One often hears the big name professional poker players talking about a session of Chinese poker that they recently played. The game has been popular with Asian players for many years, and is responsible for some heavy action amongst the game’s biggest bankrolls.
This particular version of poker is so popular because the element of luck plays a bigger role than in most variants of poker. This allows novice players to have short term gains, and will also make it easier for a losing player to blame their losses on the cards instead of their play.
Very experienced players will carry a big edge over novice players, and if the session lasts long enough the skilled players will usually win out.
The game is usually played with four people, but the higher stakes games are mostly heads-up action. Each player is dealt 13 cards with which they have to divide up into three poker hands; two five-card hands and one three-card hand. The two big hands are known as the “middle” and “the back”, while the three-card hand is the “front”. “the back” must be the highest ranking hand, and “the front”, the lowest ranking hand. The hands are then set down and then players declare if they’re going to play their hand or not. If they have a hand that is big enough for a bonus, called “royalties” they will declare them before the hands are revealed.
The stakes of the game are agreed upon before the game starts and players are given points called “units” to keep track of who is winning. A player wins one point for every corresponding hand they can beat from each player at the table. That means that second-best hand can often still be profitable. An extra point can be won if one player wins all three showdowns against the same player, called the “scoop”. The heads-up hand comparisons also allow players to play for different stakes against different opponents in the same game.
When a player decides to surrender their hand they will be forced to pay an amount greater than the amount paid when losing two out of three hands, but less than the amount paid when getting scooped.
Making a mistake separating your hand will result in having to pay each opponent still in the hand (players who have not surrendered) an amount equal to being scooped.
Chinese poker is a popular side game at most of the major tour events, and most Vegas casinos in Vegas will spread the game if there’s enough interest.