How to Play Chinese Poker

Large numbers of people play Chinese poker throughout Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, but it’s popular in the US as well. Here’s how to play.

How to Play

During the game of Chinese poker, you need to arrange your thirteen cards into three hands. Five cards are tossed into the first two hands, and three cards go into the final hand. In order to win, your hands need to beat the hands that the other players put down. Four players take part in the game.

You do not make bets in Chinese poker. Instead, you play for points. Each point corresponds to a certain amount of money. The players agree on what this “stake” is before the game starts. The dealer shuffles the deck and deals thirteen cards out to each player.

Once you get your cards, you arrange them into three hands: a five card back hand, a five card middle hand, and and a three card front hand. The rules require your back hand to be strongest, and your front hand to be weakest.

Remember, you only have three cards in your front hand. Your front hand will never be a straight or a flush. Once you have chosen your hands, lay them down on the table face down. Place your front hand closest to the center of the table, and your back hand closest to you.

Once everybody has chosen their hands, all four players show their cards. You will compare your hands to all three of the other players. In the simplest payment system, you win one point for every hand that beats another player’s hand, and you lose one point for every hand that loses against another player’s hand.

If the hands are equal, no points are won or lost. Only your front hand can compete against the other player’s front hand. Same goes for your middle and back hands.

You can play the game with the simple scoring system discussed above, but you have the option of playing with special hands that are worth more points. Four common additional scoring systems are listed below:

  • A front hand with three of a kind wins three points
  • A middle hand with a full house wins two points
  • A hand with four of a kind wins four points
  • A hand with a royal or straight flush wins five points

You can also play the game with special thirteen card hands that automatically beat ordinary hands. Announce the hand before the cards are exposed, or you don’t get credit.

  • Six pairs wins you three points
  • Three straights wins you three points
  • Three flushes wins you three points
  • A complete straight, from an Ace to a King, wins thirteen points

You have the option of choosing not to declare a thirteen card hand. You lose the chance to automatically win, but could potentially win more points.

Alternate Versions of Chinese Poker

You have the option of playing a variation on the basic form of Chinese poker. Several different versions are available to choose from. Playing around the house is one such option. One player, usually the dealer, is referred to as the house, casino, or bank. The players compete against the house, but not one another. If the house’s hand is tied with another player’s hand, the house wins.

Some people choose to play the game so that if they win against all three players, they win an extra point. Others choose to award an extra point to the player who wins the overall match with another player. In other words, if you win two out of three hands against another player, you win an additional point.

You can also play the game so that certain hands always win extra points, even if they lose against another hand. For example, three of a kind in the front hand can always win two extra points, a full house in the middle hand can always win one extra point, four of a kind can win three extra points, and a straight flush can win four extra points.

If you like, you can play the game so that players can surrender if they feel that their hands are weak. If they do, they play as though they lost two out of three hands against each player.

Chinese Poker Strategies

Adjust to your opponent’s behavior. As an example, your opponent might feel like the front hand is the least important hand, and will generally make it weaker than they should. You can respond to this by putting stronger cards in your font hand.

Make sure that your hands are valid. Obvious as this is, it is an easy mistake to accidentally put down a middle hand that is stronger than your back hand, or even a front hand that is stronger than either of the other two. When you make this mistake, you surrender points on all three hands to all three players. Double check your hands before putting them down.

Most scoring systems award scooping, which is when a player wins all three hands. You should follow one of two strategies in regards to this. When you have strong cards, you should try to make all three hands as strong as possible, rather than just one, in order to scoop other players. When you have weak cards, you should make one of your hands very strong, in order to prevent somebody from scooping you. Keep in mind that a good hand varies depending on which hand you are talking about. A low full house is fairly average in the back hand, but strong in the middle hand. Three of a kind is almost worthless in the back, but it is a top hand in the front.

If you have four pairs, put the second best pair in your front hand, the best pair in the middle, and the two lowest pairs in the back. You won’t always win this way, but it is a good way to protect all three hands.

If you have two pairs and a straight, most of the time you should split the pairs. Two pair in the middle hand doesn’t offer much advantage over one pair. On the other hand, if the leftover cards are high, you might put them in the front and two pair in the middle.

When you receive a full house, you can either put it in the pack hand or split it and throw the pair in the front hand. Look at the value of the three of a kind and the pair. If the three of a kind is low, the full house is low as well. In this case, if the pair is high, it will serve you better up front. On the other hand, if the three of a kind is high, the full house is high, and it will do you more good in back.