When it hit on the poker scene in 2012, some said that Open-Face Chinese Poker would be a fad — at most, just a side event to “real poker” cash games and tournaments. And perhaps, they were right.
Niche or not, the 2015 World Series of Poker is just around the corner, and Open-Face is still going strong.
Tens of thousands of players are setting a million OFC hands a week, and that’s just on the ABC Open-Face iOS app. People are playing on their phones, on their laptops, and there are live and online cash tournaments. Later this month there will be a dozen tables at the Rio spreading OFC throughout the Series, charging players a few bucks a half-hour to deal them 13-card hands over and over again.
For those of us who love Open-Face, there’s always a game, always another hand. There’s always another move. A “tough spot,” or #standard.
Even so, there are thousands, if not millions of poker players who never caught the Open-Face bug. It’s easy for the rest of us to forget that the game can seem a bit inaccessible to the uninitiated. (Click here for a review of the rules for Open-Face Chinese Poker, and here for the rules to Pineapple OFC.)
When people ask me how to play Open-Face, the most common question I get is, as for any game, how to get started?
Over the past month, I’ve been recording some OFC sessions with some of my opponents on the ABC app (with their permission, of course). Out of these sessions, I compiled a video showing some “first-five” OFC Pineapple sets to help illustrate things to think about when setting your first five cards.
Every Open-Face hand is unique. These exact cards have never been played before. And yet, there are common themes. How you set the first five cards will determine whether you’re going for a Fantasyland hand or for an ace-high flush on the bottom. Or whether you’re going to gamble for a high-upside hand, or wait for your opponent to foul.
A Pineapple OFC hand only lasts five moves. To misquote Julius Caesar, the die is cast early. There is no “limp and see a flop” in Open-Face. And just as there is no raising, there is also no folding.
How should you set your hand, when your opponent is in Fantasyland? What do you do with a pair of aces? And how does one approach starting a round with a strong hand like trips in the first five cards?
Well… to some extent, it depends. But here is how I set these hands. Take a look, play along, and let us know what you think. Would you have played some of these spots differently?
Good luck, and see you in Fantasyland.
Nikolai Yakovenko is a professional poker player and software developer residing in Brooklyn, New York who helped create the ABC Open-Face Chinese Poker iPhone App. For more OFC strategy advice click here and follow me on Twittter at @ivan_bezdomny.