Home » poker » guides » chinese poker
Ben Horlock

Have you ever wanted to know how to play Chinese Poker? It’s a unique spin on classic poker. If not, then stay tuned as we’ll explore the basics, strategies, and where to play. So, if  you want to learn how to play Chinese Poker in a casino, get ready for a thrilling, new experience.

What is Chinese Poker? How it Works

In the US, around 60 million people are poker players. Therefore, it’s no surprise to see several poker variations with the classic card game being so popular, especially as it is so available using an online casino app. Chinese Poker is one of the variants offering a unique twist that keeps players coming back, and there are variants such as Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker.

Unlike traditional poker, this game is played with 2-4 participants, each receiving 13 cards to organize into three distinct hands.

These hands are ranked from weakest to strongest: a 3-card top hand, a 5-card middle hand, and a 5-card bottom hand. The goal is simple yet challenging: outmanoeuvre your opponents by creating stronger hands across the board.

chinese poker deal hands
Source: BetOnline

The game’s simplicity in setup belies the depth of strategy required. Players must balance their card distribution to avoid fouling, where the hand strength order is breached. Points are earned by comparing each of your hands against your opponents’, adding a layer of strategic depth as you aim to “scoop” by winning all three hands against an opponent.

Cash app casino sites have adapted Chinese Poker, retaining its core principles while leveraging technology for convenience. The games operate with random card generators to ensure fairness, dealing one card at a time unpredictably.

While live dealer versions are less common, they do exist, offering a blend of online convenience with the tactile feel of casino play. If you’re already familiar with classic poker, Chinese Poker will be an intriguing challenge, though it might be a bit challenging for newcomers due to the different Chinese Poker rules.

How to Play Chinese Poker Online

  1. Player Count:

    The game requires 2 to 4 players, perfect for small intimate groups.
  2. Point Agreement

    Before the first hand starting, players agree on the point value, setting the stakes.
  3. Dealing Cards:

    The game begins by dealing 13 cards to each player face down.
  4. Organizing Hands:

    Players then organize their cards into three hands (3-card top, 5-card middle, 5-card bottom) within a set time limit.
  5. Revealing Hands:

    Once organized, players reveal their hands simultaneously.
  6. Comparison & Scoring:

    Hands are compared, and points are awarded based on how individual hands stack up against each other.
  7. Surrender Option:

    Players may choose to surrender if they feel their hand is weak, accepting a predefined penalty instead of risking a larger loss.

Chinese Poker Rules

Chinese Poker rules blend traditional poker hand rankings with a distinctive setup. Understanding the core rules is crucial when you’re learning how to play Chinese Poker. This can help you master Chinese Poker strategies and enhance your chances of winning.

Arrange Cards into Three Hands

Initially, players are dealt 13 cards each. These cards must be arranged into three hands:

  • Top Hand (3 cards): The weakest Chinese Poker hand, limited to three-card poker rankings like pairs and high cards.
  • Middle Hand (5 cards): Stronger than the top hand, capable of forming full poker hands from pairs to straights and flushes.
  • Bottom Hand (5 cards): This is the powerhouse, required to be the strongest of the three, adhering to conventional poker rankings.

First Round

The game starts with the crucial first round where players set their strategic foundation by arranging their 13 cards into the designated three hands. This arrangement is pivotal, as it impacts the overall game strategy.

Subsequent Rounds

Following the initial round, the game progresses through additional rounds. Players reveal their hands, comparing each segment (top, middle, bottom) against their opponents’. The strategy may shift based on earlier round outcomes and opponents’ revealed hands.

Scoring and Settlement

After all hands are revealed, scoring is based on pre-agreed points for each hand won, with potential bonuses for special hand combinations. The game often involves a “sweep” casino bonus for winning all three hands against an opponent.

Royalties and Special Hands

Chinese Poker includes bonuses for “royalties” or special hands, like a straight flush in the bottom hand or a “Dragon” (one of each card from Ace to King). These add an extra layer of strategy, as players aim for these high-scoring hands.


Players have the option to surrender before revealing their hands if they believe their setup is unfavorable. Surrendering involves a penalty, usually less severe than the potential loss from playing a weak hand through.

By understanding these rules and the flow of the game, from hand arrangement to the intricacies of scoring and special bonuses, players can navigate Chinese Poker with strategic insight and enjoy the unique challenge it presents.

Chinese Poker Scoring System

The scoring system in Chinese Poker games adds an exciting layer to the game, focusing on the back (bottom), middle and front hands (top). If you’re still learning how to play Chinese Poker, this might be confusing. Let’s break it down with examples to keep it simple:

Back (Bottom) Hand Scoring

  • Strongest hand: Must be the strongest of the three.
  • Example: If you have a Full House here and your opponent has a Flush, you score a point.

Middle Hand Scoring

  • Second strongest: Should be stronger than the top but weaker than the bottom.
  • Example: Holding a Straight here beats your opponent’s Three of a Kind, earning you a point.

Front (Top) Hand Scoring

  • Weakest hand: Limited to three-card combinations.
  • Example: A pair of Aces in the top hand beats your opponent’s pair of Kings, scoring a point.

Scoring Types:

The scoring system in a Chinese Poker game hinges on a mix of individual hand victories and strategic bonuses. It’s not just about winning hands but also how you win them, with various scoring types rewarding different aspects of play. Here’s how the points can add up:

  • Matchup Wins: You earn points for each hand (top, middle, bottom) that outmatches your opponents’. For instance, winning the bottom hand might give you 1 point.
  • Sweep Bonus: Securing all three hands against an opponent not only gives you bragging rights but also bonus points, often significantly boosting your score.
  • Foul Penalty: Setting your hands incorrectly leads to a foul, resulting in a loss of points for all hands, which underscores the importance of strategic card arrangement.
  • Royalty Points: Achieving special hands, such as a Straight Flush in the bottom or a Full House in the middle, can earn you extra points.

Chinese Poker Royalties and Bonuses

When you’re figuring out how to play Chinese Poker in a crypto casino, the concept of royalties and bonuses is a game-changer. These rewards, often referred to as Chinese Poker combos, are given for crafting exceptionally strong hands or landing unique combinations. Such incentives not only enhance the strategic dimension of the game but also open up opportunities for substantial point gains. Let’s dive into the nuances of these key royalties and bonuses:

  • Strong Hands: You can earn bonus points for exceptionally strong hands, like a Straight Flush in the bottom hand or a Full House in the middle. These bonuses incentivize players to aim for high-value combinations.
  • 13-Card Hands – ‘Naturals’ (Dragon, etc.): A ‘Dragon’ hand, which contains one card of each rank (A-K), scores a significant bonus. These ‘naturals’ are rare but highly rewarding, offering an instant win in some game variations.
  • Three of the Same: Having three identical hands across the top, middle, and bottom (e.g., three straights) grants a bonus. This unique achievement reflects the player’s skill in balancing their card distribution.
  • No People: A hand without face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings) can also secure a bonus, known as ‘No People.’ This challenges players to win with numerically lower cards, adding a twist to hand formation strategies.

These royalties and bonuses make online Chinese Poker not just a game of luck but a test of strategic planning and risk management, as players must decide whether to aim for these high-reward setups or play it safe with more conservative hands.

Chinese Poker Hand Setting

The way you arrange your cards in Chinese Poker can significantly impact your success. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn about Chinese Poker hands and rankings, so let’s delve into these hand types:

chinese poker hands
Source: Cardgamesplanet.Com

Five-Card Hands

These are the bottom and middle hands in your setup, each comprising five cards. The bottom hand should be the strongest, capable of traditional poker rankings from a pair to a royal flush. The middle hand, while still needing to be formidable, should not outshine the bottom hand, adding a layer of strategy to your card distribution.

Three-Card Hands

The top hand consists of three cards and is the weakest of the three hands. Limited in its potential combinations, it can only form high cards, pairs, or three-of-a-kind. This hand’s strength is crucial, as it often breaks ties and can secure crucial points in close matchups.

Balancing Strength

Achieving the right balance across your hands is a delicate art. Ensuring your bottom hand is the strongest, followed by the middle, and then the top, requires foresight and adaptability, especially as you react to opponents’ moves.

Avoiding Fouls

A foul occurs when your hands don’t follow the required order of strength. For instance, if your middle hand is stronger than your bottom hand, you’ll lose points across all hands, making careful arrangement vital.

Strategic Sacrifices

Sometimes, sacrificing the strength of one hand can bolster another, leading to an overall better outcome. Deciding when to make these sacrifices is a key strategic decision in Chinese Poker.

Grasping and applying these concepts will elevate your strategy when learning how to play this Chinese Poker online casino game. This allows you to compete more effectively and enjoy the game’s rich strategic tapestry.

Chinese Poker Points & Showdowns

In Chinese Poker, the showdown is where the magic happens, and points are won or lost. Scoring involves comparing your top, middle, and bottom hands against each opponent’s corresponding hands. Let’s break down how this works with simple examples to guide even complete beginners.

Scoring Hands

  • Top Hand: If your top hand is a pair of 2s and your opponent’s is a pair of 3s, your opponent wins this round and earns a point from you for the top hand.
  • Middle Hand: Suppose your middle hand is a straight (5-6-7-8-9), and your opponent has three of a kind (7-7-7), you win this round since a straight beats three of a kind, earning you a point.
  • Bottom Hand: If your bottom hand is a full house (J-J-J-2-2) and your opponent’s is a flush (all hearts), you win again, as a full house outranks a flush, granting you another point.

Calculating Points

After all hands are revealed and compared, you tally the points. For instance:

  • If you win the top and bottom hands but lose the middle, you net one point from that opponent (2 wins – 1 loss).
  • In a game with multiple opponents, you calculate points separately against each player.

Showdown Scenarios

Your hand:

  • Top: Pair of Kings
  • Middle: Flush
  • Bottom: Straight

Opponent hand:

  • Top: Pair of Queens
  • Middle: Full House
  • Bottom: Two Pairs

You’d win the top hand (earning 1 point), lose the middle (losing 1 point), and win the bottom (earning another point). Against this opponent, you’d come out ahead by 1 point.

Understanding the scoring system and how showdowns work is crucial to help you master the best Chinese Poker strategies. It’s not just about the strength of your hands, but how they stack up against your opponents’ hands in each of the three sections.

Top Chinese Poker Tips

If you’re still learning how to play Chinese Poker in a casino the rules, combos, and strategies may seem a bit complicated. We want to share with you some tips that can help you get started and make the most of your gameplay:

✅ Focus on Balance: Ensure your bottom hand is the strongest, followed by the middle, then the top. A well-balanced approach often leads to success.

✅ Watch Opponents’ Plays: Pay attention to how your opponents arrange their hands in earlier rounds; it can give you clues about their strategy.

✅ Plan for Royalties: Aim for high-value hands that can earn royalties, like a Straight Flush or a Full House in the middle hand, but don’t compromise your basic hand structure.

✅ Manage Risk with Surrendering: If your hand is particularly weak, consider surrendering to avoid larger losses, especially if the penalties are less severe than potential point losses.

✅ Practice Hand Reading: Improve your ability to anticipate opponents’ hand arrangements to better inform your own hand-setting decisions. This is one of the best Chinese Poker strategies which requires skill and practice.

Play Free Chinese Poker

Finding an offshore poker instant withdrawal site to play Chinese Poker online for free without the stress of losing cash is a smart move if you’re a newbie. Free games let you explore the rules and practice your strategy. It’s the perfect way to learn about hand setting and becoming savvy with the game’s strategic depth – whether it’s Caribbean Stud or Pai Gow Poker.

Instant withdrawal casinos often provide free versions of Chinese Poker, catering to players eager to sharpen their skills. These platforms are ideal for testing out what you’ve learned and experimenting with different approaches, all without opening your wallet.

Engaging in these free online poker sessions not only elevates your gameplay but also prepares you for the real deal, ensuring you’re ready to make your mark when the stakes are high. Always opt for trustworthy gambling sites that offer an authentic gaming experience, mirroring the dynamics of playing crypto poker for real money.

Variations Of Chinese Poker

Chinese Poker comes in several exciting variations, each with its own set of rules and twists. Let’s explore some of the popular variants:

Open Face Chinese Poker (OFC)

In OFC, players build their hands over multiple rounds, placing cards face up for strategic depth.

OFC with Fantasyland

Rewards players with a special round, “Fantasyland,” for meeting certain hand requirements.

chinese poker fantasyland
Source: BetOnline

Criss-Cross OFC

Adds a layer of complexity with its unique board layout, challenging players to think strategically.


Accelerates the game, with players receiving three cards per turn, intensifying the action.

Progressive OFC

Allows players to earn extra cards for future rounds by scoring points, adding a dynamic twist.

Ultimate OFC

Introduces extreme bonuses for rare hands, encouraging high-risk strategies.

2-7 Pineapple

Blends Pineapple OFC with 2-7 lowball rules, adding an intriguing low-hand aspect.

Turbo OFC

Offers a faster-paced game by reducing the number of cards dealt, perfect for quick sessions.

How To Play Chinese Poker FAQs

Is playing Chinese Poker online legal?

How do you play Chinese Poker?

What is the difference between Chinese Poker and poker?

How do you score Chinese Poker?

Where can I play Chinese Poker online?


Ben Horlock

Ben is an experienced news and features writer who specializes in providing expert guides on all aspects of online and in-person gambling. Ben has over ten years experience writing for web-based audiences and has strong expertise in casinos, online cryptocurrency gambling platforms as well as slots and table games. Ben has been published across a number of english international news outlets, including InstantCasinos and BitcoinCasino. As well, Ben has worked in social media for four years in the sports gambling industry.