Chinese Poker Strategy

Chinese Poker Strategy

Everyone looking for Chinese poker strategy tips and advice, you are at the right place. To play this variation, you don’t require any chips or even a table – a card deck is the only thing you need. This form of poker gained immense popularity after high rollers began playing it at the Triton Poker series. 

Your main goal is to achieve a higher score than your opponent(s). Points are awarded for collecting winning combinations, which are, by the way, identical to those in the regular Texas Holdem. According to the rules, between 2 and 4 players (three people in the "Pineapple" version) can participate in the game.

Basic Chinese Poker Strategy

When forming combinations, players must strictly adhere to their ranking. Each individual has three boxes in front of them:

BoxNumber of CardsExplanation
Bottom5Must consist of the strongest combination.
Middle5Must represent a medium-strength combo.
Top3Must include the weakest hand.

Right at the beginning, each player gets 5 cards and lays them out face up in any of the three boxes as they like. Depending on the game variation, the turns proceed as follows:

  • Traditional Chinese poker

Each player gets one card face up and puts it in any of their boxes. The turns take place until the players fill all their boxes (8 circles).

  • Pineapple

All players get 3 cards facedown. A player must lay out two cards in their boxes; the third one should be sent into the muck – it remains closed for opponents (4 circles).

There are no betting rounds here. The game is played on units (bonus points). In a live game, the value of one unit is agreed upon by players before the match starts; on the Internet, some limits are similar to those of regular cash games. The calculation between participants occurs once the game ends.

Average distribution of hands in this discipline

RankFrontMiddleBack
Straight flush0%0%0.99%
Four of a kind0%0.01%2.62%
Full house0%0.59%34.16%
Flush0%7.35%32.46%
Straight0%18.22%17.64%
Trips0.46%10.04%0.29%
Two pair0%26.67%9.61%
Pair47.08%33.00%2.23%
High card52.46%4.12%0%

Insightful Recommendations to Players

The game has its specificities that should be kept in mind. Pay attention to the following points:

  • Don’t break the order of combinations

If a combination in any of the boxes has turned out to be stronger than in the previous one (the middle row is higher than the bottom one, the top row is higher than the middle one), then your hand will be considered "dead." In this case, you will lose to all your opponents and will not get bonus points (units). Therefore, sometimes it will be more profitable for you not to improve your hand on the middle row if you don’t have a formed combination on the bottom one.

Wrong order:

Chinese poker strategy

The middle row lacks a combination, whereas the top row contains one – a pair of aces. This is an incorrect hierarchy, and the hand becomes dead.

Correct order:

Chinese poker strategy

Combinations are arranged in ascending order of strength: aces, deuces and threes, jacks and sixes. In other words, the strongest combo is in the bottom row, while the weakest is in the top row.

  • Watch your opponent's face-up cards carefully

In Chinese poker, the main strategic accent is focused on your cards, but your opponents’ open cards can also give you lots of information. 

Example
Example

You make a flush of hearts in the bottom box, and your opponents have already opened many hearts. In this case, it will be more profitable for you to refuse the idea of collecting the flush and try forming another combination.

  • Try to collect "fantasy"

This additional option becomes available to a player when they collect a combination from a pair of queens and higher in the youngest (top) box. They will play the next hand as a fantasy.

How to Play Fantasy

In usual Chinese poker, a player gets 13 cards facedown; in "Pineapple" – 14 pieces.

The player places all their cards facedown simultaneously at the beginning and doesn’t open them until other players complete playing the hand. After the rest finish their actions, the player with a fantasy-hand opens their cards, and scores are counted.

You can get a fantasy again if you are able to collect a combination from the quads and higher in the bottom box, from the full-house and higher in the middle box or the set on the top one.

Tom Schneider
Tom Schneider
World Series of Poker bracelet winner

The great thing about Chinese poker is that it seems like an easy game, and until you play it, you never know how many mistakes you can really make.

Open Face Chinese Poker Tips

The most vital advice for OFC strategy is simple and clear to any beginner: don't make dead hands. That is, don’t break the order of combinations – this rule is violated most often.

Mindfulness is also useful in this game. Here, one should not be distracted during opponents' moves since each card matters. And one more important tip: try to collect a winning hand in the top row, as many players ignore this box, trying to win in the middle and bottom ones.

Crazy Pineapple Strategy

Crazy Pineapple (where you get three cards face down and then must muck one of them on the flop) is very similar to NLH (where you get two cards face down) and Omaha poker (where you get four cards, but you can only use two of them on the showdown). Not surprisingly, the strategies for CP and these two formats are very similar. Concepts like pot odds, bluffs, draws, value betting, and others work here as well. Now we will discuss the main strategic differences that must be considered in order to play Crazy Pineapple successfully.

Strategy for choosing starting hands

This process is different from the approach used in Hold'em. For example, three aces in your hands will be much weaker than you might think since one of these aces should be folded on the flop. Thus, the probability of collecting a set is very small, because there is only one ace left in the deck.

The best starting hands are those that give you several options to collect a strong hand (trips, straight, flush) on the flop, for example:

  • As Ah Js: you can flop trips, straight, flush or even full house.
  • Tc Th 9c: again, you have a chance to collect all of the above combinations. If you don’t hit the flop, then you won’t lose a lot of money, as you can easily fold your pair of tens.
  • Ad 7d 6d: such pocket cards are also a good starting hand. You can flop two pairs, a flush or a straight.

Weak starters are the following: all three cards of different suits (rainbow), all three cards are not connectors, and there are no broadways among them. For instance, Th 6d 2s would be a bad starting hand here.

Good Crazy Pineapple strategy for beginners is to keep the following considerations in mind: would you play any combination of two cards from three pocket elements if it were regular NLH? If not, you can easily fold your hand. 

Example
Example

If you were handed out Ah, Td, 5s (the combinations are AhTd, Ah5s, Td5s), you can safely fold them. The same applies to the hands of Qc, 9d, 5d (combinations Qc9d, Qc5d, Qd5d).

You should also avoid the mistakes of newcomers to Hold'em: many recreational players like to see flops thinking that any two cards can win. This strategy will be even more risky in Crazy Pineapple, because if a player somehow gets into the flop, then he often will not be able to fold his hand. Therefore, a tight style is right, especially for beginners.

One pair is a weak hand

Depending on the number of opponents, TPTK (top pair, top kicker) is a pretty strong hand in NLH. Here, this hand will usually cost you a lot of money, because one pair is often only the second-best hand at the showdown. This will happen all the time since Crazy Pineapple is much more likely to have two pairs, trips, straights, full houses and stronger combinations. Accordingly, if you have a TPTK, you have to make a big bet on the flop in order to immediately win the pot.

If opponents do not fold, then try to use pot control further. If you encounter resistance, folding is often the best strategy – it is very likely that your top pair will be defeated by one of your remaining opponents.

Beware of flushes

A flush can be seen much more often than in Hold'em because here you are dealt not two but three cards. If all three figures on the flop have the same suit, you can be almost sure that your opponent has already collected a flush. If the flop has two cards of the same suit and you already have a made hand, you should bet about three quarters of the pot to make a flush draw too expensive for your opponent (if measured by the pot odds).

Many players are trying to make a flush. If you have it, you should keep this in mind and play carefully if your flush is not a nut one.

Must Have Rooms for Beginners

Chinese poker has become pretty popular among both professionals and recreational players, but, sadly, most popular platforms don't offer this option. Besides, you should master traditional variations prior to learning exotic formats. Below you will find the best choices for novices to start your journey in the realm of online games.

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FAQ
💰 How do you win Chinese poker?

First, make sure that you know the poker hands ranking before you start playing. Maintain a balanced focus among all three boxes. Give special attention to the top row, don't ignore it.

Also, remember to observe your opponents' cards to effectively calculate your outs, as this helps evaluate your chances of improving. By examining visible cards, you can predict which figures are left in the deck and the probability of being dealt them. For instance, if your chances of a flush are low, you can adjust your strategy and aim for two pairs instead.

📌 How do you keep score in Chinese poker?

Excel, or, more specifically, its advanced variation, Google Sheets, can be helpful in this regard. You should manually input the data from your sessions, including the number of hands played, winnings, how much is a unit, and duration in minutes. The web app will then calculate your overall results and even generate graphs to visualise your performance. Templates for tracking Chinese poker results can be found on the Internet.

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