Chinese Poker - Part One - The Basics

Chinese Poker - Part One - The Basics By Clearspine If you follow the professional tournament circuit, or watch shows like High Stakes Poker on television, you have no doubt heard stories about a game called Chinese Poker. Perhaps the most dramatic of these tales (at least the ones that have made it to the ears of the public) occurred a little over a year ago when Phil Hellmuth reported losing over a half million dollars to Phil Ivey in one session of play! It is clear that Chinese Poker has become a staple of professional poker players to while away the hours in between tournament sessions and regular cash games, or to distract them during lengthy airplane flights. So what IS Chinese Poker? In this series of three articles, I’m going to focus first on the basics of the game, next on variations of it that have sprung up and finally on some basic strategy to help you hold your own in a game that has more than its fair share of luck. Chinese Poker is normally played with between 2-4 players, each of whom receives 13 cards. With the 13 cards you are dealt, you need to create three poker hands, of five, five and three cards respectively. The three-card hand is called the “front” hand, and in this hand, straights and flushes do not count. The front hand must be weaker than the five-card “middle” hand, which must be weaker than the five-card “back” hand. The hands are ranked by the standard rules of poker. * Note that the three-card front hand can only have either three of a kind, a pair or a high card.* The object of the game is to have as many of your hands as possible be better than the corresponding hands of your opponents. The game is scored very simply. Each player’s three hands are compared with every other player’s hands. For every hand you have that is better than one of your opponents, you receive one point, and vice versa. Sometimes, an extra point is given to a player who sweeps all three hands against an opponent, or even wins two out of three hands. Just as in gin rummy, the players decide before the game begins how much each point is worth. The game can be played for a set amount of time, or it can extend into multiple sessions lasting for weeks before the players settle up. Although there is a certain amount of skill in the game, which will be discussed in future articles, Chinese Poker is much more luck-dependent than most other forms of poker. What makes the game so entertaining is that each dealt hand provides the players with a new challenge of how to arrange (set) the cards to maximize their chances of winning as many of the hands as possible. In the long run, as the luck inevitably evens out, Chinese Poker provides hours and hours of enjoyment with, Hellmuth-Ivey aside, usually small wins or losses for most players. Read part two Chinese Poker Variations>>