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Learning the Intricacies of Chinese Poker

There are no chips, bluffs or bets involved, so strictly speaking, Chinese Poker is not a Poker variant. However, this card game for 2-4 people, using a 52-card deck, uses Poker combinations and rankings to determine its winners, hence the name. Keen Poker fans enjoy it because it allows them to practise creating the best Poker hands possible from 13 cards.

Because there are no bets involved, many Chinese Poker games found online are open face versions, with all players’ cards visible the moment they set their hands. Whether playing with real cards at a land-based table, or an open face game online, however, the procedure is the same. Before play, the players set the unit, or the value of the point that all losing hands will owe to the hands that beat them. Players then exchange units with wins or losses, and are eventually paid out a set value per unit.

Setting Chinese Poker Hands                                                                     

At the start of play, each player is dealt 13 cards. The player must sort these cards into three hands: two 5-card hands and one 3-card hand. The 3-card hand, placed at the top or the front, must be the lowest-scoring Poker combination of the three hands. Then comes the middle hand, a 5-card hand that must be better than the top hand. The final 5-card hand, which must be the best of the three, is the bottom or back hand.

Wins Determined Hand by Hand

After all players have set their hands, any immediate or ‘natural’ wins, as explained below, are paid out. Then the hands are compared, top to top, middle to middle and bottom to bottom. Players must pay a unit to any player who beats any of their three hands, so scoring can be quite complicated if there are four players at the table.

A player might have a winning top and bottom hand, for example, but lose to all three opponents in the middle hand. Or a player can have the second-best hand on all three hands, but still win units from the two players, respectively, that they beat on each hand. It goes without saying that scoring is much easier to keep track of in two-player games.

Royalties or Bonuses Boost Wins

Certain rare Poker combinations, like Four of a Kind or a Straight Flush, are paid extra units in Chinese Poker, called royalties or bonuses. In land-based table games, players generally have to declare their royalties before their hands are revealed, giving other players the chance to surrender. In open face versions online, bonuses are usually paid automatically when the player sets their hands.

Naturals are 13-card hands that generally win big bonuses; a hand containing all 13 unique card values from 2 to A, for example. Although straights and flushes in the 3-card hand are not counted in normal play, if the player can set their hand so that the top, middle and bottom all contain flushes, or create three straights, these combinations are also high-scoring naturals. Six pairs, scattered across all three hands, is also a natural.

While complex at first, Chinese Poker gets easier with practice. Free versions online are a good place to get to know the game.

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