How To Play Open Face Chinese Poker
Compared with many other games, OFC Poker is a relative newcomer to the world of poker, often played as a favorite side-hustle of many top poker players.
In many ways it’s unlike most traditional poker games:
It’s played for points (you don’t need chips to play)
There are no betting rounds
Depending on which format you play, only 2-4 players may play at once
These differences may seem surprising at first, but the result is a fantastic short-handed card game which rewards poker skill in a whole new way! Read on to find out how to play Open Face Chinese Poker.
(Note: royalties and points for all hands can be found in our OFC Poker Scoring Guide)
From Chinese Poker to OFC to OFC Pineapple
OFC Poker is based on the game of Chinese Poker, where up to four players receive 13 cards each and arrange them into three different poker hands:
a ‘front’ hand of three cards
a ‘middle’ hand of five cards
a ‘back’ hand of five cards
The key is that the back must be stronger than the middle, which must be stronger than the front. As the front is only ever made up of three cards, three-of-a-kind is the best hand possible at the front.
Points are scored for each hand you make which beats your opponents’ hands, as well as extra points – known as ‘royalties’ – for making certain poker hands (detailed in the OFC Scoring Guide below).
You compare your front hand against your opponents’ front hands, your middle hand needs to beat your opponents’ middle hands, and the same applies to your back hands. It’s possible for one player to win, say, with their front hand, but a different player to win with their middle or back.
Open Face Chinese Poker
This twist on Chinese Poker sees each player initially receive and place only 5 cards, before play continues with each player receiving and placing a single card at a time. All cards are played face up.
OFC Pineapple Poker
This adds a further, crucial tweak to the game; a change which makes OFC Pineapple Poker a faster, more action-packed and entertaining game. Instead of receiving and placing a single card during each turn after the deal, players receive three cards and place two, discarding one face down.
This extra choice allows for a greater degree of skill, and is the change that pushed OFC Poker to become a hugely popular game around the world.
As a result, OFC Pineapple Poker quickly became the most widely played variant of OFC, and the version most players will be familiar with.
Open Face Chinese Poker Scoring
Scoring in OFC Poker may vary according to local rules or customs, but as a rule you will find points awarded as described in this guide to OFC royalties:
In addition to the royalties listed in the table above, players also receive 1 point for each hand they make which beats an opponent’s equivalent hand, e.g. if their back hand beats their rival’s back hand. Should one player win all three hands (known as a ‘scoop’), they receive a bonus of 3 points.
OFC Pineapple Poker can be played with two or three players. If playing with three, each player keeps a separate score with each opponent. For example, if Players A, B and C are in the game, separate scores will be kept between Players A and B, Players A and C, and Players B and C.
Playing Your Hand – Offence vs Defense
In all forms of Open Face Chinese Poker (other than hi-lo – see below) the back hand must be stronger than the middle hand, which must be stronger than the front hand. If your final hand doesn’t meet these requirements – for example, because you make a strong hand in the middle but can’t beat it at the back – your hand is ‘fouled’ and you lose the entire hand and score zero points (while letting your opponent potentially run up a big score on you!).
As OFC Poker sees cards added to the hand one or two at a time, skill is needed to place the right cards in the right place. For example, ignoring your opponent’s cards for now, let’s say that in a game of OFC Pineapple with one draw to come, you have the following cards:
Having just drawn an ace, a queen and a deuce, you have several options for how to play this hand. You know you must make a hand stronger than a pair of T's at the back, so could place the ace there for a pair of aces, and place the queen at the top for a good ace-high. Your back and front hands would then be set, and on your last draw you would not be able to improve your middle hand (as it cannot end up stronger than your back hand – a pair of aces). Heading into the final draw, you will have a safe, ‘made’ hand as shown below, but will have scored no royalties.
Another way to play this would be to make two pair in the middle and a pair of aces at the front, hoping to hit a club at the back on your last draw so your back hand beats your middle hand. This approach could lead to a far higher score, with aces at the front worth 9 points in royalties and a flush at the back worth a further 4. Heading into the final draw, however, your hand will not be safe and you will need a little luck on your side, but it will be far more rewarding if you do hit your club.
This constant shifting between aggression and defense makes Open Face Chinese Poker such an interesting game. Every hand can be played in many different ways, with risk constantly needing to be weighed against reward.
That’s because if you took the second option, but the club did not come, your hand would be ‘fouled’ as your back would not beat your middle, and you would receive no points at all for the round. What’s more, your opponent would receive points for beating you in all three hands, plus a further 3 points for scooping you.
If your club did come, however, then by making a pair of aces at the front you not only score 9 points in royalties, but you also become eligible for ‘fantasyland’.
If a player should make a pair of queens or better at the front, they are able to spend the next hand ‘in fantasyland’.
A player in fantasyland receives 14 cards at the start of the hand instead of the standard five, and creates all three of their hands face down before discarding the 14th card. Once their hand is set, their opponents play out their hands as normal, before the fantasyland hands are turned face up at the end of the round to be scored. It’s possible for one, two or three players to be in fantasyland at the same time.
Fantasyland is obviously a big advantage, and it’s even possible to stay there for the next round if you make any of the following hands while in fantasyland:
Three-of-a-kind at the front
A Full House or better in the middle
Four-of-a-kind or better at the back
Open Face Chinese Poker Hi-Lo
A fun variant on Pineapple OFC Poker is created by changing the requirements for the middle hand so it has to be a ‘lowball’ hand. In this hi-lo format, the middle is won by the lowest hand, and cannot contain any pairs, straights or flushes, and no card higher than a T. The best middle hand is therefore 2-3-4-5-7 with more than one suit (also known as ‘The Wheel’).
With only two high hands to make – the front and the back – it’s possible to score much higher in OFC hi-lo. A pair of aces at the front, for example, can be covered by as little as two pair at the back, as the middle hand does not need to be stronger than the front.
With greater potential for high scores, the requirement to become eligible for fantasyland in OFC hi-lo is a pair of kings at the front, not queens. You can also qualify for fantasyland by making The Wheel in the middle.
Scoring in hi-lo is identical to regular OFC for the front and back hands, while the middle hand is scored as follows:
Middle Hand (Hi-Lo)
2-3-4-5-7 (‘The Wheel’)
In hi-lo, to stay in fantasyland for the next round you must make any of the following hands:
Three-of-a-kind at the front
The Wheel in the middle
Four-of-a-kind or better at the back
What’s more, in OFC Pineapple Hi-Lo it’s even possible to go to ‘super fantasyland’! Make The Wheel in the middle and kings or better at the front, and the next hand will see you receive 15 cards instead of 14, placing 13 of them and discarding two.
How to Play OFC Online
Various poker sites offer games of Open Face Chinese Poker online, usually available as OFC Pineapple with up to three players.
As OFC is played for points, a standard buy-in when playing OFC online would be for a set amount of points, usually 100, so buying in for $10 would usually mean you are playing for $0.10 per point.
A round of OFC sees each player take the dealer position once, so when buying in to a two-player game you will be committed to playing at least two hands – or three for a three-player game. Note that the dealer button does not move if a player has qualified for fantasyland, so you may end up playing more than the two or three hands you intended if this is the case. However, it is not possible to lose more than the points you buy in for during a round of OFC.
Ready for More?
Open Face Chinese Poker is a gripping game with huge appeal for poker lovers looking for a change of pace from Texas Hold’em. If you’re looking for more games to try, why not learn the rules to Badugi, or check out our guide to Pot-Limit Omaha? You’ll find plenty more in our list of the Top 10 Poker Games.
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