inner page top left

Chinese Poker Guide: Rules, Strategies & Expert Tips

Chinese Poker

How to Play Chinese Poker

Chinese Poker is a game often played by professional poker players between tournaments or players new to poker who want help learning hand rankings.

In theory, as there are no betting or chips involved, it isn’t officially a form of poker, however as it uses poker hand rankings to determine the winner, the game was given the name Chinese Poker

Chinese Poker Rules

Chinese Poker rules utilises a standard deck of 52 cards and can involve a maximum of 4 players. This is because each player is dealt 13 cards so any more and there would no cards for them…

Although the game can be played with 2 or 3 players as well, 4 hands of 13 cards are always dealt so all the cards are used.

The aim of Chinese Poker is to make 3 poker hands of as high quality as possible. The ‘Bottom’ hand is made up of 5 cards and needs to be the best hand. The ‘Middle’ hand is also made up of cards and needs to be of a lower value than the Bottom hand. The ‘Top’ hand is made up of just 3 cards and needs to be the lowest-ranked of the 3. This 3 card hand does not include Straights or Flushes and can therefore only be 3 of a kind, a pair or a high card.

Example Chinese Poker Hand

An example hand is above. There are many ways you could sort your hands, one of the best would be:

Example Outcome Chinese Poker

The Bottom hand – which needs to be the best – gives you an Ace High flush.

The Middle hand – which needs to be lower ranked than the Bottom hand but higher ranked than the Top hand – gives 2 pair, Jacks over 3’s.

The Top hand – the 3 card hand that needs to be the lowest value of all the hands – is a pair of 9’s.

As there are no chips or betting involved, points are given for each hand with a value of each point agreed at the start of the game.

Chinese Poker Rules1 point is given for every hand won, so 3 points for every deal – the bottom hand, middle hand, and top hand. If a player wins all three hands in one round, they are said to have ‘scooped’ their opponent and get double the number of points, so 6.

Once the game is over, after an agreed amount of time or after reaching a certain number of points, the player that has the lowest number of points owes the other player this number of points multiplied by the agreed value of each point.

For example, if you are playing for $1 per point and you win 50 points to 38, you win $12 from your opponent – 12 point difference multiplied by $1.

If there are just 2 players, the scoring is fairly straightforward. With 3 or 4 players, it becomes more complicated as each player needs to compare their hands to each of the other players in turn. A separate score is kept for each pair of players, at the end of the game, each player settles up with the other players as opposed to a total score. Payments are then made between each pair of players.

Chinese Poker Strategy

Chinese Poker StrategyMathematics help

Unlike most forms of poker, in Chinese poker, it is possible to gain a real advantage in a hand by working out the best way to play. You can do this by calculating all possible hands your opponents could hold, then find the hand you have that scores highest against them. This could stop it from becoming as big online as other forms of poker, but if you do find an online game, you could be in luck.

Adjusting to your opponent

This is important in all types of poker, in Chinese poker strategy though you can normally get an idea of which hands your opponent tends to favour and use that to your advantage.

Avoid invalid hands

Although this sounds an obvious thing to say, it is amazing how many people still make a mistake when getting their hands in the correct order. On every occasion you make a mistake, your opponent scoops so a couple of mistakes from you, or your opponent, can make a big difference to the final score.

Prevent players scooping you

By making sure one of your hands is as strong as possible, it will become much harder for a player to scoop you and get bonus points. By the same token, always keep a lookout for hands where you have 3 strong hands and try to maximise your chances of being the player that scoops someone else.

Hands with 4 pairs

Being dealt 13 cards, you will get 4 pairs in your hand quite often. It is always worth putting your 2nd best pair in the top, the 2 bottom pairs in the bottom and the best in the middle. This gives you the best possible chance of scooping all 3.

Splitting pairs

If, for example, you have a flush and 2 pairs, you can choose whether to put 2 pairs in the middle or the higher pair in the middle and lower pair at the top. A lot of the time it is better in Chinese Poker to split them as a pair at the top is a strong hand whilst a middle hand of 2 pairs isn’t so strong and risks you losing both. However, if you have a good high hand for the top hand such as AQ9 or AJ8 then consider using this as the top hand and 2 pairs in the middle.

Chinese Poker Tips

Chinese Poker TipsMix up your game…

Like in any version of poker, it is important in Chinese Poker Strategy to mix up your game , so other players can’t second guess what you. Therefore, change the way you play from time to time, to keep your opponents scratching their heads.

Make notes about your opponents…
Whereas you should always look to mix up your game, other players won’t and therefore it is easier to read what your opponents have than in other forms of poker. Whenever you play online, make a note about how your opponents play so you can refer to them if you end up playing against the same players in the future – Chinese Poker has a smaller pool of regular players than other more popular variations such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

Play for free to learn the game
If you are new Chinese Poker, play online for free at one of our recommended sites before using your own funds in order to get used to the rules and strategy.

Related Article
Crazy Pineapple Poker
How To Play Pai Gow Poker
Let it Ride Poker Strategy
Play in Real Money Poker Sites

inner page bot left

About the author

Jennifer Lynn
Head of Content
Jennifer Lynn has spent 14 years working in the online casino industry, making her a real expert in the field. She's not just skilled at writing about casinos; she also has a deep interest in online gambling games and is a passionate researcher and player. Jennifer offers her expertise on a range of casino games and the smart strategies to use. But her life isn't all about gambling and casinos. She also loves riding horses and practicing yoga, showing that she knows how to balance her professional interests with personal passions.



What is Chinese Poker?

Chinese Poker is a variation on the classic card game. More often than not, the game is played either by pro players or by players who have garnered enough experience to participate in high-risk or professional tier Poker tournaments.


What separates Chinese Poker from other Poker variants?

Chinese Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck. The game can only support up to four players. The reason for this is because 13 cards are dealt to each player. The goal then becomes for each player to make 3 different poker hands with as high a value as possible.


Is Chinese Poker more complicated than other variants?

Yes. As you can tell from the rules of the game listed above, Chinese Poker is quite a complicated game. It is precisely for this reason that it is mostly played by professional players or players with enough experience / skill to compete on the professional scene.


How many players can play Chinese Poker?

The game can support up to four players. While there have been instances where a match of Chinese Poker is played with 2 or 3 players, four sets of 13 cards are dealt none-the-less. Meaning, the whole deck is dealt out regardless of number of players.


What is a dragon in Chinese Poker?

The Chinese Dragon, or Yi Tiao Long as it is called is jargon for getting a full 13-card straight. The 13-card straight is the strongest hand in Chinese Poker and pays out 13 units (or sometimes 26).


Who deals the cards in Chinese Poker?

Chinese Poker has a dealer. However, the dealer changes with each hand. Each hand, one of the players is chosen to be the dealer. The role then changes, rotating counter-clockwise (most often). The dealer then deals the 13 cards and places the first bet.


Can I get better at Chinese Poker?

Of course. As with any game, the best way to get better at Chinese Poker is to simply play the game more often. This might cause a problem, as placing bets on practice runs might have some disastrous results. The best option for getting better is to gather up some friends and play the game without risking your cash. Alternatively, you can always find some online websites which let you play the game for free, without risking any money.


Can I play Chinese Poker online for real money?

Yes. There are quite a few online casinos that feature the game. If you play the game online, however, make sure you find a trustworthy and licensed online casino that offers some great bonuses and fair odds.


What is Open-face Chinese Poker and how is it different from Chinese Poker?

Open-face Chinese Poker is a different variation on the standard Chinese Poker game. In the standard game, 13 cards are dealt off the bat. However, in open-face Chinese Poker, each player is dealt five cards. Once that is done, another card is dealt each round until every competitor has 13 cards in their hand. From then, the rules are largely the same.


How do I get better at Chinese Poker?

There are a few tips and tricks that can help you get better at Chinese Poker. The standard suggestions here include making mental notes about your opponents’ behaviors during the game, mixing up your own game to stay ahead of the other players, and of course, researching the best strategies for the game itself.

Full Screen +