How to Play Chinese Poker – Rules, Scoring, Tips & Variants

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Chinese poker

Chinese Poker, with the most popular derivative often referred to as Pineapple Open-Face Chinese Poker or Pineapple OFC, is a card game that is played with 2-4 players.

Each player receives 13 cards and makes three hands: a top, a middle, and a bottom hand consisting of three, five, and five cards, respectively.

The game is beginner friendly and comes with a high degree of variance due to the amount of luck involved.

In fact, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) hosted $5,000 and $1,500 Chinese Poker events in both 1995 and 1996.

What is Chinese Poker?

Chinese poker is a game where players are dealt 13 cards and have to make three hands. The bottom and middle hands consist of five cards while the top hand contains just three cards.

Players must arrange their hands in order, face down, with their strongest hand going on the bottom.

Once everyone has arranged their cards and put them in three separate piles, they turn them face up to determine how many points are awarded to each player.

You can play for either points or money, usually agreeing on a predetermined unit size before the games begin.

Generally, players get +1 from each opponent whose front, middle or back hand is beaten by their own corresponding hand and -1 when they are defeated.

Depending on the variant that you’re playing, you may also get bonus points from each player that you scoop (win all three hands), generally a +3.

Players may also earn royalties (bonus points) for making particularly strong hands.

In almost every variation of Chinese Poker, players earn extra points for making straight flushes, quads, a full house in the middle row, and/or making a set on the top row.

Chinese Poker vs Texas Hold’em

Chinese Poker and Texas Hold’em are absolutely different games through and through.

Texas Hold’em is a game where you are dealt two hole cards and play against other players while sharing five community cards.

Chinese Poker is a game where you’re dealt 13 unique cards and make three different hands of five, five, and three cards each.

Texas Hold’em is usually played with up to nine players (sometimes 10 or more when there are not enough physical tables at a venue) while Chinese Poker can only be played with up to four players.

There’s also no bluffing in Chinese Poker, which Vice President of World Series of Poker Jack Effel used as a determining factor as to not bringing Chinese Poker back to the WSOP.

You can learn how to play Texas Hold’em poker in our dedicated guide, which goes into detail on gameplay and strategy.

How to Play Chinese Poker

Chinese Poker is relatively easy to learn and play, making it a fun and exciting game for novices and experienced players alike. It’s not necessary to memorize scoring rules either.

Chinese Poker Hand
Image: Card Player Poker Magazine

Basic Rules

Each player receives 13 cards and arranges them to make a three-card hand in the front, a five-card hand in the middle, and a five-card hand in the back.

The back hand must be stronger than the middle hand, which must beat the top hand. You cannot make a straight or a flush with your three-card hand except when used to make an automatic win hand.

Players will then compare their hand to their opponents and points are then assigned based on overall wins and losses.

Players also announce their royalties (more on this in the scoring section) and receive extra points for making especially strong hands.

How to Bet

There is no betting in Chinese Poker, though players agree to a unit size before the match starts.

The game does not have a specific endpoint as it’s almost always played as a cash game rather than a tournament.

Poker chips are not necessary and scoring can be kept using a simple pen and paper.

Chinese Poker Hands

Chinese Poker uses the standard poker hand rankings that are common at online poker sites and in live games.

Here is a chart to remind you of the various hand rankings.

Poker Hand Example
1. Royal Flush A♥ K♥ Q♥ J♥ 10♥
2. Straight Flush 9♣ 8♣ 7♣ 6♣ 5♣
3. Four of a Kind 4♣ 4♠ 4♦ 4♥ 9♦
4. Full House 7♦ 7♣ 7♠ Q♠ Q♥
5. Flush J♦️T♦️9♦️8♦️6♦️
6. Straight A♦ K♣ Q♣ J♦ 10♠
7. Three of a Kind 3♦ 3♠ 3♣ K♠ 2♠
8. Two Pair 5♣ 5♠ 3♣ 3♦ Q♠
9. One Pair 9♣ 9♦ Q♠ J♥ 5♥
10. High Card Q♦ 8♥ 7♣ 6♣ 5♣

Chinese Poker Scoring

Players receive one unit from each player whose hand they beat. This process is repeated for the front, middle, and back hands, separately and respectively.

There are generally two standard game methods called the “1-6 method” and the “2-4 method.”

The “1-6 method” is a bit more common than the “2-4 method” and players need to agree upon which method they’ll use before the game starts.

  • 1-6 Method: If a player wins all three hands against another player, then they win an extra three units from that player.
  • 2-4 Method: If a player wins the majority of hands against another player, they receive an extra unit for defeating that player.

Royalties

Players are awarded royalties for making especially strong hands. Each game may have their own house rules and number of units per royalty may vary.

Back Hand Bonus Middle Hand Bonus Front Hand Bonus
Four of a Kind +4 Full House +2 Three of a Kind +3
Straight Flush +5 Four of a Kind +8
Royal Flush +10 Straight Flush +10
Royal Flush +20

Naturals

Naturals are special types of royalties that are awarded to players. Players do not have to set their hands and automatically win.

  • Super Dragon (13 cards of the same suit): 26 points
  • Dragon (13 cards of different rank): 13 points
  • Six Pairs: 3 points
  • Three Straights: 3 points
  • Three Flushes: 3 points

Some naturals variants include making three four of a kinds, three straight flushes, no broadway cards, all picture cards, or all cards of one color.

Chinese Poker Tips

  • Don’t foul.
  • Decide on the method of bonus points before play starts.
  • Decide on a unit amount everyone can afford.
  • Don’t use front hand as a discard pile.
  • Prioritize royalties and naturals.
  • Factor in opponent tendencies into your strategy.

Chinese Poker Variants

Pineapple Open-Face Chinese Poker (or Pineapple OFC) is the most popular Chinese Poker variant. The game is growing throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

The biggest difference between Pineapple and Chinese Poker is that you don’t get all your cards all at once, which makes it much easier to foul.

You are dealt five cards and place them down face up on your board. You are then dealt three cards per round, using two and discarding one until you have made a 13-card board.

The second-biggest difference is that, in Pineapple, you can reach Fantasyland by making at least a pair of queens with your front hand. After “reaching Fantasyland”, on the very next hand, you are dealt 14 cards all at once, making your three hands with 13 cards while discarding one.

This allows you to rake in royalties and potentially win a ton off your opponents. A player in Fantasyland gets to “stay in Fantasyland” if he makes quads or better on the bottom, a full house or better in the middle, or three-of-a-kind on top.

The third-biggest difference is the bonus scoring system. The difference between winning and losing in Pineapple is generally based on bonuses, meaning that winning each individual hand in a round is less important than in Chinese Poker.

Here is the modern Pineapple OFC bonus scoring system:

Back Hand Bonus Middle Hand Bonus Front Hand Bonus
Straight +2 Three of a Kind +2 Pair of 6s +1
Flush +4 Straight +4 Pair of 7s +2
Full House +6 Flush +8 Pair of 8s +3
Quads +10 Full House +12 Pair of 9s +4
Straight Flush +15 Quads +20 Pair of 10s +5
Royal Flush +25 Straight Flush +30 Pair of Jacks +6
Royal Flush +50 Pair of Queens +7
Pair of Kings +8
Pair of Aces +9
Three 2s +10
Three 3s +11
Three 4s +12
Three 5s +13
Three 6s +14
Three 7s +15
Three 8s +16
Three 9s +17
Three 10s +18
Three Jacks +19
Three Queens +20
Three Kings +21
Three Aces +22

Where to Play Chinese Poker

Playing Chinese Poker at a casino is going to be a rare find.

You’re much more likely to find a few individuals who are down to play a game at a certain dollar amount per point. It’s usually a fantastic way to kill time while waiting for a cash game or a tournament to open up.

While playing Chinese Poker at a brick-and-mortar casino is going to be tough, you definitely can find some games online at real money online casinos or dedicated websites.

If you do find Chinese Poker online, you’re almost guaranteed to play the Pineapple OFC variant.

Pineapple OFC is available to play at CoinPoker, a crypto-based poker site.

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Blaise Bourgeois
Poker and Gambling Expert
Blaise Bourgeois
Poker and Gambling Expert

Blaise is an Expert Gambling Writer and a professional poker player in Brazil. He has played and traveled throughout Latin America for the last four-and-a-half years and recently won his first WSOP Circuit ring! He received his Master's in Sport Management and Sports Analytics from St. John's University. Blaise also holds a Mathematics and Computer Science degree from SUNY Purchase, where he still holds the school's Men's Soccer record for goals in a season. Blaise has worked for Catena Media, OddsSeeker, WSOP, PokerNews, and Poker.Org in various capacities. He has a passion for extensive research and aims to provide accurate…