board is different, royalty points are handed out for the following hands:
Open Face Chinese Poker – Top, Middle, and Back Hands
Hand Strength: Royalty Points
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.
Open Face Chinese Poker offers US poker players some very different challenges than they face with other types of card games.
Living in a Fantasy Land
One of the most interesting aspects of OFC that’s developed in recent years is the concept known as Fantasy Land. This part of the game is unlocked if a players holds QQ+ in their top hand. If a player achieves this state then their next 13 cards will be dealt to them facedown. This gives a Fantasy Land player a distinct advantage because they know all of their cards ahead of time and can, thus, set them accordingly. A stay in Fantasy Land can last indefinitely, providing the player makes quads or better in the back, a full house or better in the middle or trips up top.
Open Face Chinese might be a few years away from really establishing itself in the poker world in the United States, but with so many pros already enjoying its blend of skill and luck, there’s no doubt it’s a game on the up. While some will argue that it often favors the luckiest player, there’s still a lot of thinking to be done when setting hands. Moreover, the amount of money that can be made when playing for even moderate stakes is something that will certainly attract a lot of players.