Open Face Poker is actually a newer variant of Chinese Poker, both of which have actually become more popular over just the past few years. There are now even some of the best, top rated real money online poker sites offering this as an option in their poker rooms today. With some of the top professional poker players like Gus Hanson, Shaun Deeb, and Barry Greenstein continuing to raise awareness and become unofficial ambassadors to this game (it has also been included in a few of the WSOP events), it is likely we will see Open Face Chinese Poker being offered at more and more American online poker sites in the very near future.
As with original Chinese online poker, Open Face offers the ability to play poker without engaging in any betting rounds. It is also sort of a cross between gin rummy and poker, with players earning points based on how their hands rank in relation to their opponents. It is a unique and interesting game that offers the chance to play against one to three opponents at the same, and it is even possible for the player with second best hands to win some real cash.
Since this is still a very new game, with this Open Face form only being used since about 2011, the best strategy is still being worked out but will hopefully be perfected beyond 2023. However, the rules are pretty simple and easy to understand. This does make it easy for even a rank beginner to jump in and start playing at many online poker rooms offering the game. Of course, we strongly advise spending a bit of time reading this online game guide and learning a bit of the strategy. This should be thought of simply as a starting point; always continue developing your online poker games knowledge, especially through additional play.
The basic rules of playing Open Face Poker are somewhat similar to Chinese Poker. (Please take a look at our Chinese Poker game guide). At least in terms of setting hands and their rank. The major difference in playing these two games at online poker sites is how the deal is accomplished. Whereas in Chinese Poker online all players will be dealt 13 cards face down and can then begin setting their hands, Open Face starts by dealing out five cards to each player, face down.
The player to the immediate left of the button then starts by setting those first five cards, all face up (hence the term Open Face). In almost all of the best online poker sites, once the cards are set, they can never be changed. From here, each player sets their hand in order, going in a clockwise fashion. Being in a later position is obviously a big advantage in this game. Each player now is dealt one card at time, face up, and is set (the player receives their card and sets it, then the next player receives their card and sets it, etc...). This continues until each player has received and set all 13 cards.
In terms of setting hands, each player is required to make three separate hands. The back and the middle hands consist of five cards each and the top hand has three cards. Your strongest online poker hand must be in the back, the next strongest is the middle, and the weakest is up top. If this cannot be done, you will foul and lose all points for the hand automatically. In some cases and at some online poker rooms, if a player makes three flushes or three straights, they automatically win all three hands.
Open Face Poker is played for points, with each point representing a unit of real cash. The best online poker sites will have different poker rooms specifying different levels of stakes. In offline games, these can be anything the players wish and agree upon beforehand. Since each player is essentially playing against everyone else at the table, they could play for different stakes against different players as well. That being said, each hand (back, middle, and front) is worth one point. Therefore, if you win two and lose one against a specific player, you have a net victory of one unit.
There are a number of interesting situations reflected in the scoring of your hands at Open Face online poker rooms. For example, if you commit a foul (generally when you are not able to set the hands so the back is the highest, the middle the next highest, and the top the lowest), you will usually have to pay double, for a loss of six total points. Of course, if both players foul in a heads up game, this counts as a push. If you are scooped, or beaten in all three hands, then you will also be required to pay double.
Royalties: You can also earn bonuses for having specific hands, provided you set everything properly without fouling. Here is a table of royalties offered for most Open Face online poker rooms:
If you notice from looking at the above table, the middle hand royalties are worth twice as much as the back hand. In most cases in poker online, Open Face games will agree to a set number of rounds to be played beforehand. Also note that any ties on the board result in a push and no real money will be owed for that particular hand.
Fantasy Land: In many games of Open Face poker online, there is a rule variation called Fantasy Land. A player will qualify for this if they have a live hand (that doesn't foul) with a QQ or better as their top hand. If you end up qualifying, during the next deal, you will be given all your 13 cards dealt face down at the start of the deal. You will then set your hands according to the normal rules, on your turn, and still can receive the Open Face royalties and bonuses.
Essentially, playing Fantasy Land is the same as playing traditional Chinese Poker (see our Chinese Poker Game Guide for more details). It is a heck of a lot easier to set when you can see all your cards at once. You can actually continue to remain in Fantasy Land as long as you meet the following criteria:
The set of your hands in these US online poker sites offering Open Face games is very important. If you start out by going with a three or four to a flush in the back, then you have to play as if you will hit that flush.
Another good strategy tip is to remember that big pairs up top are indeed very valuable, but they should be played with caution. It would make more sense to gamble for queens or better up top instead of tens or even jacks, since the higher pairs will get you into Fantasy Land and closer to winning some real cash.
Be aware of your situation. This means keeping track of the cards which are completely live, live (having only one dead card), dead (2 gone), and completely dead (all out). Obviously, a completely live open ended straight draw with eight outs is much more valuable than the same draw but with only have the outs. Also watch and learn how your opponents tend to set their hands and adjust your own online poker room play accordingly.
Be careful not to foul, but at the same time you also don't want to play too passively. When you are playing for royalties, be much more careful and concerned about fouling. Be careful when playing for a royalty hand in the middle, since these are usually pretty rare (and it’s why the pay doubles).
Notice how the game changes when playing at online poker sites with three and four players instead of heads up. In fact, it changes dramatically. You will have more cards shown which means there is more to keep track of and remember that the stakes also increase. For example, fouling when playing heads up means a minimum of a six point loss, but fouling against three others means a minimum loss of 18.
When starting out playing Open Face online poker sites for real money, try to get as much actual playing experience as possible. However, do so at lower stakes, especially at first. Even if you feel qualified to play for $10 per point, you might want to start out at $1 per point. Master the game at this level and then move up gradually. Stakes for Open Face Chinese Online Poker can even start around $0.10 or $0.25 at some of the top online poker sites, so find a level that feels right to you.
Although this has been mentioned briefly in the strategy section, you really need to pay attention to what your opponent is doing. If they look likely to foul, then you really should back off any risky draw plays and be much more conservative. After all, if they foul, it’s an easy six point win for you at most top online poker sites. Open Face poker game strategies can vary wildly throughout the space of a single game.
Think through how to play those first five cards, since they really set you up for the rest of the hand. This is where having the experience of extra playing time will help you most of all. In the final analysis, just get out there and start playing at a relatively low stakes level. Build up to higher stakes as you have more experience and become more skilled at these online poker room Open Face games.