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The Secrets to Winning in Chinese Poker

Chinese poker is rapidly gaining fame outside Southeast Asia where it was first popularized among its poker communities. It is a variation of poker that is actually easier to learn. Winning the game depends as much on luck as it depends on the human factor of being able to formulate a strategy. This is good for beginners because it means a good chance for them to still win against the pros. In the same way, losing poker hands can be attributed to an "unlucky" or bad set of cards instead of a mistake in strategy or a flaw in the skill.

After thirteen cards have been distributed to up to four players, they have to be arranged into combinations of five, five, and three cards. The first five is called the bottom and always has to be the strongest combination. The second five is called the middle, weaker than the bottom but always stronger than the third set of three cards called the front. In building the front combination, take note that straights and flushes don't count, thus the strongest combination you can make for the front is the three of a kind. A disarrangement of the strengths of the hands means a penalty to be paid to each of the players. To determine the winners for the first round, all the bottoms are compared against each other. The same is done to the two other poker hands. The middle hand competes against the other middle hands, and front hand against the other front. Winners in each round are determined according to the strength of their poker hands. And because there are ten different kinds of combination you can form with the bottom and middle hands, in a single round, a winning hand against one player could lose against another. In Chinese poker, being second best still means you could get paid.

In paying the winning players, the group has to agree on pre-determined amounts to assign to a point or unit. In Chinese poker, a unit is synonymous to a stake in a Texas hold'em card game. In one round, players can win and lose a point at the same time depending on the strength of the poker hands they played. Players can also agree on bonus points or units for special wins. There are two popular methods of paying for wins in Chinese poker: the 2-4 method, where players are awarded an extra point if all their three poker hands are winners, and the 1-6 method, where a total of six points are awarded to a player who has three winning poker hands.

The players can also agree to award bonus points to special hand combinations. This creates room for more strategy in the game. The following are examples of bonus hands widely used when agreeing to pay for bonuses:

  • A full house in middle hand gets 1 bonus point
  • A four of a kind in the middle or back hand gets 3 bonus points
  • A three of a kind in the front hand gets 2 bonus points
  • A straight flush in both back and middle hands gets 4 bonus points

There are more conditions regarding bonuses that players can agree on, in effect varying the game just a bit each time. This kind of flexibility of Chinese poker is actually one of the main reasons why the game is gaining popularity.