Open-Face Chinese Poker by Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Part 9: Focusing on Fantasyland
Tonybet Poker ambassador Isabelle Mercier returns with more tips and advice for playing open-face Chinese poker.
Hello again, everyone and welcome back to my “Open-Face Chinese No Mercy Little Guide”! In previous chapters, we’ve gone over the history of the game, its basic rules, and gone through some primary recommendations to elevate your OFC game. We’ve also analyzed some complete OFC hands to cover different points at once.
It is now time to focus on a very specific subject, which is the supreme goal of this game — getting a ride to Fantasyland!
The recent TonyBet Poker OFC Championship in Prague featured both an OFC “Pineapple” Main Event and a “Progressive” side event. I will discuss both of those variations in this column with regards to Fantasyland.
Indeed, in both cases, the only way to access Fantasyland is exactly the same — by placing a pair of queens or better on the top line without fouling your board.
The major difference between the two variations is that when you access Fantasyland in Pineapple, you will then get 14 cards to set up your board, whereas when you access it in Progressive, the number of cards you’ll get will vary according to your top line. 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 is 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. 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 actually stay there for another round, and again, these ways will be the same for both the Pineapple and the Progressive versions of OFC. To stay in Fantasyland, you’ll need to place at least quads on the bottom or the middle line, or minimum of trips on the top line.
You might wonder why you actually access Fantasyland in the first place by placing queens on top, but won’t access it by placing a straight flush on the bottom, whereas 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 hand like quads in the back will not give you an initial ride to Fantasyland is simply because the goal is actually to have a very strong hand on top (a pair of queens or better) which has to be beaten by your bottom lines. The “pyramid” kind of start at the top, and the initial foundation of your hand will be determinant with 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 kind of silly.
Meanwhile, once you are already in Fantasyland, it would be way too easy to simply have to 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 really strong 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 another (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 it 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.
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 that it then travelled to Russia along with pro player Alex Kravchenko, probably explaining why this game was sometimes called “Russian Chinese Poker.” Since then, it has been spread around the world, with some anecdotes saying the American player Brandon Cantu brought this game to the Aviation Club in Paris, where he shared long sessions with Shaun Deeb before they brought the game back to the US and started to spread it over there.
It seems that it was poker pro Daniel Weinman who then found the Fantasyland Pineapple version being played in San Remo, and he introduced it to Jason Mercier who shared it with Deeb before bringing it back to his hometown in Florida. 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!
All pros will tell you, this game is really all about getting to Fantasyland, because of the huge reward it will give you. That explains why, most of the time, it will be a correct play to place a pair of queens on top right at the start of the hand, even though you will be at risk of fouling.
Sometimes, however, later in the hand, it will not be the correct play to put queens (or better) up top, especially if you have a very strong bottom row, like a straight flush, for example. Indeed, that particular row will grant you a 15-point bonus if you don’t foul your hand, so you might not want to gamble that away by placing two queens on top, if it will be difficult to cover those on your middle row.
Next time we’ll look more closely at different Fantasyland scenarios and cover the options that are presented to you. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a wonderful quote from Brandon Cantu: “The beauty of this game is that everybody disagrees on the same spots, but the real beauty is that everybody may be right!”
Rendez-vous until next time for more of my “OFC No Mercy Little Guide”!
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