Basic Chinese Poker Strategy

Chinese poker, also known as Pusoy, is a type of poker that has recently found widespread fame in the poker community. It's often played as a "side bet" game on mobile phones at the poker table by tournament or cash game players, where payments are squared up according to "points" after the game has completed. It's also played live in Vegas card rooms between two, three, or four players. While it's difficult to find a Chinese poker game unless you go looking for one, it's a unique variant of poker that has yet to be solved due to its enormous complexity. Until now.

Structuring a hand in Chinese Poker

The goal of Chinese poker is simple: create three poker hands from thirteen cards and arrange them according to strength. You are required to play on three "rows" as the game progresses. The bottom row, closest to the player, contains five cards. The second row contains five cards. The third, top, row, contains three cards. Your bottom hand must be stronger than your middle hand which must be stronger than your top hand. If you fail to build a complete set of three hands in which this is the case, your hand is considered "foul" and none of your hands will play.

An example of a fouled hand (the top hand is stronger than the middle hand):



If you successfully lay out three rows without fouling and the top row is better than a pair of queens, you will go into "Fantasyland," which is a chance to make a lot of money. In Fantasyland, you are dealt all thirteen cards at the start of your hand and must simultaneously lay all three hands, face down, and wait for your opponent(s) to finish playing their hands. Fantasyland is an opportunity to make a lot of money, because you will be able to lay much stronger hands knowing the full set of cards you are dealt.

Staying in Fantasyland: If you are in Fantasyland, you will stay in it for an additional hand if you make a straight flush or quads on the bottom, a full house or better in the middle, or trips on top.

The value of Fantasyland

Professionals at this moment and with the following scoring table place the average score in Fantasyland at 13 points. We are in the process of running Monte Carlo simulations to confirm or deny this number.

Winning at Chinese Poker: Scoring

You earn 1 point for each line on which you beat your opponent. If you win all three lines, you get 3 extra points. If you "foul" your hand, your opponent gets three extra points. In addition to points for winning, you are also awarded Royalties for playing very strong hands in any position. You should absolutely memorize the royalty scale for the game you're playing in.

Royalties will change from game to game depending on the house rules. The following is the most common royalty structure that we play.

Bottom Hand Royalties (Tip: Remember 2, 4, 6, 10. You'll rarely make SFs and RFs.)

  • Straight +2
  • Flush +4
  • Full House +6
  • Quads +10
  • Straight Flush +15
  • Royal Flush +25

Middle Hand Royalties (Tip: Double the bottom hand royalties)

  • Trips +2
  • Straight +4
  • Flush +8
  • Full House +12
  • Quads +20
  • Straight Flush +30
  • Royal Flush +50

Top Hand Royalties (Tip: This is in order. Remember 66 is 1 point and 222 is 10 points.)

  • 66 (+1), 77 (+2), 88 (+3), 99 (+4), TT (+5), JJ (+6), QQ (+7), KK (+8), AA (+9)
  • 222 (+10), 333 (+11), 444 (+12), 555 (+13), 666 (+14), 777 (+15), 888 (+16), 999 (+17), TTT (+18), JJJ (+19), QQQ (+20), KKK (+21), AAA (+22)

For example, the following hand would score +18, assuming the other player does not win any rows.




Fantasyland Strategy

Let's look at closed face Chinese poker strategy first. While closed face poker is not often played, it is exactly the same game as Fantasyland, so the discussion will be fruitful even for open face players. Closed face poker is a solved game, meaning there is only one correct answer. Simply lay your cards in a manner that gives you the highest possible score. For example, the same 13 cards could be played in any number of ways:

Playing a flush early sometimes seems like the easiest play...




but better...




If you understand the basic closed-face strategy, move on to the open face Chinese poker article.

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