Chinese Poker (Standard)
In the game of Chinese Poker, each of the 2-4 players receives 13 cards from a standard 52 cards deck. Each player then divides their 13 cards into their three poker hand Chinese Poker “setting”. A legal setting is a front hand of 3 cards, and a middle and back hand consisting of 5 cards each. The back hand must be higher or equal ranking to the middle hand, and the middle hand must be higher or equal ranking to the front hand. After all the players have set their hands, each player will announce in turn (clockwise, starting from the left of the dealer) whether or not they are playing their hand. All players then announce their royalties before revealing their hands.
Open Face Chinese Poker
Open Face Chinese Poker (OFC) is a Chinese Poker variant where players set their hands face up as they receive cards. Each player starts with 5 cards, and sets all five cards face up at once, in any hand position they want. Then, each player receives 1 card at a time (dealing to the left of the dealer button), and places the card in their hand until they have 13 cards.
OFC can be played with 2-4 players, but it is typically played with 2-3 players. Each player uses the 13 cards (dealt as above), to make a 3 card front hand, a 5 card middle hand and 5 card back hand. The order of play or action is in a clockwise direction starting with the player to the left of the dealer button.
As in regular Chinese Poker the back hand must be stronger than or equal to the middle hand and the middle hand must be stronger than or equal to the front hand. The strength of the hand is determined by the normal poker hand rankings. The middle and back hand can make the best five card poker hand while the front hand can only make the best three card hand (three of kind). In three card poker hands, the best hand is AAA, as straights and flushes are not relevant.
Each player scores their hand against each other player. If a hand is legal (set correct according to the ranking rules), then the player receives 1 scoring unit for each of their 3 hands they win against each player, and 3 bonus scoring units if they “scoop” (wins all 3 hands against a player). Inversely, players lose 1 scoring unit for each hand they lose to a player, and lose 3 bonus scoring units to a player that scoops them.
Points are added to the winner and subtracted from the loser as the game progresses. If a game has more than two players, players gain a point for each hand/row they win from each player and lose a point for each hand/row they lose from each player. Royalty points are also scored based on the number of players involved. For example, a player with a completed back hand flush in a three player game would receive an 8 point bonus, 4 per player excluding royalties in any non-fouled opponents' hands. If other players do not have royalties, they would lose 4 points each otherwise, players would calculate the difference between the royalties achieve in their own legal hands.
If a hand is mis-set (an illegal hand is made by not following hand rankings in order of the three hands), then the player is fouled. A fouled player loses 6 points to each other player that isn’t fouled themselves. The 6 points are made up of one point per line of the hand, and 3 points for being scooped. Fouled players lose additional points to other players that achieved royalties. Opponents with legal (non-fouled) hands gain the 6 points plus any extra points for any royalties they have. If there is more than one fouling player, then fouling players tie between each other. No points are gained or lost between players with fouled hands.
Since players don’t receive all 13 cards at once like in standard Chinese Poker, fouling plays a large factor in the game, so players use more aggressive strategies to avoid fouling.
Qualifying for Fantasy Land
The rule for qualifying for Fantasy Land is simple. You get to Fantasy Land if you make a qualifying hand with QQ or better on top.
Fantasy Land is a bonus round in Open Face Chinese. The button stays where it was during the hand that had Fantasy Land qualifier(s). If a player makes it into Fantasy Land, then all other opponents are obliged to play the next hand while the player is in, and remains in, Fantasy Land.
The qualified player(s) in Fantasy Land enjoy the significant advantage of receiving all 13 of the cards at once, instead of 1 at time after the starting 5 like the other players. The Fantasy Land player(s) set their hand(s) while waiting for the other opponents to play their hands in the normal process. Other players cannot see any of the Fantasy Land player(s) cards until the hand is ready for showdown.
Remaining in Fantasy Land
A player can re-qualify for Fantasy Land while in a Fantasy Land round, but with harder requirements since the player receives all cards at once. The players needs to make quads or better on the bottom OR a full house or better in the middle OR a three of a kind on the top. The full list of hands qualifying to stay in Fantasy Land is below:
Top: 222+ (Trips)
Bottom: Quads or Better
In this variant players are dealt 3 cards instead of 1 and they must play 2 (discarding 1 facedown. During fantasy land the player will receive 14 cards instead of 13 and they must discard one card.
In the Criss Cross variant, which is played heads up only, each player is dealt two 5 card hands. The players the play each of their hands against each of their opponents' hands. Players' hands are to be treated as two independent hands and they cannot exchange cards between the two hands.