From afar, Chinese poker looks like a complicated game. In reality, all any player needs in order to compete is a basic understanding of poker hands and their rankings. Hence, newcomers to the game can learn easily and often win big, even their first time out.
The rules of Chinese poker vary widely depending on the house and the chosen scoring system, but the basic format is the same. Four players are each dealt 13 cards from a standard deck of 52. From these, each player must make three separate hands, two with five cards each (a standard poker hand) and one with three cards. The three-card hand only ranks up to a three of a kind; there are no “mini-straights” or “mini-flushes.”
How Chinese Poker Is Scored
Once the three hands have been created, they are ranked by strength. The stronger of the two five-card hands is called the “back” hand; the weaker of the two is dubbed the “middle” hand; the three-card hand is titled the “front” hand.” Each player then compares his or her hands with those of the other three players at the table. There are no betting rounds as in Texas Holdem poker and other variants. Instead the stakes are agreed upon beforehand.
The most common scoring system in Chinese poker is called the 2-4 system. If a player wins two of the three head-to-head hands, he or she receives two points. If it’s a three-hand sweep, that player wins four points. A popular variation is the 1-6 scoring system in which players win those totals for two- and three-hand victories respectively. If you’ve played online poker before but never Chinese poker, it’s worth checking out for the novelty alone. Of course, there’s also a great deal of strategy in arranging your three hands, so basic poker skill is a must.