Basic rules and gameplay of Chinese Poker

By Joe - March 05, 2022

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on Chinese Poker! In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about Chinese Poker, from its origins and key differences from traditional poker to strategies and tips for becoming a proficient player. We will also dive into various game variations, rule alterations, etiquette, and best practices to ensure a fun and respectful gaming experience. So, if you want to learn more about Chinese Poker, keep reading – we’ve got you covered!

Chinese poker is an exciting poker variant that’s popular in Asia. It has some similarities with regular poker but enough differences to keep things interesting. The basics are easy to pick up, but there’s enough complexity to challenge even experienced players. The gameplay involves a lot of strategy in how you arrange your hands and try to figure out what your opponent might have. In this article, I have shared all the basic rules and gameplay tips you need to understand this poker variant. If you’re looking to mix up your poker nights, give Chinese poker a try.

Chinese poker variant
an ace poker card

Chinese Poker is believed to have originated in China during the early 20th century, but its exact history remains a topic of debate among card game enthusiasts. The game spread throughout Asia and gained popularity in the Philippines, where it’s known as “Pusoy.” In the late 20th century, Chinese Poker also began appearing in Western countries, particularly in the United States, where it was initially introduced to the poker-playing community in California card rooms.

The popularity of Chinese Poker can be attributed to its relatively simple rules and combination of skill and luck. In addition, it is often played as a side game among poker professionals during high-stakes tournaments, as it provides a fun and relaxing break from the intense focus required for traditional poker games.

Chinese Poker differs from traditional poker in various ways, including the following aspects:


Number of Players: Chinese Poker is typically played with two to four players instead of six to ten players in traditional poker games.


Hand Formation: In Chinese Poker, players are dealt 13 cards and are required to arrange them into three separate hands – a five-card “back” hand, a five-card “middle” hand, and a three-card “front” hand. The hands must be ranked according to standard poker hand rankings, with the backhand being the strongest and the front hand the weakest. In traditional poker, players form only one hand using their community cards.


Scoring System: Chinese Poker uses a points scoring system instead of the pot-based system in traditional poker. Players score points based on winning hands against their opponents, and the objective is to accumulate the most points by the end of the game.


No Betting: There is no betting or bluffing in Chinese Poker. The game focuses primarily on hand setting and optimal card arrangements.


Strategy: Since Chinese Poker combines skill and luck, considerable strategic decision-making is involved in how players arrange their cards. Optimal card play may differ significantly from traditional poker play, making it an intellectually stimulating variation.

To understand Chinese Poker, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with its unique terminology and glossary. Some of the commonly used terms include:


Back/Middle/Front Hand: The three separate hands that players must create, as described earlier.


Royalties: Bonus points awarded for particularly strong hands, such as a royal flush or a full house. Royalties are a way to reward skilled play and encourage risk-taking.


Units: The scoring system used in Chinese Poker is similar to chips in traditional poker. Typically, players agree on a monetary value for each unit before starting a game.


Scooping: When a player wins all three hands against an opponent, earning an additional bonus.


Fouling: When a player sets their hands illegally with incorrect card strength order, resulting in a loss of points.


Hand setting: Arrange your 13 cards into the back, middle, and front hands according to a pre-determined strategy.

To enjoy a smooth and engaging card game experience, having the right equipment and understanding of the game setup is crucial. This section will discuss the essential components, such as the playing deck, the number of players, the game orientation, and scoring methods to help you facilitate a successful card game.

A standard deck comprises four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. Each suit contains 13 cards, including numbered cards.

The number of players that can participate in a card game depends on the chosen game. Some games are designed exclusively for two players, while others can accommodate multiple players, like Poker and Rummy. Ensure you know the rules and number of players for the card game. Some may necessitate the use of two or more decks of cards.

In cases where the number of players necessitates an extended deck or alterations to the existing deck, it is crucial to shuffle the cards to ensure randomness and minimize predictability thoroughly.

The game orientation and positioning of players are essential aspects of the game setup that help establish the flow and dynamics of the card game.

Generally, card games require a flat, spacious surface, such as a table, to accommodate the playing deck and space for players to lay their cards. Most card games are played in a clockwise rotation, starting with the dealer. Depending on the game’s rules, the dealer could be a designated person or rotate among players after each round.

Each player should sit facing the center of the table with ample space for their cards and any placed bets or chips during the game. Comfortable seating positions and a clear view of other players are crucial for interactive and strategic card games.

Card games with a shared deck often have a specific layout for cards, face-up or face-down, on the table. Following the layout guidelines of the chosen card game is essential for player clarity and game progression.

Another critical aspect of card game setup is understanding each game’s scoring methods and point attribution system. Scoring methods vary depending on the card game being played, and there may be unique criteria for winning.

For example, in Poker, players achieve specified combinations of cards, and the player with the highest hand rankings wins. In games like Bridge, players accumulate points based on the number of tricks they win during the game.

Moreover, understanding the point values of each card within the deck is crucial for many card games. Usually, cards have values based on their numerical ranking or face card designation. However, the ranking and point values might differ for certain games, such as Pinochle, where the cards have unique point values.

To ensure an enjoyable and successful card game, familiarize yourself with the chosen game’s scoring methods, point attribution, and game-winning conditions before commencing play.

In Chinese Poker, the game aims to form three hands (rows or sections) with 13 cards for each player. The hands consist of a 3-card front hand, a 5-card middle hand, and a 5-card backhand. The rules dictate that the hand strength increases from front to back, meaning that the back hand must be the strongest and the front hand must be the weakest. This section will discuss creating the hands and understanding the hand rankings to achieve the best results.

The front hand consists of 3 cards and only has three hand rankings: three-of-a-kind, a pair, and a high card. Straights and flushes do not count in the front hand because it only consists of 3 cards. Therefore, it is essential to identify if you have a strong pair or three-of-a-kind for your front hand to increase your chances of winning.

The middle and back hands comprise five cards, and the standard poker hand rankings apply, with a slight difference – a Straight containing A-2-3-4-5 is the second-highest straight (Hierarchical order: A-K-Q-J-10 and A-2-3-4-5). The sequence follows (K-Q-J-10-9 and so on). It is essential to ensure that your middle hand is stronger than your front hand and your back hand is stronger than your middle hand.

Hand rankings in Chinese Poker, from highest to lowest, are:

Royal Flush

Straight Flush


Full House




Two Pair

One Pair

High Card

In Chinese Poker, the card hierarchy follows the standard rules, with Ace being the highest card and Two being the lowest. The card ranking is A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 in descending order.

Regarding suits, there is a slight difference in preference compared to traditional poker. The suit order in Chinese Poker, from highest to lowest, is as follows:





Remember the suit order when forming flushes, as it may affect your hand’s strength in Chinese Poker.

Chinese Poker also includes special hands that grant players bonuses, known as royalties or scoring units. Royalties can significantly impact the final game result, so being aware of these combinations gives players an advantage. Here are some special hands to remember:

special hands in chinese poker
getting card bonuses in chinese poker


Six Pairs: If a player has six pairs out of their 13 cards, they receive a bonus. However, one pair has to be broken to create a 5-card hand and a 3-card hand.


Three Straights: If a player can form three straights – one in each hand – they receive a bonus.


Three Flushes: If a player can form three flushes – one in the front hand, one in the middle hand, and one in the backhand – they receive a bonus.


Thirteen-Card Hand: If a player can arrange their cards in a specific sequence that meets certain criteria (e.g., all cards being of the same suit or all cards in consecutive order), they receive the highest bonus, and the hand is usually considered an automatic win.

Understanding hand formation and ranking in Chinese Poker, along with the card hierarchy, suit preference, and special hands with bonuses, is essential to be successful in the game. Consider these factors while building your hands for the best results.

The gameplay process in card games varies depending on the game being played, but many card games have some common elements. These elements include dealing cards, arranging hands, revealing and comparing hands, and determining hand winners. Here, we will discuss these elements in detail to give you a better understanding of the general gameplay process in card games.

Dealing cards is distributing a set of playing cards to the participants in a card game. The dealer is generally responsible for performing this task, but the duty may rotate among players in some games. The deck of cards is usually shuffled before dealing to ensure a random distribution of cards.

The method of dealing can vary depending on the game being played and the number of players involved. Cards can be dealt with individually, in pairs, or in larger groups. In some games, cards are dealt face-down, meaning the players can only see the value of their cards once they pick them up. In other games, cards are dealt face up, allowing all players to view the cards as they are dealt.

The order of dealing and the number of cards dealt to each player may also vary depending on the game. For example, in poker, each player is typically dealt two private cards (called hole cards), and five community cards are placed face-up on the table. In bridge, each player is dealt thirteen cards, while in rummy, the number of cards dealt to each player varies depending on the variant being played.

Once the cards have been dealt, players must arrange their hands in an organized manner to aid with their gameplay strategy. This step is essential in allowing players to assess the strength of their cards about the game’s rules and objectives.

In some card games, such as poker and rummy, players may choose to group their cards based on suits, ranks, or combinations that are advantageous within the game’s rules. In other games, such as bridge, players must arrange their hands according to a specific system, ranking cards by suit and value.

Players must be familiar with the game’s rules and strategy to arrange their hands for optimal gameplay effectively.

In many card games, a crucial part of gameplay is revealing and comparing hands to determine a winner. This process varies depending on the game being played and may occur at different stages of a game.

In poker, for example, hands are revealed during the showdown phase after completing all betting rounds. Players compare their hands to determine who has the best hand according to poker hand rankings.

In other games, such as rummy, players reveal their hands when ready to “go out” or declare that they have met the game’s objectives. The other players then have an opportunity to compare their hands to the declaring player to determine the round’s winner.

Determining hand winners is the process of evaluating the hands of each player and establishing a winner according to the game’s rules and objectives. This process varies depending on the specific card game being played.

In poker, the player with the best hand, according to poker hand ranking rules, wins the pot. In games like rummy, the player who successfully meets the game’s objectives and has the lowest number of points in their hand wins the round.

In card games like Bridge, winners are determined based on the number of tricks won during gameplay rather than hand comparisons. Players need to understand the rules and objectives of the specific game to determine the winning hand appropriately.

The scoring system in poker is an essential aspect of the game that allows players to track their progress and decide on the best strategic decisions based on their performance and the stakes involved. Understanding how the scoring system works and how the points are allocated, calculated, and tallied is crucial for new and experienced players. This article will cover the basics of scoring systems in poker, including allocating points per hand, calculating royalties and bonuses, tallying total points, and settling payments.

In poker, players accumulate points for various reasons, depending on the type of poker game and the specific rules. Generally, points allocation involves the hands in play, with stronger hands earning more points.

For example, in Texas Hold’em and Omaha, points are typically awarded based on the quality of the player’s hands. The higher-ranked a hand is, the more points it earns.

In games like Chinese Poker, players receive points for winning units or hands against opponents. Each player is dealt 13 cards, and they must arrange them into three hands, each with specific requirements.

The bottom hand must be stronger than the middle hand, and the middle hand must be stronger than the top. Failing to maintain this ‘clean’ arrangement can result in fouling and losing points. When the hands are compared between players, the winning player gets one point per hand won. Additional points can be granted for beating multiple opponents in a single hand or winning all three hands, known as a ‘scoop.’

In some poker games, royalties and bonuses are incorporated into the scoring system to reward exceptional hands or specific achievements. Royalties are additional points awarded to players with exceptional hands, such as a straight, full house, or four-of-a-kind, depending on the game.

Bonuses may be given for unique accomplishments in a round, such as front hands containing trips (in Chinese Poker) or for achieving a specific target in the game. Some poker games also award bonuses for winning all three hands, known as a ‘scoop’ or ‘shootout.’

It’s essential to understand the royalties and bonuses applicable in your specific poker game and factor them into your strategy. This allows you to maximize your points and often affects your decision-making during the game.

Each player’s points are tallied at the end of a round or session to determine their overall score. Players must also consider any penalties from fouling their hands or other game-specific rules when performing the final tally.

In a setting where players use points to determine the payouts, agreeing on a conversion rate for points to money or chips is essential before starting the game. This allows a straightforward process when settling the payments based on the points accumulated by each player.

The player with the most points usually collects the agreed-upon amount from each player. This payout structure encourages players to strive for the highest scores and continually improve their game skills.

Understanding the scoring systems and payouts involved in poker can significantly impact a player’s success and enjoyment of the game. Familiarizing yourself with these concepts can help you focus more on your strategy and decision-making, allowing you to improve your game performance consistently.

Chinese Poker, also known as Pusoy or Capsa Banting, is a popular card game combining poker elements with strategic gameplay. With the rise of online gaming, Chinese Poker has gained international popularity among card enthusiasts. Players must employ various strategies and tips to excel at this game, including hand management, reading the opponent’s hands, and adjusting tactics for different scoring systems.

Hand management is essential in Chinese Poker. The game requires 13 cards in three hands: a 5-card “backhand” hand, a 5-card “middle” hand, and a 3-card “front” hand. The backhand must be the strongest, the middle hand the second-strongest, and the front hand the weakest. Here are some techniques for effective hand management:


Identify the best hand combinations: Carefully analyze your 13 cards and look for patterns and combinations that make strong hands. If you can form a strong backhand initially, it will alleviate pressure on the middle and front hands.


Balance the hands: Ensuring a balance between the three hands is crucial. If you focus on maximizing one hand at the expense of the other two, you risk fouling or ending with low-scoring hands. Aim to strengthen all three hands while adhering to the game’s ranking rules.


Focus on the scoop: Aim to win all three hand matchups against your opponents. This is known as a “scoop” and generally rewards a significant bonus. To achieve this, you must carefully distribute strong combinations among your hands while ensuring they abide by the ranking rules.


Rearrange cards strategically: As the game progresses, you may need to rearrange cards between your hands to improve their strength. This is a valuable technique, as long as you ensure not to foul by breaking the ranking rules.

re-arranging cards
balancing hands in poker

Closely observing the actions and tendencies of your opponents gives you a competitive edge in Chinese Poker. Some tips for reading the opponent’s hands are:


Pay attention to discards: Keep track of the cards that your opponents discard to get an idea of the hands they are constructing.


Watch for hesitation: If an opponent hesitates while setting their hands, it may indicate that they have a difficult decision and possibly a weak hand.


Study betting patterns: Carefully observe your opponents’ betting patterns during the game. This can provide valuable clues to the strength of their hands, especially if they consistently play aggressively or conservatively.


Identify player tendencies: Some players chase strong hands at the expense of fouling, while others play more conservatively. Identifying these tendencies helps you exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Chinese Poker utilizes various scoring systems that affect the way hands are rewarded. To maximize your potential winnings, it’s important to adapt your strategy to the specific scoring rules of your game. Two common scoring systems are the 2-4 scoring and the 1-6 scoring:

2-4 Scoring: In this system, you receive two points for winning two out of three hands against an opponent and four points for a scoop. To excel in this system, you should focus on creating balanced hands and aiming for a scoop while protecting against being scooped yourself.

1-6 Scoring: In the 1-6 scoring, winning a single hand earns one point, winning two hands earns six points, and scooping earns an additional three-point bonus. The increased reward for winning two hands incentivizes players to be more aggressive and focus on securing two-hand victories.

Chinese Poker is an exciting and fast-paced card game that has gained popularity worldwide. While standard rules exist for the game’s original version, players can play several game variations and rule alterations. This article will discuss the Open-Face Chinese Poker (OFC) and Pineapple Chinese Poker variations and possible optional rules and scoring adjustments.

Open-Face Chinese Poker (OFC) is a popular variation of the traditional Chinese Poker game. In OFC, each player starts without any cards, and on each turn, they draw one card and must place it into one of their three poker hands. The game continues until all players have completed their poker hands and the hands are scored. This variation requires increased strategic thinking and decision-making, as players must consider the strength and potential of their hands as they place each card.

Two to four players typically play OFC, each trying to assemble three poker hands – front, middle, and back. The front hand consists of three cards, while the middle and back hands each contain five cards. The objective is to make these three Poker hands as strong as possible while also adhering to the standard Chinese Poker hand ranking rules (i.e., the back hand must be stronger or equal in value to the middle hand, and the middle hand must be stronger or equal in value to the front hand).

The scoring system for OFC is based on points, or “units.” At the end of each round, players compare their hands and earn units based on their relative hand strength. Bonus points are awarded for achieving particularly powerful hands, such as flushes, full houses, or four-of-a-kind.

Pineapple Chinese Poker is another exciting variation, a faster-paced version of Open-Face Chinese Poker. In Pineapple Chinese Poker, players receive three cards on their first turn rather than just one. On subsequent turns, players get two cards at a time, and they must place one into their poker hands and discard the other. This speeds up the game significantly, resulting in a more intense and dynamic playing experience.

As with OFC, Pineapple Chinese Poker aims to create three Poker hands (front, middle, and back) that follow the Chinese poker hand ranking rules. Players also earn points for achieving specific hand combinations, and the game continues for a set number of rounds or until a predetermined point value is reached.

While the standard Chinese Poker game and its variations have unique rules and scoring systems, players can also implement additional optional rules and scoring adjustments to customize their playing experience. Some common optional rules include:

playing poker hands the right way
chinese poker variants

Fantasyland: In OFC and Pineapple, players can enter “Fantasyland” if they complete a powerful front hand, such as a pair of Queens or better. In Fantasyland, players receive all the simultaneously and can set their hands without following the regular projective order. Fantasyland adds an exciting element to the game and can lead to significant scoring swings.

Fouling occurs when a player’s hands are not arranged according to the Chinese Poker hand ranking rules. In the case of a foul, the player loses points (generally six units) and may be subject to additional penalties depending on the group’s rules.

Bonus points: Players can create custom bonus point structures for achieving specific hands. For example, they may agree to award bonus points for special hands like a straight flush, royal flush, or having all four Aces.

When participating in online poker games, it’s essential to adhere to proper etiquette and best practices to ensure the experience is enjoyable. This article will cover three main aspects of online poker behavior: maintaining a respectful environment, handling disputes and rule clarifications, and responsibly managing bets and payouts.

Online poker should be a fun and engaging social experience. To create a pleasant atmosphere and protect players from unnecessary stress, be sure to follow these guidelines for maintaining a respectful environment:


Be polite to other players. Treating all participants respectfully, regardless of their skill level, experience, or background, is crucial. Avoid using offensive language, derogatory comments, or aggressive behavior.


Don’t reveal other players’ cards or strategies. While discussing hands and offering advice can be helpful, it’s inappropriate to share information about another player’s cards or disclose their strategies without their permission.


Be mindful of the pace of the game. A key part of online poker etiquette is to ensure the game moves at a reasonable pace for all players. Avoid taking excessive time to make decisions; be ready to act when it’s your turn.


Do not collide with other players. Engaging in any form of cooperation, such as sharing information or agreeing on coordinated actions, not only violates the rules of online poker platforms but also undermines the integrity of the game.


Respect the decisions of the dealer or moderators. Online poker platforms often have moderators or dealers who oversee the game and enforce the rules. It’s crucial to respect their authority and follow their guidance.

Disagreements and misunderstandings can sometimes arise during online poker games. When addressing disputes or seeking clarification on rules, follow these best practices:


Review the platform’s rules and regulations before playing. Before joining an online poker game, familiarize yourself with the platform’s rules, hand rankings, and gameplay procedures. This knowledge can help prevent disputes and reduce confusion.


Raise concerns calmly and politely. If you believe there has been a mistake or need clarification on a rule, approach the situation calmly and respectfully. Avoid accusatory language, and allow for the possibility that you may have misunderstood the situation.


Trust the dealer or moderator’s judgment. Remember, the dealer or moderator is there to ensure a fair and enjoyable experience for all players. While it is your right to question decisions or request clarification, accepting their final ruling is essential.


Learn from your experiences. If a dispute arises and you learn you were mistaken, use the incident to understand the rules better and improve your game.

playing and learning from experience
trust the dealer

A crucial part of online poker etiquette is ensuring responsible management of bets and payouts. Adhering to these guidelines will help maintain trust and fairness among players:


Only bet what you can afford to lose. While the excitement of poker makes it tempting to take high-stakes risks, remember to gamble responsibly and only wager amounts you can afford to lose.


Be transparent about payouts. If you’re hosting a home game or private tournament, inform all participants of the payout structure—how prizes will be awarded and what percentage of the pot each place will receive—before the game begins.


Promptly pay out winnings. Ensure that all players receive their winnings promptly, whether it’s an online platform payout or a private game among friends. Delaying or withholding payments can erode trust and damage relationships.


Honor your bets. A part of responsible poker play is honoring your bets and losses. If you’re in a social game and don’t have enough chips to cover a bet, speak with the other players to reach an acceptable arrangement, such as paying the difference in cash or agreeing to pay back the amount later. Fulfilling your commitments maintains the integrity of the game and demonstrates respect for fellow players.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the essential components of a Chinese Poker hand?

In Chinese Poker, each player receives 13 cards and must create three separate hands: a “top” hand of three cards, a “middle” hand of five cards, and a “bottom” hand of five cards. The top hand must be the weakest, while the bottom needs to be the strongest.

How does the scoring system in Chinese poker work?

Scoring in Chinese Poker usually involves points and monetary units. Players receive points for each hand that are better than an opponent’s corresponding hand. If a player wins all three hands against an opponent, they may earn bonus points called a “scoop.”

What does "fouling" refer to in Chinese poker?

Fouling occurs when a player’s hands do not follow the strength rules, such as having a middle hand weaker than the top hand or a bottom hand weaker than the middle. In this situation, the player’s hand is considered “foul,” and they may receive penalties.

Are there any special hands that yield additional points in Chinese poker?

Certain hand arrangements, known as “royalties” or “bonuses,” can earn extra points. For example, a player may receive additional points for having a straight flush in the middle or bottom hand or a three-of-a-kind in the top hand.

How do players determine Chinese poker's initial dealer and seating order?

Players often determine the initial dealer and seating order by drawing cards before the game begins. The player who draws the highest card becomes the dealer, with the seating order determined by card rankings, moving clockwise around the table.

Can Chinese poker gameplay vary depending on specific rules or regional differences?

Yes, Chinese Poker can be played with various rule variations or regional differences. For instance, in some games, players might reveal their cards one at a time, while in others, they might reveal them simultaneously. Additionally, certain regions may have unique scoring systems or hand arrangements.

What are the rules for Chinese poker?

In Chinese Poker, players arrange 13 cards into three hands: two five-card hands and one three-card hand. The lowest-ranked hand must be the three-card one, while the middle and back hands increase in strength, respectively. A key rule is that each five-card hand must outrank the one preceding it to avoid penalties.

What is the difference between poker and Chinese poker?

The main difference between traditional poker and Chinese poker lies in the game structure and hand formation. In Chinese poker, players receive 13 cards to split into a three-card hand and two five-card hands, unlike traditional poker, where you play with one five-card hand. This unique setup creates distinct rules and strategies for Chinese poker.

What is the basic rule of poker?

The basic rule of poker is to create the strongest five-card hand possible, with the Ace being high or low. No suit outranks another, and the highest hand wins the round. Some variations include Wild Cards, which can represent any suit and rank as chosen by the player.

What is the Chinese card game like poker?

Guandan is a Chinese card game similar to poker. Originating in the 1960s in Huaian, Jiangsu province, it combines strategy and luck. Now widely popular throughout China, Guandan has become a nationwide sensation, with tournaments held throughout the year, reflecting its cultural significance.