Although many people think it’s a new game, Chinese Poker has been played in the Asian community for many years. Recently, its popularity has been increasing rapidly, spreading throughout the USA in 2023, and now some of the best, top rated real money online poker sites are offering the ability to play this game in their poker rooms. Think of Chinese Poker as a cross between poker and gin rummy, where there is no betting, real money is exchanged based on points earned or lost.
You will find Chinese Poker, as it is currently being played at our recommended real cash online poker sites, has many features of an exciting gambling card game. The rules are pretty simple and straightforward (of course, there is a lot of strategy involved) and you really only need a basic knowledge of traditional hand rankings in order to get started. There is also a fair amount of luck involved, so a beginner has a good chance to pull out some nice wins, and maybe even some real cash in these online poker rooms. Due to the format of the game, there are also a lot of high ranking hands and unexpected wins.
This online Chinese Poker guide is going to provide the basics for helping you get started playing at one of the poker rooms offering this game. Since it is still lesser known, strategy is in a state of flux and a bit basic, but it will set you on the right path. Finally, we offer some advice for those starting out with Chinese Poker online.
Using a standard deck of 52 cards at your chosen virtual online poker room, each player will receive 13 cards, dealt face down. Due to the number of cards, the maximum number of players is four. In most cases, the game of Chinese Poker works best on a heads-up basis. Once dealt, each player then has to divide their hand (called 'setting') into basically three different online poker hands. Two of these will contain five cards (the back and the middle hands) and the front hand will consist of three cards.
There are some hard and fast rules in terms of how to set your online Chinese Poker hands. The back hand must be the highest ranking poker hand and the front must be the lowest ranking. Of course, straights and flushes do not count in the front hand. Once the players have finished setting their hands, they are placed, face down, in front of each player. The back hand is placed in front of the player first, then the middle hand above that, and finally the front hand above this. Starting clockwise from the left of the dealer, each player announces whether they are playing their hand or not. They will then announce their royalties (which are similar to bonuses for specific top hands in specific places) and then the showdown takes place.
One interesting feature of playing Chinese Poker at online poker sites is the fact that if you make three flushes or three straights, you automatically win the hand. This is regardless of what the other players hold. Nothing beats an automatic winner.
Players at online poker rooms in this game will have to first agree upon stakes, or there will be poker rooms that offer specific per point stakes. This is really up to each player and keep in mind there is the possibility for some big variations in terms of points and real money being exchanged even without this being a traditional poker-style betting game.
Each player will collect one unit from each opponent playing in this poker room whose front, middle, or back hand is beaten by their own. For example, let’s say you beat the front and back hand of player B. This is equivalent to a one unit net victory. Then, you beat the back hand of player C (and he beats your front and middle hands), for a net loss of one unit. Therefore, you are even on an overall basis for this hand against two other online poker site players. In other words, you are playing against each individual player. Therefore, this is not a winner take all situation and many times having the second best poker hand is enough to win some real cash.
There are a lot of possible variants to this. For example, you could be playing against player B for $10 per unit and against player C for only $5 per unit, although this would be more common in live action than at online poker sites with standard stakes for all. You might also have additional bonuses for winning all three hands (a scoop), or when you win two out of the three hands, earning you extra real money.
Royalties: Bonuses awarded to players with especially strong online Chinese Poker hands are known as royalties. In most cases, these would need to be declared prior to the revealing of player hands. If you have trips in your top hand, this is a royalty of 3 points, or units. Here is a list of other royalties:
Naturals: It is also possible for players to be dealt naturals in online Chinese Poker. These are special types of royalties where the player is rewarded immediately, prior to anyone surrendering...and in these cases the one who received the natural does not even set their hand. Naturals are three straights, three flushes, six pairs, or 13 unique cards (this last is known as a Dragon and is the highest of the Naturals).
In the case of two (or more) players being dealt a natural at the same time in their online poker sites, the highest natural wins. If two of the same naturals are being compared, then the highest back hand would win. In the case of both players having six pairs, the highest pair settles the show down. Royalties result in an additional three units, with the exception of the Dragon, which is worth 13 units.
Surrendering: In some versions of Chinese Poker, online poker sites allow their players to surrender their hands rather than continue playing through the show down. Each Chinese Poker variation has their own particular way of dealing with this. In most cases, doing so will mean paying an amount greater than losing two out of the three hands, but less than losing all three. If with all your hands together you think they are sure to lose, there could be some benefit. Additionally, when you surrender you generally don't have to pay out royalties.
With Chinese Online Poker, there is a mathematically correct way to play every hand. It would be theoretically possible to use a computer, input your hand, and calculate the best way to play that hand at online poker rooms. However, there are not many poker software packages that work with Chinese poker online.
Having said that, the main strategy tip we can offer at this point to aspiring Chinese Poker players is to pay attention to the style of your opponents. By learning their tendencies, you can adjust how you set your own hands in a way that gives you a better chance of winning. As with all online poker site games, everything comes down to playing the player and having good situational awareness.
Another strategy tip is to advance very cautiously. Online poker sites have Chinese Poker offered at various stakes and levels in 2023. Do not just try jumping into a game playing for $10 per point unless you have already had strong success playing in lower level games. Don’t rush this development, as with any poker game.
Focus on playing both offense and defense at the same time in your online poker sites. Instead of making three decent hands, make one really strong back hand in order to pretty much guarantee you will avoid being scooped. Then, work on building out good or great middle and top hands.
Here is a decent strategy when playing with four pairs. Place the second best pair in your front hand, the bottom two in your back hand, and the best pair in your middle hand. Keep this in mind, since you will have four pairs quite often with 13 cards being dealt.
When playing with a straight and two pairs, generally split the pairs so that one is in front and the other is in the middle. A pair in the front is generally quite strong and will help you to avoid being scooped.
Since Online Chinese Poker is so new, the best advice that can be given to new players is to simply get out there and play! This will build your experience level and help you to learn new strategies. Additionally, since the game is still in its infancy as an online poker event, you could end up being one of the best, top online players fairly quickly with enough play and study. American players are gradually moving towards Chinese Poker in 2023 and beyond, sites that already have it available will allow you practice and jump to the head of the pack.
Avoid invalid hands. While this sounds simple enough, many beginning players do not even take the time to double check their hands. This is costly as an invalid set allows your opponent(s) to scoop, taking all three points from you, not to mention any royalties they might earn on top of this.
Having read our online guide to Chinese Poker, online poker rooms are waiting for you to test out your newly curated knowledge and earn royalties.