Despite its name, this variant of Chinese Poker, sometimes known as Open Hand Chinese Poker or just as OFCP, originated in Russia and Finland in the early 21st century. It was introduced to the poker tournament circuit by Russian players in the Aviation Club, Paris in early 2012 and has since become generally popular, and the side-game of choice for professional poker players in the US and Europe.
The game can be played by 2, 3 or 4 players, each playing for themselves. A standard 52-card deck is used. Deal and play are clockwise. Before playing it is necessary to agree on a stake per point.
The objective of the game is for each player to develop over the course of a deal their best "back" hand of 5 cards, "middle" hand of 5 cards and "front" hand of 3 cards from a total of 13 cards. For the hands to be valid, the back hand must be better than or equal to the middle hand, and the middle hand must be better than the front hand. If these conditions are not met the player's hand is considered 'foul' and does not score.
The standard poker ranking is used - so the hand types from high to low are: royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, one pair, high card (see the page on ranking of poker hands). There are no wild cards.
Since the front hand has only 3 cards, only three hand types are possible: three of a kind; one pair; high card. There is no value in having a front hand with three consecutive cards or three cards of the same suit: "straights" or "flushes" in the front hand do not count.
One player is designated dealer and deals 5 cards to each player, one at a time face down. The player to dealer's left now sets his or her 5 cards, placing them face up on the table, assigning each card to the front, middle or back hand. The other players do the same, in turn, ending with the dealer.
Once all players have set their first 5 cards, play continues clockwise, starting with the player on the dealer's left. Each player in turn draws the top card of the stock, exposes it, and adds it to one of his or her three hands. Once played, cards cannot be moved from one hand to another, and when a hand has its full complement of cards (5 in the back or middle, 3 in the front), no more can be added. When everyone has 13 cards, the hands are compared and scored.
The deal moves to the left after each hand.
Each pair of players compares corresponding hands.
Note that in Open Face Chinese Poker (unlike standard Chinese Poker), a player may easily get into a situation where a foul is unavoidable, if the last few cards are not what the player hoped for.
The standard scoring system is as follows:
Points for Winning hands, foul and sweep
(Note: Chinese Poker is usually played for either 1 point per hand plus 3 points for a sweep, called 1-6 scoring, or 1 point per hand plus 1 point for the overall win, called 2-4 scoring. OFCP is normally played with 1-6 scoring as shown above.)
Points for Royalties
OFCP is evolving and many minor variations in scoring can be seen, even in the casino game.
Some play with different scoring for 3 of a kind in the Front hand:
Some play that Trips in the Middle = 2 points
Some play that Trips in the Middle = 2 points and Trips in the Back = 1 point
Some play that only the winning hand of the pair being compared counts when adding up royalties.
Some play using 2-4 scoring instead of 1-6 scoring
In tournament play and when played in a casino, it may be required to play table stakes, which means that the player is liable only for those chips which he has in front of him.
When playing table stakes the payoff must be conducted in strict sequence. First the hand of player to dealer's left is compared with those of the other players in clockwise order, ending with the dealer, then the next player 's hand is compared with those of the remaining players, and so on. So for example if there are four players West, North, East and South and South has dealt, then the hands are compared in the following order: W vs N, W vs E, W vs S, N vs E, N vs S, E vs S.
At any point in the payoff if a player doubles his original stake he can no longer take part in the payoff and his hand is complete (even if he would have subsequently lost chips to another player).
Fantasyland is a very popular variant which awards a special bonus for setting a Pair of Queens or higher in the Front hand. On the subsequent hand the player is said to be in Fantasyland, and is dealt all 13 cards at the beginning of the deal. The player sets his hand face down before play begins. The hands are scored as normal when the other players finish setting their hands.
The dealer button does not move for the Fantasyland hand. Normal play resumes after the hand.
Some play that if a player in Fantasyland sets at least four of a kind in the back, full house in the middle or trips in front he can stay in Fantasyland for another hand.
Some play that a player must announce if he is staying in Fantasyland when he sets his hand.
Some play that a player in Fantasyland sets his hand face down in the normal course of play rather than before any other players set their hands.
Some play the final 3 cards face down to speed up the four-handed game.
Pineapple is a relatively recent variant for two or three players, which is played in some Las Vegas casinos, and is alos offered online at TonyBet Poker.
Players are dealt 5 cards to start and set them as usual. After that they take 3 cards on each turn, setting two of the cards and discarding one card face down.
In Pineapple OFCP, some play the Fantasyland variant with 14 cards dealt at the start of the hand and 1 discarded. In Progressive Pineapple a player with a hand better than QQ in front is dealt more cards: 15 cards for KK, 16 cards for AA and 17 cards for triplets. The player keeps 13 cards, discarding the remainder before setting the hands. A player in Fantasyland who sets a front hand of QQ or better will be dealt a 14-card Fansayland hand next time, even if the front hand was better than QQ.
In this variant, also available at TonyBet Poker, the aim is to set strong hands front and back and a low hand in the middle. For the middle hand, 2-7 ranking is used: straights and flushes count and ace is always high, so that the lowest hand is 7-5-4-3-2 in mixed suits. In order not to foul the hand, your back hand must be hiogher than your front hand and your middle hand cannot be stringer than 10 high. Royalties for the middle hand are:
KK or better in the top row or 75432 in the middle row results in a 14-card Fantasyland. Both KK or better in the top row and 75432 in the middle row at the same time results in a 15-card Fantasyland (15 cards dealt at once and two discarded). A Fantasyland player who makes a set in front or quads or better in the back hand is rewarded with another 14-card Fanstasyland hand.
The well-known player Tony G (Antanas Guoga) has established the TonyBet Poker site where you can play Open Face Chinese Poker online for real money.
Open Face Chinese Poker and Pineapple OFCP can be played online at flopturnriver, either between 2-4 live players or as a 2-player (heads up) game against a bot.
There are many information sites and blogs appearing. Strategy discussions can be found at www.openfaceodds.com and on www.twoplustwo.com.