Poke

Poke is a unique two-player game that combines the mechanics of a trick-taking game with that of poker. In the first part of the hand, players draw cards to make the strongest poker hand they can. In the second, they play those hands out in the style of a classic trick-taking game.

Poke was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, perhaps best known for his classic board game Acquire. The rules of Poke were first published in Esquire magazine in 1946, and it was later included in Sackson’s 1969 book A Gamut of Games.

Object of Poke

The object of Poke is to score points by forming good poker hands and collecting tricks.

Setup

To play Poke, you’ll need a typical 52-card deck of playing cards. It should come as no surprise that we recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need a Contract Bridge-style scoresheet. If you don’t have a pre-printed Bridge scorepad handy, you can easily make a scoresheet by hand. Divide the page into two columns (one for each player, traditionally labeled “WE” and “THEY”) and then divide the columns into upper and lower halves by a horizontal line. Unlike regular poker, there is no betting, so you won’t need chips or money or anything like that. (Unless you just have to bet on it.)

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The draw

The non-dealer acts first. They examine their hand, hoping to have a hand that is strong both as poker hand and at trick-taking. With this in mind, they decide whether they wish to discard any cards. If they do, they may discard up to three cards, and are dealt replacements from the stock. However, drawing doubles the player; any tricks the dealer captures will count double at the end of the hand. If the player is still not satisfied with their hand, they may discard a second time, and doing so redoubles them, making their opponent’s tricks count quadruple. Should a player choose to simply stand pat, they incur no penalty and are not doubled or redoubled.

After the non-dealer finalizes their hand, the dealer has the chance to draw cards. Unlike the non-dealer, the dealer’s first draw is free; they are not penalized for choosing not to stand pat. The dealer also has the option to double and redouble themselves by drawing a second and third time.

Play of the hand

The non-dealer leads any card they wish to the first trick. The dealer responds by playing any card from their hand. Whoever played the higher card wins the trick. Unlike in most trick-taking games, suits are wholly irrelevant to trick play; there is not even a requirement to follow suit. In the event of a tie, the player who led to the trick wins it. After a trick has been played, leave it on the table, keeping it clear who played which card. When a player wins a trick, they lead to the next one.

If a player has a pair in their hand, they may lead both cards at once. This effectively leads to two tricks at the same time. Their opponent can only beat this type of lead by playing a higher pair; if they cannot, they may play any two cards and lose both tricks. Likewise, a player holding three or four of a kind may lead the whole set at once, and their opponent can only beat them if they have a higher-ranking set with the appropriate number of cards.

Scoring

After all five tricks have been played, each player counts up the number of tricks they have won. If a player’s opponent was not doubled or redoubled, each trick the player captured scores one point. If the opponent was doubled, each trick is worth two points; with a redoubled opponent, each trick is worth four points. These points are recorded below the horizontal line on the scoresheet.

Once the trick scores have been tallied, the players determine who had the better hand according to the usual rank of poker hands. Whichever player had the stronger hand scores an honor score as follows:

  • Royal flush: 1,000 points
  • Straight flush: 750 points
  • Four of a kind: 600 points
  • Full house: 500 points
  • Flush: 400 points
  • Straight: 300 points
  • Three of a kind: 200 points
  • Two pair: 100 points
  • One pair: 50 points

This honor score is recorded above the line. If a player takes in all five tricks on a hand, they score a 250-point bonus, also recorded above the line.

After the hand is scored, the non-dealer collects the cards, shuffles, and deals the next hand.

Game and rubber

Game play continues until one player reaches 20 or more points below the line, ending the first game. This player scores a 100-point bonus above the line for winning the first game. (If both players tie at 20 or more points below the line, it is ignored until further game play breaks the tie.) The scores below the line are then zeroed out, and another game is played.

When a player wins two games, a rubber is completed. The player ending the rubber scores the usual game bonus, plus a 500-point rubber bonus above the line if their opponent won a game, or a 750-point bonus if they didn’t. The scores above the line are then totaled, and whichever player has the higher score is the winner.

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Triple Draw Lowball

Triple Draw Lowball (often called just Triple Draw) is a form of lowball poker for two to six players. It’s a fairly simple game, especially if you’re familiar with Five-Card Draw or other Draw Poker variants. However, having four chances to bet instead of one makes Triple Draw an exciting, competitive game with large pots and lots of betting action. Triple Draw has become popular in Las Vegas casinos, being included in many high-limit mixed game rotations.

Object of Triple Draw Lowball

The object of Triple Draw Lowball is to form the lowest-ranking poker hand after drawing new cards up to three times.

Setup

Triple Draw uses the same standard 52-card deck as most other poker games. We suggest that you give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try if you haven’t yet. You’ll also need something to bet with, probably poker chips. The game is typically played with fixed limits (see “Betting in poker“), so all players should agree to what the limits will be.

The two players to the left of the dealer post their blinds (see “Blinds and antes“). Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The dealer retains the deck stub for later use.

Game play

Upon receiving their cards, players evaluate the strength of their hand. Triple Draw is most frequently played with deuce-to-seven lowball rules. In this version of lowball, straights and flushes are taken into consideration when ranking hands, and aces count high. That means the lowest possible hand is 2-3-4-5-7 (because 2-3-4-5-6 forms a straight). The first betting round then begins, with the player to the left of the big blind (the player under the gun) starting the betting. Betting follows the typical rules of betting in poker.

After the first round of betting is resolved, the first draw occurs, starting with the player to the left of the dealer (the small blind). This player discards any number of cards, from zero to five, face down in front of them. The dealer then deals them the appropriate number of replacement cards from the stub. This continues, clockwise, until all active players have had a chance to swap cards. The dealer then collects the discards and sets them aside.

When the first draw finishes, the second betting round begins, starting this time with the small blind player. This is followed by a second draw (conducted the same way as the first), then the third betting round, then the third draw, then the fourth and final betting round. Betting limits are typically doubled on the third and fourth betting rounds. If there are at least two active players left at the end of the fourth betting round, they reveal their hands. Whoever has the lowest-ranked poker hand wins the pot.

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East–West

East-West card game layoutEast–West is a poker game for two players. Much like Pai Gow Poker or Chinese Poker, the challenge in the game is placing cards you receive into one of three hands. East–West has two major differences with those games, though. First, there is one community card that you share with your opponent. Second, there is no gambling in this game at all!

East–West was created by German author Reiner Knizia. It was first published in German, in his 1995 Wild West-themed compendium of family-oriented poker games, Kartenspiele im Wilden Westen. The book was translated to English and published in 2007 as Blazing Aces! A Fistful of Family Card Games.

Object of East–West

The object of East–West is to strategically place cards drawn from the stock into one of three poker hands. The ultimate goal is to win two out of the three hands.

Setup

East–West was created to be played with a German deck of cards. To make an equivalent pack from an English-style 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, just remove the 6s through 2s. You’ll be left with a deck containing aces through 7s in each of the four suits, for 32 cards in all.

Both players should sit on the same side of the table. One player will play the left or “West” side of the board, while the other will play the right or “East” side.

Shuffle and deal three cards, face up, in a vertical line. These three cards are the board cards. Place the deck stub above the uppermost board card, forming the stock.

Game play

The nondealer goes first. They draw a card from the stock and place it next to any one of the three board cards, on their designated side. The dealer goes next, doing the same thing, placing their card on the opposite side. Players continue alternating in this way, drawing cards and placing them.

Each player thus builds three poker hands. Each hand consists of one of the board cards and the other cards on that row on their side. A player may only place cards on their side, not on their opponent’s. Once a player has placed four cards on a row, the hand is complete (making a five-card hand, including the board card) and no more cards may be added to it.

After both players have completed all three hands, players compare each hand with their opponent’s on the same row. Whichever player wins two out of the three hands wins the game.

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Razz

Razz is a form of seven-card stud poker, typically played as a lowball poker game. It can support from two to eight players. While nowhere near as popular as the more well-known poker games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, Razz has nevertheless been an enduring staple of high-level poker play. It was one of the games played at the second World Series of Poker in 1971. A Razz event has been held as part of the WSOP every year since 1973. Razz is the “R” in the frequently-used “HORSE” progression of poker games.

Object of Razz

The object of Razz is to win money by convincing the other players that you possess the best ace-to-five lowball hand. That is, you want the lowest-ranking hand according to the usual rank of poker hands, with straights and flushes disregarded.

Setup

Like most poker games, all you need to play Razz is a 52-card deck of playing cards and something to bet with. For the cards, you owe it to yourself to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Most people use poker chips as their betting instrument. We’ve seen other things used, but can get really strange in a hurry. You’ll need to establish betting limits, as well. Razz is typically played as a limit poker game, so make sure you establish what the limits are before playing.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal two cards face down to each player, then one card face up. This face-up card is referred to as the door card.

Game play

The player with the highest (and therefore worst) door card goes first. In cases where multiple players hold a card of the highest rank present, ties are broken by suit. Suits rank in the order (high) spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs (low). This player is required to make a mandatory bet called a bring-in bet. This is a blind bet equal to half of a normal bet. However, if the player wishes, they may “complete the bet” by making a full bet rather than a bring-in bet. After this first player, betting proceeds according to the normal rules for betting in poker.

After the first betting round concludes, all remaining players are dealt another face-up card. Whichever player is showing the lowest (and therefore best) hand leads off another round of betting. A fifth card is then dealt to each active player, again face up. At this point, the betting limit doubles (and remains doubled for the rest of the hand) for the ensuing betting round, which is again kicked off by the player showing the best hand. This process repeats for the sixth card.

The seventh and final card is dealt face down to each player. Occasionally, because a large percentage of the players stayed in the hand, there won’t be enough cards to go around. In this case, simply deal one card, face up, in the center of the table. This card serves as a “community card”—the seventh card of every player’s hand.

After the final betting round, any players still remaining in the game reveal their cards. Whoever has the best ace-to-five lowball hand takes the pot.

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Ultimate Texas Hold’em

Ultimate Texas Hold'em logo
Ultimate Texas Hold’em, often abbreviated as UTH, is an adaptation of Texas Hold’em to the player-versus-the-house format of casino table games. Two to eight people (including the dealer) can play.  Introduced during the height of the 2000s poker craze, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a more approachable game for players that may be intimidated by the more confrontational style of betting found in traditional poker games.

Like Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a proprietary game owned and licensed by Scientific Games. UTH was originally developed by Roger Snow of ShuffleMaster, a manufacturer of card shuffling equipment. As with Three Card Poker, ShuffleMaster created specialized shuffling and dealing machines customized for UTH. ShuffleMaster was later acquired by Bally Technologies, which was later purchased by Scientific Games.

As with Three Card Poker, you won’t usually find the UTH tables in the poker room. Instead, look for them in the pit, alongside the Three Card Poker and Blackjack tables.

Object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em

The object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em is to recognize when you hold a hand that is likely to form a better poker hand than the dealer’s. This allows you to take advantage of opportunities to bet higher (and thus hopefully be paid higher). Alternately, the object is determine when the hand isn’t worth playing and exit the game to avoid a greater loss.

Setup

Ultimate Texas Hold’em is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’re playing at home, why not take advantage of the opportunity to get out your Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? You’ll also need chips for each player to bet with. The dealer should be provided with a generous amount of chips for paying out winning wagers.

Casino UTH tables are covered in a felt surface with betting circles pre-printed on them, to organize the four bets that are available to the players. (An example of such a betting layout is shown at below right.) Unlike public-domain games like Blackjack, you’re unlikely to find UTH layouts available from anyone but Scientific Games. If you’re planning on dealing a home game instead of just playing in a casino, you’ll need to put one together yourself.

Players make their initial bets, as described below in “Making the initial bets”. After each player has bet, shuffle and deal five cards, face down; these will be the board cards. Deal two cards, also face down, to each player, including the dealer. These are the players’ hole cards.

Game play

Cards rank in their usual order in UTH, with aces high (although they can be used in an A–5 straight). Hands rank in the typical order; see rank of poker hands if you need a refresher.

Making the initial bets

Ultimate Texas Hold'em betting layoutThe basic bets in UTH are the Ante and Blind bets, which most players will usually make. A player must make both bets, or neither of them; the amount placed in each betting circle must be equal.

A player may also choose to make an optional Trips bet. The Trips bet pays based on the best hand a player can make between their two cards and the five community cards. Whether or not the player’s hand is better than the dealer’s is immaterial to the outcome of the Trips bet. A player may choose to bet only the Trips bet, and not the Ante and Blind bets.

The Play betting circle remains empty until later on in the hand.

Play of the hand

After receiving their hand and being allowed to do so by the dealer, the player looks at their two cards. The dealer proceeds around the table, from left to right, giving each player their turn. On their turn, they may, if they wish, make their Play bet, which must be either three or four times the amount of the Ante bet. Otherwise, they check by tapping the table.

After all players have had a chance to bet or check, the dealer reveals the flop (the first three board cards). Each player who has not already made a Play bet gets a turn now. If they wish, they may now place a Play bet equal to twice the Ante bet. They may also check again, if they still do not wish to bet.

The dealer then reveals the last two board cards. Players have one last chance to make a Play bet, which is now limited to be exactly equal to the Ante bet. If a player still doesn’t want to bet, then they fold, surrendering all of the bets they’ve made to the dealer.

When all players have made a Play bet or folded, the dealer turns their hole cards face up. They declare the best five-card poker hand they can make using their two hole cards and the five board cards. If the dealer has at least a pair or higher, they are said to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify, the Ante bet will push, but the other two bets will still be paid out normally.

Payouts

The dealer now proceeds around the table to each active player in turn, starting with the player to their right and working around to the left. The dealer reveals the player’s hole cards and announces the best poker hand the player can make. This hand is then compared to the dealer’s. If the dealer has a better hand, the dealer collects the Blind and Play bets, the Ante bet if the dealer qualified, and the player’s cards. Should the player have a better hand, they are paid out at even money on the Play bet and the Blind bet, as well as the Ante bet if the dealer qualified. If the player wins and has a straight or higher, they are paid at a higher rate on the Blind bet, as shown in the table below.

If the player made the Trips bet, it is settled regardless of if the player won or not. The Trips bet pays only if the player has three of a kind or better. If they do not, the bet loses and is collected by the dealer. If they do, it is paid according to the table below.

The payouts for the Trips and winning Blind bets are as follows:

Hand Trips Blind
Royal flush 50 to 1 500 to 1
Straight flush 40 to 1 50 to 1
Four of a kind 30 to 1 10 to 1
Full house 8 to 1 3 to 1
Flush 6 to 1 3 to 2
Straight 5 to 1 even money
Three of a kind 3 to 1 even money
Two Pair
Pair
even money

After every player’s bets have been resolved, the cards are shuffled. Players then make their bets for the next hand.

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Three Card Poker

Three Card Poker is a betting game played in casinos throughout the world. Unlike most forms of poker, the player wins when they can manage to beat the house, as in Blackjack and Mini Baccarat. Accordingly, Three Card Poker tables are usually located in the blackjack pit, not in the poker room.

Unlike most games played with traditional cards, Three Card Poker is a proprietary game. It was originally marketed by ShuffleMaster, a company which made and supplied automatic card shufflers to casinos. Due to a chain of acquisitions, the game is now owned by Scientific Games. Scientific Games still licenses the rights to the Three Card Poker name, as well as selling layouts and specialized shufflers that can also be programmed to deal three-card hands for each player.

Object of Three Card Poker

The object of Three Card Poker is to hold a hand higher than that of the dealer, or walk away when they feel they are unlikely to do so.

Setup

Unlike many casino table games, Three Card Poker is played with only one standard, 52-card deck of playing cards. Happily, that means if you’re wanting to play a home game, you can use your favorite deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need chips to bet with.

Casinos spread the game on a felt table with a printed layout that facilitates the placing and payout of bets. Each player position has three betting boxes, typically laid out as shown at right. Because Three Card Poker is a proprietary game, pre-printed felt layouts are not as readily available as those found in games such as Blackjack. If you’re playing at home, you will most likely have to get creative, making a betting layout for yourself.

All players place a bet (which must be between the posted table minimums and maximums) in the Ante box on the layout. If they wish, they may also place an additional bet in the Pair Plus circle. Shuffle and deal three cards face down to each player, including the dealer.

Game play

Rank of Three Card Poker hands

Because there are only three cards involved, the hands available in Three Card Poker and their ranking differ from traditional poker. The hands are, from highest to lowest:

  1. Straight flush: Three cards of the same suit, in sequence.
  2. Three of a kind: Three cards of the same rank.
  3. Straight: Three cards in sequence.
  4. Flush: Three cards of the same suit.
  5. Pair: Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card.
  6. High card: Three unmatched cards.

Competing pairs are evaluated by the rank of the pair, with the kicker (unmatched card) breaking ties. All other hands are evaluated by comparing the top-ranked card, then the second-highest, then the lowest. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high (although A-2-3 is a valid straight).

Play of the hand

Each player picks up their cards (touching the cards is allowed in Three Card Poker) and examines their hand. They now make the only decision in the game—whether to raise (play) or fold. If the player folds, they surrender their cards to the dealer, who collects their money from the Ante and Pair Plus circles. If they raise, they place another bet, exactly the same amount as their Ante wager, on top of their cards (which are placed in the box overlapping the Play box, such that a bet placed on top of the cards ends up being in the Play box).

When all players have acted, the dealer reveals their hand. If the dealer’s hand is queen high or better, they are said to qualify. Should the dealer fail to qualify, the hand ends immediately, with each player being paid even money on their Ante bet and the Play bet pushing. (It should be noted that, so long as the player hasn’t folded, the Ante bet always pays when the dealer fails to qualify, even if the player’s hand is lower than the dealer’s.)

If the dealer qualifies, each player’s hand is compared with the dealer’s. Starting with the player to their right, and proceeding counter-clockwise around the table, the dealer reveals each player’s hand. If the player’s hand is higher than the dealer’s, they are paid even money on both the Ante and Play bets. When the dealer’s hand is higher, both bets are lost. If the dealer and player tie exactly, both bets push.

Pair Plus and Ante bonus payouts

If the player holds a high enough hand, they may get paid no matter what the dealer holds. Usually, this will happen because they made the Pair Plus bet, which operates entirely independently of the other two bets. If the player has a pair or higher, they are paid according to the hand they hold; otherwise, the bet is lost. A player holding a straight or better also receives a bonus on their Ante bet (regardless of if they played the Pair Plus bet).

Pair Plus bet and Ante bonuses are paid according to the following paytable. Note that these are typical values; some casinos may pay different rates.

Hand Pair Plus Ante bonus
Straight flush 40 to 1 5 to 1
Three of a kind 30 to 1 4 to 1
Straight 6 to 1 even money
Flush: 3 to 1
Pair even money

Three Card Poker strategy

According to Michael Shackelford of the popular Wizard of Odds gambling probabilities site, the mathematically ideal strategy for Three Card Poker is to play hands of Q-6-4 and higher and to fold hands of Q-6-3 and lower.

It should be noted that the house edge on the Pairs Plus bet is 7.28%. This is not much better than betting on a slot machine. However, to many players, the chance to catch a straight flush and win $200 on a $5 bet is too great a temptation to resist…

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Liar’s Poker

Liar’s Poker recasts the bluffing spirit of the game of poker into an I Doubt It-style affair, doing away with the gambling aspect altogether. That makes it an excellent game for younger players, or to familiarize new players with the poker hands. It can be played with two to eight players, but is best with three to five.

Object of Liar’s Poker

The object of Liar’s Poker is to successfully determine whether the active player in fact has the hand they claim to have.

Setup

Liar’s Poker is played with a 54-card deck of playing cards, formed by adding two jokers to a standard 52-card deck. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t wish you’d use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards in your game. You’ll also need something to keep score with. Pencil and paper is fine, but it’s much simpler to use a supply of markers, such as poker chips.

Select the first active player by any convenient means, such as mutual agreement or high-card draw. Shuffle and deal five cards to that player only. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.

Game play

The first player looks at the five-card hand they have dealt. They then declare any standard poker hand that they assert the hand contains (jokers act as wild cards). They may simply declare the hand type that they purport to hold (e.g. “a pair”), or they may declare more specifics, such as “a pair of 10s”, “a pair of 10s with an ace kicker”, etc. The player to the left of the active player must decide whether or not they believe the declaration. If they do, they accept the hand, and the cards pass to that player.

The new active player then looks at the cards. They don’t reveal whether or not the declaration was true or not. Instead, they may discard up to four cards, face down, and draw new ones to bring the hand back up to five cards. They must then make a declaration higher than that of their predecessor. This may be a wholesale improvement in the hand (e.g. going from “a pair” to “two pair” or “a pair of 5s” to “a pair of 9s”) or it may disclose more information than the previous one. For example, if the previous player declared “a pair of jacks”, then “a pair of jacks with a queen kicker”, “a pair of jacks with a 7”, etc. would qualify as a higher declaration.

If a player doesn’t believe a declaration that has been presented to them, they call “Liar!” If the declaration was honest, then the active player reveals just as many cards needed to prove the declaration correct, and the doubter is given one point. Otherwise, the cards are discarded, face down, and the liar gets one point. In either case, the cards are shuffled. The player that scored the point is dealt a new hand and becomes the new active player.

Game play continues until one player reaches a predetermined number of points. The player with the lowest score at that point is the winner.

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Soko (Canadian Stud)

Soko, also known under the name of Canadian Stud Poker, is a variation on Five-Card Stud Poker that adds two new hands to the hand ranking. It is most popular in Finland, which is where it derives its name; sökö is a form of the Finnish word for check.

Object of Soko

The object of Soko is to form the best five-card poker hand, or to bet in such a way as to convince your opponents that you have the best hand.

Setup

Like all poker games, Soko uses the standard 52-card deck, without any jokers. We commend anyone who makes the correct decision to choose Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for their game. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips.

As with all betting games, it is important to establish betting limits that all players mutually agree to and are comfortable with. Like most classic stud poker games, Soko is played with an ante, the amount of which should be decided ahead of time, as well as the maximum and minimum betting limits.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal one card face down to each player (the hole card), then one card face up.

Game play

Rank of Soko hands

Soko uses two hands that aren’t found in standard poker, the Canadian straight (or four straight) and Canadian flush (or four flush). Both of these are simply a straight or a flush, respectively, made of four cards with one unmatched card. A Canadian straight outranks one pair, a Canadian flush outranks a Canadian straight, and two pair outranks a Canadian straight. The remainder of the hands follow the standard rank of poker hands, so the full rank of Soko hands, from highest to lowest, is:

  1. Royal flush.
  2. Straight flush.
  3. Four of a kind.
  4. Full house.
  5. Flush.
  6. Straight.
  7. Three of a kind.
  8. Two pair.
  9. Canadian flush.
  10. Canadian straight.
  11. One pair.
  12. High card.

Play of the hand

The first action of the hand goes to the player who shows the lowest face-up card. (If there are multiple players tied for low, the one closest to the left of deal goes first.) This first player is obliged to make an initial bet called the bring-in. The minimum amount of the bring-in is only half that of the usual minimum bet (rounded down if the minimum bet does not divide into an even number of chips). If the player wishes to bet more than the bring-in amount, they may do so. The betting round is thereafter conducted according to the usual rules of betting in poker.

After the betting round, each player is dealt another face-up card, bringing them to a total of three cards. A second betting round is then conducted, with first action again going to the player showing the lowest hand, although there is no bring-in required on this or subsequent betting rounds. If any player shows a pair as their two face-up cards, the betting limits (minimum and maximum) are doubled.

Another card is dealt face up to each active player, then another betting round occurs, with doubled betting limits for the remainder of the hand regardless of what any of the players hold. This pattern continues, with more cards being dealt until each active player has a five-card hand (four face up and one face down), with a betting round following each card dealt. After the fifth and final betting round, all players still in contention for the pot reveal their hands. The pot is awarded to the player holding the highest hand.

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Open-Face Chinese Poker

Dragon_Lantern_Festival_crop Open-Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) is a variant of Chinese Poker where, instead of the players getting all their cards at once, they receive them one at a time and choose which hand to put them in. Additionally, all the cards are played face up, so players can change their strategy based on what their opponents are doing! That means the game has a lot more action, because there’s more strategic play and more players fouling, increasing the amount of money being shuffled around. Because each player receives thirteen cards, it is limited to two to four players, unlike most poker games.

Open-Face Chinese Poker originated in Finland, spreading to Russia shortly thereafter. High-stakes Russian poker players introduced it to the mainstream poker community in 2012, and since then it has spread around the globe, quickly becoming an extremely popular side game for many poker elites.

Object of Open-Face Chinese Poker

The object of Open-Face Chinese Poker is to split the thirteen cards dealt to a player over the course of the game into three hands in such a way that, ideally, each of the hands is stronger than their opponents’ hands.

Setup

Like almost all poker games, Open-Face Chinese Poker is played with the standard 52-card deck. We naturally endorse the use of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards in your game. You’ll also need something to bet with, preferably poker chips.

As in Chinese Poker, hands are compared from player to player, not against all other players at once. Before play begins, the players should establish the value of one unit. All transactions will be conducted in multiples of this unit. Two players may mutually decide that one unit will be a different value for transactions between those two players in particular, while transactions with other opponents will be conducted at the usual rate.

Shuffle and deal five cards, face down, to each player. Place the remaining cards face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

Over the course of a hand of Open-Face Chinese Poker, the player will be forming three hands: a three-card hand, called the front hand, a five-card hand stronger than the front hand, called the middle hand, and a five-card hand stronger than the middle and front hands, called the back hand. This act is called setting the hands. Straights and flushes are not counted as such in the three-card front hand. If the hands are not set with the strongest hand as the back hand and the weakest as the front hand (according to the standard rank of poker hands), this is considered a foul and none of the player’s three hands are eligible to win.

The player to the left of the dealer plays first. They turn their five cards face up and split them any way they wish between the three hands. They may place all five cards in either the back or the middle hands, place three in the front hand and one each in the other two hands, or so on. To distinguish which card goes with which hand, they place cards meant for the back hand in a row closest to them, cards for the middle hand above those, and cards for the front hand above those, furthest away from them. After the player has set their first five cards, the turn passes to the left, with that player setting their cards the same way, and so on.

After all players have set their initial five cards, the player to the dealer’s left draws one card from the stock, turns it face up, and adds it to any one of their three hands. They cannot cause any hand to exceed the maximum number of cards in that hand (five cards for the middle and back hands and three for the front hand). The player to their left does the same thing, continuing in turn around the table until each player has a total of thirteen cards, with three complete hands.

After all players have formed their complete hands, the hands are scored. Each player begins by calculating the score of all royalties in their hands, according to the table below:

Hand Front hand Middle hand Back hand
Royal flush 50 25
Straight flush 30 15
Four of a kind 20 10
Full house 12 6
Flush 8 4
Straight 4 2
3 of a kind 20
A-A-x 9
K-K-x 8
Q-Q-x 7
J-J-x 6
10-10-x 5
9-9-x 4
8-8-x 3
7-7-x 2
6-6-x 1

The players then compare hands, one at a time, with each opponent. The players each add one point to their royalty score for each hand that they beat (comparing front to front hand, middle to middle, and back to back) belonging to that opponent. If a player wins all three hands, this is considered a sweep and they score an additional three-point bonus. After the players calculate their scores, the player scoring lower pays one unit per point for the difference between their scores.

If a player fouled, they pay to each opponent a flat penalty of six units, plus one unit per point for all royalties that the opponent held.

After all payouts have been made, the deal passes to the left and the next hand is played.

Fantasyland

If a player sets their hand with a pair of queens or better in the front hand without fouling, they are entitled to play the next hand in fantasyland. More than one player may be in fantasyland at once. The deal does not rotate on a fantasyland hand, instead being dealt by the same dealer as the last normal hand. After the initial five cards are dealt, eight more cards are dealt to each player in fantasyland, giving them all thirteen cards, which they immediately set, face-down. The other players play out the hand the normal way, with the fantasyland player turning their hands face up only when everyone else has set their hands.

If a player in fantasyland sets their hand with four of a kind or better in the back, or a full house or better in the middle, or three of a kind in the front, they may remain in fantasyland for another hand, and continue doing so as long as they continue to hold these hands.

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Chinese Poker

A Chinese dragonChinese Poker, also known as Pusoy, is a form of poker where players receive thirteen cards, which they must split into three poker hands. This mechanic is similar to that found in Pai Gow Poker, although in Chinese Poker, the players are playing against each other, rather than the house. Unlike most forms of poker, Chinese Poker and its variants are limited to four players because of the comparatively large number of cards each player gets. It’s also unusual because wagers are settled player-to-player, rather than with a traditional poker betting structure.

Despite its somewhat unconventional play, Chinese Poker has been embraced by the serious poker community. Chinese Poker was played at the World Series of Poker in 1995 and 1996. It is spread at a number of casinos in the United States. Open-Face Chinese Poker, a variant where five of the player’s thirteen cards are exposed to their opponents, was introduced in the United States in 2012, and has become increasingly popular as a side game in poker tournaments in the last several years.

Object of Chinese Poker

The object of Chinese Poker is to split the thirteen-card hand given to a player into three hands in such a way that, ideally, each of the hands is stronger than their opponents’ hands.

Setup

Like most forms of poker, Chinese Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are perfect for any game. You will also need something to bet with, such as poker chips.

Players should agree as to the value of one unit. All transactions will be conducted in multiples of this unit. Unlike other poker games, hands are compared from player to player, not against all other players at once, so two players may mutually decide that one unit will be a different value for transactions between those two players in particular.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. Any unused cards are set aside and have no further bearing on game play.

Game play

Each player looks at their cards and separates them into three hands: a three-card hand, called the front hand, a five-card hand stronger than the front hand, called the middle hand, and a five-card hand stronger than the middle and front hands, called the back hand. This act is called setting the hands. Straights and flushes are not counted as such in the three-card front hand. If the hands are not set with the strongest hand as the back hand and the weakest as the front hand (according to the standard rank of poker hands), this is considered a foul and none of the player’s three hands are eligible to win. Once a player has decided how to set their hands, they place them face-down on the table, with the back hand closest to them and the front hand closest to the center of the table.

A few particular thirteen-card combinations are considered to be naturals. A player must declare and reveal the natural prior to the other hands being exposed if they wish to score it as a natural, although the player has the option to set the hands and score them as usual if they feel they will score better that way. Any natural will always beat a regular hand, but if two natural hands are compared against each other, the higher-ranked one wins. A winning natural hand is paid three units, except for the dragon, which is paid thirteen units. Payments are made by each opponent immediately upon declaration. The naturals, from highest to lowest, are:

1. Dragon
A thirteen-card straight, from 2 up to ace. Suits are irrelevant. If there are two dragons, they tie. (This hand is not set into front, middle, and back hands.)
2. Three flushes
A flush in the middle and back hands and a three-card flush in the front hand (the only time a flush in the front hand is usable as a hand). If there are two players that hold this, the tie is broken by comparing the strength of the back hand, then that of the middle hand, then that of the front hand.
3. Three straights
A straight in the middle and back hands and a three-card straight in the front hand (the only time a straight in the front hand is usable as a hand). If there are two players that hold this, the tie is broken by comparing the strength of the back hand, then that of the middle hand, then that of the front hand.
4. Six pair
Six pairs and one unpaired card. If two players hold this, compare the highest pair, then the next-highest, and so on until the tie is broken. (This hand is not set into front, middle, and back hands.)

Prior to the hands being revealed, but after any naturals have been paid, a player who does not feel confident about their hand may choose to surrender (fold). A surrendering player makes a flat two-unit payment to each opponent, regardless of what the opponent holds.

All remaining players (other than those who held naturals and who surrendered) then reveal their hands. Each player compares their three hands against each of their opponents’ hands, one at a time. By default, a player pays their opponent one unit for each hand that they lost. If a player loses all three hands, they are said to be scooped and must pay three extra units (for a total of six units).

If a player holds a three of a kind in the front hand, a full house or better in the middle hand, and/or four of a kind or better in the back hand, they are paid out at higher rates if the hand wins:

  • Front hand, three of a kind: 3 units.
  • Middle hand, full house: 2 units.
  • Middle or back hands:
    • Four of a kind: 4 units.
    • Straight flush or royal flush: 5 units.
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