Chinese Poker Casino

Chinese poker is a game that uses standard five-card poker hand rankings to determine the points scored with unique gameplay. Players arrange their cards into three different hands. The front hand has three cards, and the middle and back hands have five cards apiece. The hands must be arranged in a way so that the front is a worse poker hand than the middle and the middle is worse than (or exactly equal to) the back. Players then compare their hands to those of their opponent(s) to determine the number of points won. Points are assigned a monetary value for purposes of betting.

How to Play Chinese Poker

There are two basic sets of Chinese poker rules, and they both have to do with the dealing. Standard Chinese poker has players given 13 cards at a time, and all three of their hands are set at the same time, face-down. While this is the standard set of rules, it's not the most popular for betting purposes in today's games. A variation on this called the open-face Chinese poker rules (OFC for short) plays slightly differently and adds a lot more strategy to the game.

In OFC, players are first dealt five cards which must be played face-up in their respective hands for all other players in the game to see. Then players are dealt one card at a time, which must be placed in one of the player's three hands. Cards continue to be dealt until each player has 13 total cards arranged in the three hands (front, middle and back) as described above.

The bottom line is that if you want to learn Chinese poker for the sake of becoming skilled and winning a lot of money in today's gambling environment, then the open-faced style is what you'll want to learn. All of our discussion here is going to be about OFC along these lines because standard rules are hardly ever used today since they require so much less strategy and rely almost solely on luck.

Scoring for OFC

The first thing you need to learn with how to play Chinese poker is how the scoring works. On the most basic level, players win one point for each of the three hands they win against their opponent. If a player wins all three of their hands, then that's called a scoop, and an additional three points are earned.

For example, if Player A wins two hands and loses one against Player B, then Player A gets two points and Player B gets one point for a total win of one point for Player A. If Player A wins all three hands, then he picks up three points for the hands, and an additional three points for the scoop for a total of six. Along these lines, scooping is extremely important in Chinese poker strategy.

Aside from this basic premise for how scoring works, players can also pick up points in other ways that we're going to describe here.


Fouling means that you've played your hand illegally in the sense that your front is a better poker hand than your middle, or your middle is stronger than your back. Players who want to know how to win Chinese poker games start off by learning strategies like what you'll see below the help them not to foul. Avoiding fouling is important because a foul means that your opponent automatically scoops against you for at least a six-point loss.

Shooting the moon

In most card games, shooting the moon means playing a weak hand extremely skillfully, and OFC is no exception. If you have a Jack-high in the back hand, and if you do not foul, then you have successfully shot the moon in Chinese poker. This scores 20 points from each of your opponents, but there's a huge danger in trying for this because a single unfortunate card can cause you to foul.


Royalties are bonuses for achieving certain types of strong hands without fouling. After you learn the initial scoring ideas behind winning hands and scooping, most play revolves around trying to earn royalties. The bonuses themselves depend on the strength of your hand and whether the hand shows up in the front, middle or back.

Royalties for the front hand are really easy to remember. They start with one bonus point for 66 and increase by one for each subsequent hand. This means 77 gets you two bonus points, 88 earns three, etc. Note that AA gives royalties of nine points, and the next-strongest hand is 222, which earns 10. Then 333 gets 11, 444 earns 12, and so on until you get to AAA for a whopping 22 bonus points.

The following chart illustrates the royalties for the middle and back hands since they're not as easy to remember as the ones for the front.

Middle Hand#
Three of a Kind+2
Full House+12
Four of a Kind+20
Straight Flush+30
Royal Flush+50
Back Hand#
Full House+6
Four of a Kind+10
Straight Flush+15
Royal Flush+25

One pattern to note is that the back hand royalties are all one-half of the middle hand royalties with the exception that there is no back hand bonus for three of a kind.


If you're able to play a hand with a pair of queens or better in the front hand without fouling, then you get a special status on the next hand called fantasyland that gives you an advantage. Having fantasyland means you get all 13 of your cards at once on the next hand, and this gives you a distinct scoring advantage in the sense that you'll arrange your cards in a more optimal way.

Fantasyland is one of the Chinese poker rules that isn't standardized, and different groups can have different requirements for entering it and staying in it.

Chinese Poker Strategy

To learn Chinese poker to a certain level of proficiency, most players opt to play Chinese poker online using a specific approach to the game that can be summed up by the following three points:

  • Use basic Chinese poker strategy to avoid fouling
  • Try to set up royalties in the front and back hands
  • Use the leftover cards to make the middle hand "fit" between the front and back

We're going to cover each of these aspects of strategy to show you how to win at Chinese poker.

Avoiding fouling

When you play Chinese poker online against unskilled opponents, it's often going to be enough to avoid fouling. Beginners can start off by aiming to get a low pair or ace-high in the front with medium pairs in the middle and a 'big hand' like a straight, flush or even high two pair in the back.

The key to this part of Chinese poker strategy is that you want to avoid painting yourself in the corner with your last few cards. Give yourself "outs" in the sense that there aren't many cards that could come that will force you to foul.

Hunting front and back royalties

Most people who want to learn how to win at Chinese poker will figure out that they can usually pick up royalties in the back hand by trying hard to make a flush. Out of 13 cards that are going to be dealt, there's a fair chance that five of them will be of the same suit. If you start with at least three cards of the same suit in your initial five cards, then putting them in the back can be a good strategy for going after the flush royalties.

However, you can't forget about the potential royalties in the front as well. When you play Chinese poker online against intermediate competition, the focus on front-side royalties will be one of the biggest things that sets you apart and earns you those critical points that get you an advantage over your opponents.

Making the middle hand fit

If putting together strong front and back hands is a bit of a science, then the hardest part for people who want to learn Chinese poker is the fact that making the middle hand fit is more of an art. There's a certain intuitive aspect to this stage of strategy that can't really be grasped without experience, and once you start to develop a feel for the game, it'll start to make a lot more sense.

Generally speaking, you want to try to think ahead for another card or two while you're in the middle of setting your hands and pay attention to how the middle will line up with the front or back. If you make a strong back with royalties easily, then just focus on not fouling with the middle and front. Along similar lines, if you make a strong front, then do the same with the middle and back, and everything will fall together on its own.

Putting it All Together

You're typically going to go for royalties in the front or the back, but sometimes you'll be able to go for both. As the hand progresses and you're dealt more cards, you're going to worry primarily about which hand you'll be able to use to chase royalties. Once you have that figured out, then you just make your other hands (especially the middle) fit. If you do this consistently, then you'll be a strong player.