Chinese Poker uses 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.
An example hand is above. There are many ways you could sort your hands, one of the best would be:
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.
1 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
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 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 though you can normally get an idea of which hands your opponent tends to favor 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 maximize 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.
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.
Mix up your game…
Like in any version of poker, it is important to mix up your game when playing Chinese Poker 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.