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No Mercy’s Little Poker Guide to OFC Poker Strategy, Rules & Tips

Isabelle Mercier’s Poker Guide – How to Play Open Face Chinese (Playing Tips, Rules & OFC Poker Strategy)

Are you looking to take your poker game to the next level? Discover the fun of Open Face Chinese poker and understand the strategies with the master of the tables – Isabelle Mercier. From understanding basic fundamentals to how to develop a winning mindset, these resources will give you the information you need to boost your chances of success in an online setting. So unlock the game’s secrets and become a pro at OFC poker strategy today!

Join Isabelle Mercier at Coinpoker!

My Introduction to the Basics of Poker – Open Face Chinese Poker Strategy

When I say OFC, does it ring a bell to you? It’s a drug, and I’m entirely addicted to it! But, more seriously, it’s a game of cards that grows on you, called Open Face Chinese Poker.

I play hundreds and hundreds of hands every day and got so much into the game that I became an ambassador for CoinPoker. On this website, you can play OFC Pineapple, Hold ’em, Omaha cash games, and tournaments in cryptocurrency. There is also a major championship in Prague at the end of the year, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

To maximize my knowledge, I researched Open Face Chinese, and since the available material is scarce, here is my little personal OFC poker guide. Over the following sections of the article, I’ll go over:

  • the history of OFC poker
  • basic poker rules
  • some starting poker strategy tips
  • recommendations for every OFC format (Pineapple, Progressive, Deuce-to-Seven, and Turbo)
  • anecdotes from players
  • and finally, some more advanced strategies 

Enjoy the Fantasy Ride!

What is Chinese Poker – A Bit of History

From what I have learned through some research, it is generally accepted that the roots of the game come from China, as do most games with similarities to Chinese poker. Apparently, these kinds of games have been played in China for more than 1,000 years!

More recently, about ten years ago, it is said that the game started to spread in Finland and then traveled to Russia with pro player Alex Kravchenko, probably explaining why this game was sometimes called “Russian Chinese Poker.” Since then, it has been spread worldwide, with some anecdotes saying the American player Brandon Cantu brought this game to the Aviation Club in Paris. He shared long sessions with Shaun Deeb before they returned the game to the US and started spreading it there.

It seems that poker pro Daniel Weinman then found the Fantasyland Pineapple version being played in San Remo. He introduced it to Jason Mercier, who shared it with Deeb before returning it to his Florida hometown. The rest is history, as it is now the most-played form of Chinese poker.

Whoever conceived the specific rules and variations of OFC remains a bit of a mystery, but the game is so addictive, all I can say is that the inventor was a genius!

Why Play Open Face Chinese Poker Online

Chinese poker is a relatively young game and still evolving. However, it’s also very much enjoyed by many poker players, including most of the high rollers we know! A few years back, while Texas Hold ’em was becoming popular and exploding all around the globe, a new game appeared on the side, and back then, it was called “Russian Chinese Poker,” probably due to the large group of Russian players hooked to it.

For many poker players, including myself, the discovery of this new game was completely refreshing and exciting. Indeed, we found in it everything we loved so much about poker — cards, poker strategy, intellectual challenge, risks, rewards, and of course, money. 

No Mercy Guide How to Play OFC Poker – Rules of Open and Closed Format

In Hold ’em, we have to fold a majority of hands. Here, in open-face Chinese, we get to play every hand! It’s the beauty of the game, and since we are always in action, we are far from a poker tournament where we’ll often only play two or three hands per round at most.

We still played a “closed” format when open-face Chinese poker first appeared. We would receive 13 cards and we had to position them in three lines in the following order:

  • Bottom Line — 5 cards: Must be the highest hand of the three lines
  • Middle Line — 5 cards: Must be higher than the top line
  • Top Line — 3 cards: Must be beaten by the two other lines

Three-card straights and flushes are not valid on the top line. Therefore the best possible hand you can make there are trip aces, which have to be beaten by the middle line, which then has to be beaten by the bottom line. 

It is sporadic to actually be able to place trip Aces on the top line (LOL)! However, this order of lines is the basis of the OFC poker strategy. It would also apply to all other game variations that eventually came along except for Deuce-to-Seven OFC, which we will explore later.

Do you want to know what happens if you don’t respect that order? For example, let’s say I have placed a full house in the middle and a flush on the bottom line — that would automatically make me “foul” my hand and make it invalid, causing me to lose all my lines against my opponent. 

In closed Chinese poker, this would be similar to a misclick since I have all my cards and the luxury of positioning them where I want. But you’ll discover that in the “open” version of the game (OFC), you continually have to take risks, and fouling your hand is pretty frequent.

So, how does it work exactly? Well, once my 13 cards are placed in three lines, I will compare them with my opponent’s three lines, and the objective will be to have the better hand on every line. Let’s say I have a flush on the bottom line, and you have a full house. So, you win that line for 1 point. Then I have two pairs in the middle, and you have a straight, so you also win that line for 1 point. Then on top, I have AK7, and you have AK6, so I win that line for 1 point.

Overall, you made one point over me for the lines — but wait, there are also some bonuses applicable in OFC. In this case, having a full house in the back gives you 6 points, and a straight in the middle gives you 4 points, so you made 10 points in bonuses. On my side, my flush in the back gives me 4 points, so as far as the bonuses go, there is a difference of 6 points in your favor. Add that to the 1 point you got for the lines, which makes 7 points for you on the hand.

If we were playing €100 per point, I would give you 7 chips of €100 from my stack; if we were playing for €1,000 per point, that would be €7,000 going your way. We would then do the same process individually with the other players in the game (maximum 4) before jumping to the next hand. 

It might seem tedious, but you quickly get used to all the calculations, and the game is high-speed! It moves even more rapidly online, and when you play on CoinPoker, it all gets calculated instantly for you.

I also need to point out right away that a critical bonus is associated with “scooping” your opponent, which happens when you successfully beat all three lines of your opponent. So in the above example, let’s say you had AK8 on the top line instead of AK6. You would then have won against my AK7 and the two other lines.

Instead of winning only 1 point for the lines (3 points total), you would get a bonus of 3 points for your scoop. If you do the math, you had your 6 points bonuses over me in bonuses, plus now 6 more points for the scoop for 12 points. At €100 per point, I would now owe you €1,200 instead of €700 — a big difference of €500 for that one little line.

OFC Scoring – How To Count Points and Royalties 

So, let’s talk more about how much these royalties we mentioned are worth, as they are such an essential part of the game and your poker strategy later.

In Chinese poker, when you fail to respect the order of the lines and foul your hand, not only do you have to pay 6 points to your opponent for all three lines and the scoop, but you will also have to pay them for any royalties they might have made in that hand. So, needless to say, fouling can really hurt your stack!

Another subtlety of the game worth mentioning about scoring is that when we both have the same hand, one of us wins the line, but we can pick up royalties if we’ve earned them. So, for example, let’s say we both have a flush in the back, and I win the line with my ace-high flush over your king-high flush. I get that point, but we will both get 4 points in royalties for the flush in the back, no matter how high it is or who wins the line.

OFC Scoring in Real Poker Game Example

Once you’ve understood the general poker rules for OFC, the first step that you have to take to start mastering this game and its poker strategy is to know all the applicable royalties on all the lines by heart.

For the top line of three cards, the royalties start with a pair of sixes for 1 point, then a pair of sevens is 2 points, a pair of eights is 3 points, and so on until you reach trip aces for 22 points. Royalties for the middle line start with 2 points for three of a kind and increase from there, while royalties for the bottom line begin with 2 points for a straight and go up as the hands get stronger.

Here’s a chart showing all of the royalties for each of the three lines:

Now let’s look at a quick example to put these numbers into practice and see how it actually works in an actual game situation:

On this hand, Thomas (Seat 1) wins the bottom line against Tony (Seat 2) but loses the two other lines, so Tony wins 1 point. Regarding royalties, Thomas wins 15 points for making a straight flush on the bottom, Tony wins 10 points for quads in the back and 9 more points for a pair of aces on top.

Overall, Thomas earns 15 points, and there is a total of 20 points for Tony (10+9+1); that adds up to a difference of 5 points in Tony’s favor. OFC can be played at any limit, so for a game at €1 per point, Tony would win €5. At €1,000 per point, Tony would win €5,000 on this hand!

Open Face Chinese and the Big Poker Game Revolution 

As I mentioned in the first part of this guide, Chinese poker is a pretty young game, and in its original form, the “closed” version, the players had to set all 13 cards at once. It is why the buzz slowly faded until the arrival of the new “open-face” version of Chinese poker, which revolutionized the game and assured it a real future.

Indeed, something was missing in the closed version. The “gamble” and risk-taking side of the game were close to nonexistent since it was so rare to bust out by fouling while placing the cards. Poker rules are way different in OFC. However, each player only receives 5 cards to start the hand, must put those (face up, which is why it is called “open-face”), and then get one card at a time, positioning each one as it comes on the three lines until all 13 are dealt.

However, once a card is positioned in OFC, the players cannot undo this placement and are stuck with this initial choice for the rest of the hand. That presents a significant new challenge when setting hands, including increasing the chances of fouling.

The game is played with a button that moves after every hand, so the one with the button first opens up their 5 cards and places them, then it is on to the next player to do the same. Each player is dealt one card at a time to be added to the board. If the game is played four-handed, you actually end up using every single card in the deck, which means calculating your outs becomes super essential again, just like in Texas Hold ’em.

And there was the big poker revolution! OFC brought me back to the Aviation Club de France poker tables a few years back, playing all night long, placing cards, counting outs, busting, winning big bonuses, watching my stack making swings in every direction, and not even noticing the time go by.

I remember one particular night at the ACF — a weeknight, which must have been 2 or 3 in the morning. My OFC game was going to break soon. Three players were still in action, but the third one left the game, leaving me alone with David Benyamine. Whom I adore, obviously — he’s a very good friend, but he is also a fantastic player who dominates every game he plays!

Playing OFC four-handed with David is fine. He takes a lot of risks, he busts often, and there are two other players at the table. But playing heads up against him — no way! I told him I wanted to leave the game, but as addicted as I am, he insisted that I stay and told me, “We’ll play for zero.”

Wow — playing for playing, playing just for the fun of it! I promise you this game is that fascinating. This Benyamine poker monster gave me tons of advice during our “free” game while repeating over and over “not to tell the others” — LOL!

Thanks, David. I had a blast!

OFC Variations: Pineapple, Progressive, & Deuce to Seven

So fast forward to the present, and I am happy to be writing my own OFC poker guide on rules, tips, and poker strategy! So far, we’ve discussed the history of Chinese poker, the appearance and popularity of the open-face format, and how the game is scored, including royalties. But, there are variations to the game, which makes it even more exciting. 

Since OFC was first introduced, the game has been in non-stop evolution, with the classic OFC game alterations. Three of those variations: “Pineapple,” “Progressive,” and “Deuce-to-Seven,” will be the topics of this part of my guide. I’ll discuss the “Turbo” variation in detail later.

Pineapple OFC Poker

These days “Pineapple OFC Fantasyland” is the game’s most popular and well-known form.

In this variation, the number of players is limited to three rather than four. This is because after the initial five cards are dealt and placed by the players, they subsequently receive not one card at a time (as in traditional OFC) but three cards each round, from which they have to position two and discard one. That difference also means that unlike in a four-handed game of traditional Open-Face Chinese, not all the cards in the deck ultimately will be visible to the players. Nevertheless, counting outs remains super essential!

Even more fundamental and strategy-influencing is another big difference introduced in Pineapple OFC. When you successfully place a pair of queens or better on the top line (without fouling, obviously), you gain access to what we call “Fantasyland,” which means that for the following hand, you will receive all your cards at once, affording you the luxury of placing them wherever you want on your board.

More precisely, you will receive 14 cards and have to place 13 of them, discarding one. You’ll have the absolute certainty of not fouling that hand (unless you make a mistake in placing your cards, LOL)! 

Therefore the game involves a lot of poker strategy, focusing on avoiding fouling and beating your opponent’s lines and trying to make at least a pair of queens on top to get to Fantasyland!

Pineapple Progressive OFC Poker

The “Progressive” variation of OFC involves a different type of Fantasyland, which I think is very well adapted, and will most probably become the new standard of the game.

In Progressive OFC, when you successfully place a pair of queens on top, you get 14 cards on the next hand, just like in the Pineapple variation. But when you put a pair of kings on top, you’ll get 15 cards on the next hand; when you place a pair of aces on top, you’ll get 16 cards on the next hand; and when you place trips on top, you’ll get 17 cards on the next hand!

Wow… talk about an advantage! To see 17 cards and place 13 however you want, you can just imagine all the crazy hands you can make enormous royalties you can collect with those!

I love this variation of the game. The small pair on top with massive value in the original closed Chinese Poker game loses much of its potential in Pineapple OFC, where the goal is always to put a pair of queens or higher on top. However, in Progressive OFC, this small pair can turn into trips and regain its usefulness thanks to the 17-card reward that comes with it in Fantasyland!

In fact, I had a long discussion with Bruno “King” Fitoussi about poker strategy, and we are not sure at all that being in Fantasyland with 14 cards is so much of an advantage. Admittedly, you have the absolute certainty of not fouling, which is a non-negligible edge. But you’ll often find yourself making a hand without colossal potentials, like a square in the back, a pair in the middle, and an ace on top, which perhaps diminishes the advantage somewhat.

Meanwhile, when you’re not in Fantasyland, you have access to 17 cards (the five initial cards, then 4 x 3 cards from which you’ll place two each time to total 13). Even though busting out will be relatively frequent, making enormous hands and sick bonuses will also be regular!

At the end of the discussion, we agreed that we should call Paul “X-22” Magriel so that he could make some incomprehensible crazy, genius mathematical calculations to finally give us a final answer to the question (LOL)! But we categorically agreed that if you can get to Fantasyland with 15 cards in Progressive OFC, the answer is 100% clear: it’s definitely a huge advantage over not being in Fantasyland!

My forecast is that OFC Progressive is the absolute realization of this game and that it is here to stay. Therefore, I’m very motivated to become an expert in this variation that I am so passionate about!

Pineapple Deuce-to-Seven OFC Poker

That being said, I’m just as captivated (or maybe more) by the “Deuce-to-Seven” variation of OFC, where in the end, you’ll get to Fantasyland way more frequently. Here, just as in regular OFC, the bottom line must be your board’s strongest. However, the middle line is played in deuce-to-seven format, meaning that the best possible hand (23457 in different suits) is accompanied by a bonus and takes you to Fantasyland.

You can also get to Fantasyland with the top line in this variation, but here you will need a pair of kings or better to do so. And the one thing that can drive you absolutely crazy in Deuce-to-Seven OFC is being in Fantasyland and still busting out because you can’t find five cards under 10 that are not making a straight or a flush. It happens only rarely, but it feels just like a bad beat!

In all three variations of OFC: Pineapple, Progressive, and Deuce-to-Seven, the same poker rules apply to return to Fantasyland when you are already there. But we’ll discuss that later in the poker guide.

Playing Open-Face Chinese: Poker Strategy & Tips From Isabelle Mercier OFC Wizard

Now that we have rapidly gone over the history of the game and its basic rules, we will today start to explore more in detail the “Pineapple Fantasyland” variation of OFC poker. Aside from getting to Fantasyland when placing a pair of Queens or better on the top line, you also have to know that when you are already in Fantasyland, the only poker strategy to stay there will be to make trips on top or Four of a kind in the middle or in the back. 

Otherwise, you can imagine how easy it would be to stay in Fantasyland if the Queens on top were sufficient! Let me guide you through some primary recommendations to help elevate your game if you are a new player!

Advice #1 – The Points and the Bonuses

On my OFC app, I have a few ongoing games with friends who don’t even know how many points they would get by making a Full House on the bottom line! No wonder I am ahead by 800 points against them, lol! They will recognize themselves, especially those who insult me because of my supposedly “luck”! Before playing OFC, you must look at the points and bonuses and know them by heart. 

It might seem obvious to know the rules of the game, but I assure you that there are a lot of recreational players out there who play intuitively, not knowing in the end how many points they will get and letting the computer do the math for them. This is silly and lazy because according to the points and bonuses we can make, we will set our cards in different ways… even more when in Fantasyland!

Indeed, in this unique configuration, we often have many possibilities and choices. But, in truth, the usual questions are:

  1. What options can make my scoop? 
  2. Which placement will give me bonuses? 
  3. What poker strategy will make me win more money? 

You must know the points and bonuses to make the best possible decisions. Let’s look at the following example:

Most of the time, inexperienced players quickly put their Full House in the back, and their Flush in the middle, leaving the crappy cards on top. In this case, the Full House bonus is 6 points, and the Flush in the middle is 8 points, for 14 points in rewards. Not bad! Yet, it seems very unlikely to scoop your opponent with this board while holding 8 high on top. That being said, let’s go back to the example, but this time we will place the same cards differently:

​In this scenario, the Straight bonus is only 2 points, and the trips in the middle are also 2 points, but the bonus for trip 9s on top is 17 points! That’s a huge difference compared to the first board, as here we get a total of 21 points in bonuses instead of 14. On top of that, with a hand that is strong on every line, there is a real chance to scoop your opponents and win another 6 points on top of your 21! 

The goal is not always to make the strongest possible hand, but it certainly is to make as many points as possible! Making more money simply because you placed your cards differently, thanks to your knowledge of the points and bonuses! If you don’t want to learn and memorize the bonuses chart, remember at least one easy thing; when you can actually place trips on top, it’s probably the right play. And it will take you back to Fantasyland!

Advice #2 – Setting your initial cards

As you will not be able to move your cards once they are placed, your initial positioning is the absolute foundation of your hand. Poker strategy reminds me of classic chess openings, as there are sometimes a few possibilities and sometimes some obvious ways to place the first 5 cards. Whenever I receive an Ace or a King, I’m very inclined to put this card in the middle, as it is my joker card to quickly make a pair of Queens on top. 

That being said, if I get one of those cards in Diamond, along with 4 other diamond cards, there is a perfect chance that I will place my Flush in the back, especially if I am last to act and see many more diamonds already out there in my opponents’ hands. 

However, if I receive a pair of Kings or a pair of Aces to start the hand, it is unlikely that I will place it on top right away… And when I get two pairs to start, I will very rarely separate them. Don’t forget not giving up points is a big part of this game! Here are some examples of starting hands that I like to play this way:

​In example 1, you’ll have to choose whether to put three cards flush in the back or separate those three spades differently. I’m a big fan of this positioning, as it is pretty easy to make two pairs in the back, Aces in the middle, and Kings on top. An Ace high flush in the back is a good hand, but it’s not leaving me with much, isn’t it? So instead, I’ll have an ugly 9-2 off suit in the middle, from which a nine is already dead in my back line. Doesn’t seem like a lot of potential to me… 

​In example 2, I’m still looking at my Ace in the middle and my Queen on top, always with the objective of making at least two pairs in the back and Aces in the middle with Queens on top. Here, I like to put the 5 clubs in the middle, leaving the door open for a Flush in the middle if I successfully make a Full House in the back. What justifies my decision is that the 5, as much as the 4, are both connecting cards to a straight in the middle with the Ace, so no matter which one I choose to place there, it will not influence my chances of making this straight eventually.

​Example 3 offers many diverse possibilities… Of course, all those scenarios are theoretical, and observing the cards already out in your opponents’ hands will be absolutely crucial! But for practical reasons, let’s assume we are always first to act. In this particular case, I like to split my Aces (which will be extremely rare) because the Flush seems relatively easy to make, and I’m still aiming for 

Aces in the middle and Kings on top. Should I put my King along with my Ace in the middle, knowing one Ace is already dead in my own hand? I could catch a King in the middle and still make Queens on top… I don’t remember… What do you think about it?

Advice #3 – Know your Opponent

Your cards’ initial placement will be the foundation of your OFC poker hand. Therefore, this first setting will be one of the most important decisions in an OFC hand. Sometimes the cards will speak for themselves, but often you’ll have more than one option to position the cards. 

This is where your knowledge of your opponent will come into play as a part of your poker strategy. Methodically observe how he decides to place his first 5 cards, ask yourself if you would have done the same, and remember his basic play tendencies. For example, what does he do when he receives a pair of Queens to start? Does he systematically place it on top, risking fouling, or does he play more conservatively and prudently? Against certain players, you’ll rarely have to take some significant risks, and against others, it will be the opposite. 

In the end, even though the placement of your first 5 cards is sometimes dictated, it is precisely in cases where you’ll have more than one option that this placement will be oriented by your knowledge of your opponent. When you’re first to speak, you’ll have absolutely zero information about live cards or counterattacks, so this awareness of your opponent’s tendencies will help you “guess” the best poker strategy to play. Adapt to everyone!

Advice #4 – Know your Live Cards

The concept of Live Cards is primordial in OFC poker, especially if you are playing against more than one opponent, where you’ll have access to many visible cards. Your “Live Cards” are those you still didn’t see in your own hand or in your opponents’ hands. Look at this example:

​The first impulse beginners usually have in online OFC is placing their biggest cards on the board, meaning the King and the 6 in the middle here. The problem is, one of these two cards is entirely dead, so there is no way in the world you will pair your King here in the middle, as 3 Kings are already showing in your opponent’s hand. Likewise, placing it on top will do you no good, either, as your opponent is already showing an Ace there. 

However, the 6’s and the 5’s are completely live, so you’ll have a much better chance at making two pairs in the middle if you use those two cards instead of a sole King. Always observe your opponent’s board, and place your cards according to your live cards!

Advice #5 – Take your Time

This advice may sound as silly as “Know the points and Bonuses,” but trust me, too often, we tend to play too fast, inevitably making some mistakes in the process. Nevertheless, you’ll have adequate time to play your hand, so use it wisely and double-check your board before clicking or discarding your last cards. 

I have made in the past a straight flush in the middle, obviously not beating my “regular” Ace high flush in the back, and busted out of hand by my own fault. Of course, this is a grotesque example, but let’s take a look a little deeper with the following hand:

​Instinctively, players try to quickly make the best hand possible by placing the King in the middle to make two pairs, leaving the “garbage 8” on top. Well, in this particular case, if you look more closely, the King in the middle will do no good for you, as your pair of Aces is already beating your opponent’s pair of Jacks in the middle, and two pairs won’t give you any bonus for that line. Plus, your Q85 on top will be beaten by your opponent’s Q97. 

However, placing this King on top instead of in the middle will make you win both lines. In the end, instead of losing one line as you would by placing the King in the middle, you will actually Scoop your opponent by placing it on top! This is a big difference, as when you lose the top line, you’ll get 6 points bonus for your Full, plus 1 point for the lines, minus the 4 points of your opponent for his Flush, for a total of 3 points in your favor. Whereas when you place the King on top, you’ll get 6 points for your Full, plus 3 points for the lines, and another 3 points for the scoop, minus the 4 points of your opponent for his Flush, for a big total of 8 points instead of 3! 

When you’re playing 100€ per point, that’s a difference of 500€ in your pocket, so this is definitely the right way to play this hand. Remember to take your time, analyze your opponents’ boards, and do not forget that the goal is not always to make the best possible hand on each line but to take a maximum of points!

Download the Coinpoker app and test your OFC poker skills!

Master OFC – No Mercy Examples of Two-Pair Poker Strategy 

As usual, not all hands run smoothly, nor do the cards “speak” to you. Yes, tricky situations often present themselves in OFC Pineapple! So, let’s look at some of the actual game examples here. 

Tricky Situation #1 – TWO PAIRS Scenarios

This situation will happen very often in OFC, giving you a headache every time! Let’s look at the following example to illustrate the concept:

​This exact play presented itself to me yesterday. Obviously, my Jack will go in the back here, and instinctively, I’ll tend to put the 5 in the middle, which is the tricky part… Indeed, my initial game plan was to make at least two pairs in the back, secure a pair of Aces in the middle and a pair of Kings on top, and go to Fantasyland. 

Now, when I place my 5 in the middle, I cannot hit my Ace and put it there unless I make at least trip Jacks in the bottom. This situation will present itself more often than you think. To make the right decision, you’ll carefully have to look at your opponent’s board to see if, first of all, there are indeed some Aces left in the deck (because if there are none, there is no need to worry about those two pairs Aces in the middle), and second of all, you’ll have to look for your live cards in the back; the ones that could come along to beat your two pairs in the middle. 

Eventually, after looking at the board, I decided to place my 5 in the middle, even though my sole Ace in the middle was already covering my sole King on top, as I thought I could also make two more minor pairs in the middle, or catch my Jack in the back with an Ace in the middle! So, obviously, this was my next draw:

​Had I not put my 5 in the middle, I would have looked good to go to Fantasyland, placing my Ace in the middle and my King on top. Indeed, knowing that all my Jacks and 9’s were still alive, I would have taken that risk with great enthusiasm!!! 

However, now that my 5 is positioned in the middle, I am much less inclined to try to catch a sole Jack in the back, so I had to compromise and go for a conservative move, placing my Ace on top, securing my Ace-King there. My 3 in the middle, hoping to make two pairs in the back, two more minor teams in the middle, and still be in a position to go to Fantasyland if all that happened while I catch another Ace or King! 

Eventually, in that precise hand, I did catch a 9 and would have been able to go to Fantasyland had I not placed my 5 in the middle on the second draw… Of course, just like in Hold ’em or other poker variations, it’s always easier to analyze a play after the hand is finished and look at the ultimate results, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right play to place the 5 in the middle! It only means that in those exceptional cases, you’ll have to be more observant than usual and look at your live cards and opponent’s board before you make up your mind!

Similarly, remember that your two pairs in the back must be stronger than your two pairs in the middle. With that in mind, let’s look at this play:

​Amateurs have a quick tendency to always use their bigger cards and will place the Jack and the 6 in the middle. I’ll admit, a pair of Jacks is stronger than a pair of 5s or 6s. However, if you look at the big picture, what will you do if you catch your Jack on the next draw? You’ll definitely put it in the middle, completing your Pair of Jacks, but that will prevent you from making two pairs there unless you fill your back to make a Full house! 

Therefore, in that particular case, I’ll prefer to go with the 5 and the 6 in the middle, so I could still make two pairs that would be smaller than my two pairs in the back without having to make the Full House, and still leaving me in good shape to get to Fantasyland. And if I make my Full in the back, my 5 and 6 are also connecting cards, so I could eventually make a straight in the middle. Obviously, and as always, your live cards will be highly important in these kinds of situations.

This brings me to my last point regarding these “Two Pairs” cases, which is about the start of the hand when you are dealt two pairs already. So let’s look at the next draw. Would you place your cards this way to start the hand?

​Many players will do it, hoping to make a Full House in the back. Personally, for the reasons we just exposed and since my two pairs in the back are so small, I will prefer to split them here and place my 8-5-5 in the back, with my pair of 4s in the middle. That is assuming I am first to speak and have no information about my live cards because if I don’t complete my Full House in the back, I will not be able to make two pairs in the middle unless I catch a miraculous pair of 2s along with a pair 3s to fill the middle! 

As a general rule, I’d say that it’s usually the correct play to split two pairs lower than 7s in the back, but then again, it always depends on various factors, like your live cards and the playing style of your opponents!

The Main OFC Poker Strategy – Going for Fantasyland​ with No Mercy

People often ask, “How do I get to Fantasyland in OFC?” The truth is that aiming for that ultimate goal is hard unless you are entirely acquainted with the basics. That is why I often like to analyze cards and elevate my poker strategy by noticing what happens each time I draw a different setup. So, let’s examine this week a complete hand in OFC Pineapple, so we can cover other points all at once!

Hand Analysis #1

This is a hand I played last week in the “No Mercy Ride” tournament on TonyBet Poker. I started with quite a good draw, and being the first to act in this situation, I am always a big fan of placing my Aces in the middle. In this case, I put my 3-5 on the back, hoping to make two pairs or a straight. A straight would allow me to improve my middle line, but otherwise, I would still be set to go to Fantasyland, should I catch a pair of Kings or Queens on top while improving my bottom line.

​My opponent positioned his first five cards, and I was dealt these three cards for my second draw:

This scenario offers two ways of playing the hand, and I had to make a choice. First, I could place my 6-7 in the bottom, drawing to an inside straight draw to cover my middle line. What I did not like about it was that if I succeeded and made my straight, I could still lose the line against my opponent’s bigger straight. But more importantly, one of my live 4 is already on my opponent’s board, so I am drawing only 3 cards. This situation reminds me of going all-in in regular poker; you’re no longer in control of this line and are hoping to catch your miracle card! 

On the other hand, should I place a 6 or a 7 on the bottom line? I would still be drawing three 3’s, three 5’s, and three live cards for the 6 or the 7? I know that I have to catch two of those 9 live cards, but that seemed a better play than drawing to an inside straight with only 3 live cards. Add to that that I hate to waste an Ace in Pineapple, and going with this play, I have the luxury of placing my Ace on top, putting me in a Fantasyland spot, or at least having an Ace high on the top line as protection.

I went with that play and placed my 6 in the bottom. Why the 6 instead of the 7? Well, it looked easier to catch a sole 4 for an open-ended straight draw, opening more outs, should that happen, instead of catching both a 4 and a 6 if I had chosen to place my 7 in the back. This decision was also made based on the fact that my two pairs, 7 high or 6 high, won’t affect my opponent’s bottom line since he will either make his straight or end up with only one pair. However, if he was also trying to make some small pairs, I would have placed my 7 in the back, trying to make two higher pairs than him. 

My opponent got his 10 to complete his straight in the back, and I got an easy draw, with the 5 going in the back for my two pairs and my King going on top to give me another chance to get to Fantasyland! 

My opponent paired his deuces in the middle and placed a 10 on top, while I succeeded in making my two pairs in the back to cover my Aces:

​Straight away here, my 6 goes in the back since this was the original plan, and I’m happy to cover my Aces with this draw. As for the other card, two 10s and two Deuces are already showing, so my chances of making a second pair in the middle are equivalent for those two cards. 

Putting one of those cards on the top line is absolutely out of the question, and I am sure by now you can see why. After I placed my 10 in the middle, my opponent made two pairs in the middle and put a King on top, also being ready to get to Fantasyland. As for me, I got my miracle King and definitely made it there!

​This hand shows that I made the right play at the start by not choosing to draw to the inside straight because, as the cards were dealt, we can see that I would not have caught my miracle 4. I am not saying this is always the right play, but the fact that one of my live 4 was already dead, coupled with the higher possible straight on the bottom line of my opponent, made me choose that play at that particular moment. You always have to take into consideration multiple factors before you make up your mind on the direction you’ll go in OFC.

As you can see at the end of the hand, I won only 5 points out of hand, despite the big risk I took by placing my Aces in the middle to start. Indeed, my opponent made 2 points Bonus for his straight in the back, plus 1 point for the lines as he was beating my bottom and middle line. 

On my side, I made 8 points Bonus for my Kings on top, minus the 3 points of my opponent, which left me with a 5 points win for the hand. Unfortunately, with some experience, I find that the points I win when starting with a pair of Aces in the middle are often minor marginal points and rarely big jackpots. Still, as you can see here, it usually allows me to get to Fantasyland, and with a bit of luck, I can catch a vast hand and crush my opponent, who will be playing open-face during that time!

Playing Safe Against a Risk-Loving Opponent

Hand Analysis #2

This is a hand I played last week in the “No Mercy Ride” tournament on ​TonyBet Poker, one that came up while we were heads-up at the final table.

My opponent was taking many risks, fouling two hands out of three, and he was always going for queens, kings, or aces on top, no matter where we were in the hand or what he had to back it up.

I have learned by now that you have to be quite aggressive to win in OFC and play with the cards that are dealt to you. But in this particular scenario, I thought the best poker strategy was to be more conservative — basically playing the opposite style of my opponent!

I was second to act, and my opponent had already placed two pairs in the back while I was dealt 6-4-4-3-2 with two suits:

When deciding how to place my cards, I noticed the four of Clubs already showing in my opponent’s hand, but I still chose to position my pair of fours in the back along with my six, leaving the door open for an eventual full house in the back. Meanwhile, I could complete either a flush or a straight in the middle.

As I discussed in a previous article, I’m not a fan of going for the gutshot straight draw in the back — which, in this case, would have meant placing 2-3-4-6 there and drawing to a five. Even though all of the fives are life, this feels like going all-in in a regular hold’em game. Moreover, my four in the middle would be almost dead, considering that there’s only one left in the deck.

My opponent completed his boat on the next round, while I received the following cards:

Those three cards are all live — something that doesn’t occur so often on the second draw in OFC — so for me, this is an easy play, going with the Ace in the middle and the King on top, aiming to get to Fantasyland.

I went with that, then my opponent placed two queens on top on the next draw! This was a dramatic play to me, as he put himself in big danger of busting out at this point of the hand. He risked losing his 6 points for the full house bonus, and he knew three of his remaining fours were already dead.

I had to wonder — what did he expect to make in the middle to survive this? Trip fives? A long shot straight while I show a deuce, trey, and six? A pair of fives, along with another surprise pair he will catch?

I am not a fan of this play, but then again, I am learning every day and might be wrong on this one. As I’ve already pointed out, this was not entirely shocking, as my opponent made these kinds of moves hand after hand. And I kind of liked it! After all, it made my decisions much easier seeing him fouling all the time — lol!

​On my side, I was dealt the following cards, and this is where this hand started to get weird:

In a regular situation, I would go for a pair of aces in the middle, knowing that all my sixes and kings remain alive and placing me in an excellent spot to go to Fantasyland.

Now I wouldn’t go for two pairs (aces and treys) in the middle, as this would be too difficult to cover in the back, knowing only one four is live and that making sixes and fours in the back wouldn’t do the job. So I would place my Ace in the middle along with the jack (as two of those are out already), and I want to keep my top line open should I catch the two remaining queens. 

Meanwhile, I’d be wary of the remaining two aces, as these could not be placed on top since the king-kicker would be higher than the jack-kicker in the middle. But in this particular situation — against this specific opponent’s hand — my decision-making was very much influenced by the fact that my opponent had almost no way out of his hand. 

Therefore, instead of fouling, I decided to play conservatively and placed only the three Spades in the middle, the pair of treys already being beaten by my pair of fours in the back. As for the other card, because I had oriented myself toward a very secure play, I positioned the As of Heart in the back as it was more live than the jack. So, again, it’s a safe play, but I could still make it to Fantasyland.

On the next draw, my opponent got closer to completing his hand, catching a seven and an eight and needing to draw a six to fill an inside straight in the middle. The fact that I already had a six was kind of reassuring; however, the cards I drew next literally made me scream out loud. Take a look:

Had I not been influenced by my opponent’s risky play, I would have gone for the Ace in the middle on the previous draw and now would have been all set to go to Fantasyland by placing the four of Heart in the back and the King of Spade on top! Well, what’s done is done, so I faced multiple choices again.

Indeed, here I could place my King on top, trying to go to Fantasyland and beat my opponent’s queens simultaneously (assuming he doesn’t make trip queens while catching his six). That would mean placing a four in the back for trips or a deuce in the middle for two pairs. Analyzing my outs, it turns out that I would have five live cards in the back to avoid fouling (three sixes and two aces) and six live cards in the middle (two treys, two deuces, and two aces). Therefore, the best play in this scenario would be to go with the four in the back.

However, still being very much influenced by my opponent’s suicidal position, I decided to follow my initial conservative poker strategy by protecting myself from busting out at all costs. Indeed, I went with a super chicken play, placing the Four of Heart in the back, the Deuce of Spade in the middle, and throwing the King away even while realizing I would lose all three lines and pay big time if my opponent caught his six on the last draw.

Again, I’m not sure this is the right play, but it somehow paid out, as my opponent ultimately foul his hand, making only a pair of sevens in the middle.

As for me, the irony is that I did catch an ace on the last draw, which made me scream again — this was my second opportunity to go to Fantasyland in the same hand!

Indeed, if I had placed my King on top and the four in the back, there was my magic ace to make two pairs in the middle.

It’s a huge difference. Should I have gone for it at my first or second opportunity to go to Fantasyland, I would have made 8 bonus points for my kings on top, plus 6 points for the lines and scooping, for a total of 14 points. Not to mention I was going to Fantasyland!

Instead, I only cashed in 6 points. In the end, sticking with this conservative style for an hour’s worth of heads-up proved worthwhile, as I beat my opponent, and I won the tourney!

Buckle Up! It’s Time for a Ride to Fantasyland

Finally! You might say. Now we focus on a trendy and specific subject which is everyone’s supreme goal of the game – getting a ride to Fantasyland!

Accessing Fantasyland

The recent TonyBet Poker OFC Championship in Prague featured an OFC “Pineapple” Main Event and a “Progressive” side event. I will discuss both of those variations in this column about Fantasyland.

​Indeed, in both cases, the only way to access Fantasyland is precisely the same — by placing a pair of queens or better on the top line without fouling your board.

The significant difference between the two variations is that when you access Fantasyland in Pineapple, you will get 14 cards to set up your board. In contrast, when you access it in Progressive, the number of cards you’ll get will vary according to your top line. For example, when getting to Fantasyland in Progressive, 14 cards will be dealt to you for a pair of queens, 15 cards for a pair of kings, 16 cards for a pair of aces, and 17 cards for any trips.

Realize that 17 cards are actually just about one-third of the deck. It is a very rare Fantasyland to get, but it will most likely give you a wide choice of possibilities for setting up your hand. Of course, that is if you can manage to hold and see all of your 17 cards at once in your hand while playing live, lol!

Remaining in Fantasyland

Once you are in Fantasyland, there are some ways you can stay there for another round, and again, these ways will be the same for both the Pineapple and the Progressive versions of OFC. To remain in Fantasyland, you’ll need to place at least quads on the bottom or the middle line or a minimum of trips on the top line.

You might wonder why you access Fantasyland in the first place by placing queens on top but won’t access it by placing a straight flush on the bottom. In contrast, when you are already in Fantasyland, your straight Flush will allow you to remain in Fantasyland for another round.

​Well, from my point of view, the reason why a poker strategy with a hand like quads in the back will not give you an initial ride to Fantasyland is simply that the goal is actually to have a firm hand on top (a pair of queens or better) which has to be beaten by your bottom lines. The “pyramid” kind of starts at the top, and the initial foundation of your hand will be determinant in that regard. Otherwise, you could simply go for quads in the back, jack-high in the middle, and six-high up top to access Fantasyland, which would be silly.

Meanwhile, once you are already in Fantasyland, it would be way too easy to simply place a pair of queens on top again to remain in Fantasyland! It seems to me you would stay there forever, lol! So, in this case, the pyramid kind of starts at the bottom, as you will need a solid bottom row to stay in Fantasyland.

The only exception will be when you place trips on top, which could be, for example, beaten by higher trips in the middle, and other (even better) trips in the back. In this case, the back line wouldn’t be that strong, but it is still rare to get three sets in Fantasyland, and doing so will allow you to remain in Fantasyland. Just note that in the Progressive version, no matter if you started with 14, 15, 16, or 17 cards in Fantasyland, you’ll always only have access to 14 cards if you remain there again.

“The beauty of this game is that everybody disagrees on the same spots, but the real beauty is that everybody may be right!” – Brandon Cantu.

Maximizing your hands in Fantasyland

Often the best and simplest poker strategy is to place your cards in the best way possible. These decisions are the ones that will get you a ride to Fantasyland! Let’s look at some Fantasyland examples, complete with hands and analysis. 

Fantasyland Example #1

I got a gripping Fantasyland hand this week on TonyBetPoker while playing in Pineapple format.

​There are multiple options in this hand, and after being asked, most amateur players told me that they would quickly go for Quads in the back, allowing them to remain in Fantasyland. They would also place a Full House in the middle, AAA66, with the remaining pocket 7s on top, which is, I admit, a great Fantasyland overall.  

Looking closer at the bonuses, this particular hand is worth 10 points for the Quads in the back, 12 points for the Full House in the middle, and 2 points for pocket 7s on top, for a total of 24 points, which is not so bad at all! You will most likely win the bottom and middle row, with a fair chance to scoop if your opponents end up with no pair on top.

Even better, though, you could place your straight Flush in the back (A2345 in diamonds) and Full House in the middle (555AA) with the pair of 7s on top, for an extra 5 points compared to the previous placement, as the straight Flush is worth 15 and your Quads only 10. So your total score would be 29 points instead of 24, and maybe more if you win at least two lines or scoop your opponents.

However, there might be an even better way to place those cards, and whenever I give an OFC coaching, I constantly tell my students that when they see trips in their hand, they should always, always, always try to put them on the top line. 

Why? Because it is almost always a better play, as Quads on the back is worth 10 points, and Trip Deuces on top is also worth 10 points. That means all the other sets superior to Deuces will always be worth more than Quads in the back. Incidentally, your set on top will also allow you to remain in Fantasyland.

So, what can we do here in this particular case?

There is an easy straight to do, and I will never hesitate to split Quads to place a set on top. Therefore, we could do a Full House in the back (55577) and place a straight one in the middle (23456), with a set of Aces on top! Even more, and by looking closer, you can make a Flush in the middle with 23458 diamonds, keeping a Full House in the back and placing the same set of Aces on top. Putting the 6s or 7s in the back for the Full House is irrelevant since no other player can make the same Full House. The final result would look like this:

​Now, let’s see the difference in the bonus score with this placement compared to the previous two options we examined. Here, we make 6 points bonus in the back for the Full House, 8 points bonus in the middle for the Flush and an unbelievable 22 points bonus on top for our set of Aces! This is the biggest Bonus you can get in OFC Pineapple after Royal and Straight Flushes. Right here, right now, that’s a total of 36 points in bonuses only, not to mention the fact that we have an immense probability of scooping our opponents, especially if they are not in Fantasyland themselves.

Note that there is yet another possible option by placing Straight Flush in the back (A2345 in diamonds for 15 points), a Full House in the middle (55566 or 55577 for 12 points), and a pair of Aces on top for 9 points. The total here would be precisely the same, with 36 points, but I prefer to place the Set of Aces on top as I am guaranteed to win that line. 

However, our Full House in the back is relatively low with the 5s, so those things are to be considered, especially if you are already playing against opponents in Fantasyland!

In real life, this was the turnout of this hand:

​I scooped both of my opponents on all lines for 12 points for the bars, plus my total bonuses of 36 points per player, and 72 points, for a total of 84 points. My opponents also made some bonuses; the player on the left made 4 points for his pocket 9s on top, and the player on the right made 4 points for his Flush in the back, 4 points for his straight in the middle, and 3 points for his pocket 8s on top, all this for a total of 15 points in bonuses for my opponents. So, overall, I made 84 points, minus 15, for a total of 69 points coming my way!! That’s a massive score for one single hand in Pineapple, not to mention that I am the only player going back to Fantasyland in this spot.

Without looking attentively and going with the easy first two scenarios, you can quickly see that this final score would have been much lower! Indeed, in both cases, we would have lost the top line with our pair of 7s beaten by both opponents.  

  • Placing Quads and Full House with pocket 7s would have given us 24 points in Bonuses, plus one point for the lines on each opponent, minus their 15 points Bonuses, for a total of 35 points.
  • Placing Straight Flush and Full House with pocket 7s would have given us 29 points in Bonuses, plus one point for the lines on each opponent, minus their 15 points Bonuses, for a total of 45 points.

So, what do you prefer? A minor 35 points, a medium 45 points, or a massive 69?

My message to you is to evaluate your options when in Fantasyland, and do not hesitate to split Quads or a Straight Flush if this will allow you to place a Set on top!

Conclusion

In conclusion, overall, learn the key moments and factors that can play a vital role in OFC poker strategy. Try to utilize them in your next game. You will find that they significantly improve your play and even help you better understand why you make your mistakes. 

Finally, there is a lot to learn about the poker game, and it may take some time to master, but the more you do, the more you will improve. There are plenty of strategies and formulas, such as my winning tips above, that can drastically improve your game. 

If you haven’t noticed by now, OFC poker is quite addictive and fun, so don’t be put off if, at first, it seems a little complicated. Just take your time to learn and enjoy playing it. The chances are pretty good. You’ll be hooked on this game. 

Register for free at Coinpoker and join Isabelle Mercier at the tables!

OFC FAQ

What is Open-Face Chinese poker (OFC)?

Open Face Chinese poker, also known as OFC, is a poker game that is gaining popularity. It’s a variation of traditional Chinese poker mixed with Texas Hold ’em and Pineapple elements.

How to win OFC poker?

OFC poker is a thrilling game that requires players to have both a good understanding of the game and the ability to think on their feet. To win in OFC poker, it is crucial to understand basic strategies, such as when to fold, which choices to make, and when your hand holds up against other players. It is also important to pay attention to your opponent’s playing style. Additionally, ensuring you are familiar with the particular rules of Open Face Chinese Poker will help ensure you succeed at the table.

Where can I play Chinese poker online?

Several online poker sites and mobile applications offer Chinese poker, including the Coinpoker app. In addition, you can find sites that offer free play or real-money tournaments and cash games, including specialized Chinese poker platforms such as Pineapple Poker and OFC Poker. These sites allow you to practice strategies and hone your skills while competing against players worldwide.

What is OFC progressive poker?

OFC Progressive poker is a reasonably new variant in the world of poker that has been gaining traction lately. It is similar to standard Open-face Chinese poker but with some extra options and complexity. 

What is the OFC progressive poker strategy?

OFC Progressive poker strategy (OPR) is a method of playing Open Face Chinese Poker that maximizes expected value by advancing play through three distinct stages: early game, middle game, and endgame. 

Which poker hands to play?

A successful poker strategy aims to make intuitively correct decisions that maximize your chances of winning the pot. This can be achieved by playing well-chosen hands and making good reads on opponents’ hands.

Is OFC poker strategy or luck?

While luck certainly plays a role in OFC poker, skill is the most significant factor in determining who will succeed in the long run. An experienced poker player who has mastered the fundamentals of the game, including hand selection and proper bet sizing, will have a clear advantage over players relying solely on luck. In addition, with enough patience and study, any player can improve their poker strategy to be more successful at the tables.

How often do good poker players win?

Good poker players often win due to their knowledge of probability, mathematics, game theory, psychology, and other skills. They can also make good decisions by properly assessing the situation at the table and acting accordingly. These factors allow good poker players to win 90% of the games.

Where do poker pros play online?

Professional poker players usually play online at PokerStars, 888poker, and Coinpoker. Most experienced players tend to gravitate towards one site more than the others, but it depends on individual preferences. Some players like to play in multiple locations. For example, at Coinpoker, you can see famous names in the poker industry. 

What does OFC poker Fantasyland mean?

Fantasyland is a special rule in OFC poker. It allows players who make a set or better on their initial 3 cards to enter a unique “Fantasyland” state and receive 13 additional cards simultaneously, allowing them to make multiple sets or quads with the extra hands dealt.

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