As a big fan of the game of OFC I firmly believe that in as little as a couple of years OFC will be the second most popular poker variant in the world. There are a number of hurdles for it to overcome in order to get there of course, and those will be discussed in this article.
The first issue concerns online play and goes some way to explaining why OFC isn’t already more popular online. If Badugi can have a spot on Pokerstars, then why can’t OFC? The answer is actually pretty simply and it all has to do with the software. It is relatively easy for poker sites such as Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker to adapt their program to include many of the new variants, and indeed on Pokertars you can play everything from 2-7 Draw, 5-Card Draw and Badugi, to Omaha, Courcheval and more. But those variants have one or more things in common. They are played with a minimum of 2 player-cards and a maximum of 7, and bets are placed, raised and then exchanged. Chinese Poker is very different. Each player needs to set up his hand in front of him and also needs to be able to see the hands of others, and there is also the point system which works differently from he standard betting rules of common poker variants. This all serves to make the task of incorporating these games into the current software very difficult, if not impossible, and the big poker sites would need to spend some time and money coming up with some new software that could make this work.
As fast as OFC is growing, it still isn’t quite at the stage were it can rival Hold’em or Omaha and therefore the big sites are unlikely to make a move towards doing this anytime soon. This leave the option of other sites, such as TonyBet, which have built their software around OFC. TonyBet is very much the litmus test for the industry. If it works of them, and if they get the revenue and the players, then there’s a good chance that the big sites will make the necessary investments to try and muscle-in on those players. That’s the way the industry works and as cruel and as unfair as it will be for TonyBet and other such sites, it will be great for OFC players. That’s not to say that TonyBet can’t hold onto their players, as someone who has played on most poker sites out there I can attest to the fact that their software is one of the easiest to use and their overall service is second to none. So they will fight to retain that market and in many ways they might succeed.
But what about live play? Will we ever see an explosion in OFC like we did for Hold’em? This is hard to judge. Standard Chinese Poker has been played professionally since 1995 when it saw its first appearance at the World Series of Poker. It was also played sporadically in Las Vegas casinos in the prevailing years. Nearly two decades later this game has not taken off, and if anything its popularity has reduced, but OFC is different.
OFC’s popularity has already surpassed that of standard Chinese Poker and it is still played in casinos through the US. This game is massive in Finland and Russia where it is the preferred game for many poker professionals, and it is also becoming just as popular in the US and Europe. In the last two years alone OFC has gone from a game that no one had ever heard of, to one of the hottest trends in the poker world, and in another two years, if the growth continues at this rate, we’ll surely see OFC overtake Badugi, Omaha, Draw and Stud variants and close in on the might that is Texas Hold’em.
This is where my prediction comes in. I believe that in two years time the popularity of OFC will explode. The poker pros will be the first to embrace this game, and once they push it on TV and on social media then their fans and the rest of the poker world will follow. TonyBet and other such sites will take onboard the rush of players looking for an online game of OFC and then Pokerstars, Full Tilt and all of the other big players will also jump on the bandwagon. Before 2020 I firmly believe that there will be a large cash event for OFC at the WSOP, and that it will also have a regular place on the EPT and WPT.
OFC is not going to surpass Texas Hold’em, it might become more popular and it might be that the majority of players prefer it, but as someone who regularly played both of these games, and knows a lot of people who do the same, I am confident that they will be played side by side; Hold’em and OFC will be brothers in a way that Hold’em and Omaha could have been but never quite were.