As OFC Poker grows, so does the amount of tournaments that become available for it. As a result, the amount of players asking questions and seeking advice regarding tournament play is also on the increase, with many treating it like a whole new world. The truth is that a lot of OFC Poker tournament play is no different to other poker variants. The game itself is very different, of course, but as the tournaments tend to be structured in a similar way, the way you approach them is also similar.

In this article we’ll give you a few tips on playing tournaments of OFC Poker, tips that apply to all other poker variants as well, whether you’re playing Hold’em, Omaha, Draw or standard Chinese Poker.


OFC Poker games are often in a heads-up format, which means that two players are fighting it out, with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser dropping out. HU tournaments are common in all poker variants. A set number of players is allowed to join the tournament, often an even number. The players are then randomly paired and the first round begins. If there are odd numbers, then the odd player out gets a bye. Once you win, you wait for the first round to finish and are then paired with another player for the second round.

The trick to all heads-up tournaments is to play it slowly for the first few hands so that you can get a feel for your opponent, after all, for the next half hour or so, that opponent is all you need to think about. You should never look ahead, never check the tournament lobby and have thoughts like, “If I win this and then the next round, I’ll earn “xyc”. Keep money and thoughts of winning out of it and treat every game as if it was the final table.

If the player is tight and causing you trouble as a result, slowing things down, then just needle them. This might push them over the edge, and providing you don’t go overboard and are not offensive, it’s okay. If they are too loose, then tighten up. Frustration will get the better of them and they’ll either lose or will be forced to slow down.


In multi-table tournaments, which apply to all variants of poker, there is a way of playing that all pros adopt. You will notice that the tournament winners are never the ones who led the chip count early on. In fact, look at the winners of major poker tournaments and you will find that their chips are average or less in the early rounds. This is because you need to play it tight through these rounds. Once you get to the bubble, which is when everyone else will tighten, then you need to loosen up. Play fast and hard. Take risks. The vast majority of the time they will fold and give you the pot, because they don’t want to drop out so close to being ITM. The truth is that beating the bubble barely even doubles your money, so it’s not worth missing out on the opportunity to triple your chip count for such a feeble return. The shock of seeing you transition will also throw many of the other players who will automatically assume you have great cards for the first few hands.


One of the main things to consider in all forms of poker is your budget. Never play beyond your means, because that will lead to heavy losses, to frustration and then to more heavy losses. You need to think like a professional player, and not like a gambler. Many gamblers will loosen up when they are on a losing streak, letting frustration take over and losing more as a result. You need to do the opposite. Lower your stake, tighten your play. If you are winning, at which point many gamblers would take the money and run, then you can loosen up a bit. Don’t lose everything you have won, but use that luck and that confidence gained from winning to take you even further.


All of the best tournament players have a bankroll, and it is this that helps them decide when to increase their stake and when to lower it. Your bankroll shouldn’t be your savings or everything you own, it should be an amount you are comfortable losing, but an amount that will get you through enough tournaments to last you 6 months or a year. If your bank roll is $20,000, consider playing tournaments of $300 a go. If it is just $1,000, aim for $20 or so. Never blow it on a handful of tournaments and never let a bad beat trigger your anger and cause you to make a stupid move. In fact, to stop this, many players limit themselves to a weekly bankroll.


The main ability you need for a game of poker is patience. If you do not have it, then you can not become a successful poker player. All variants of poker require it, some more than others, and this is needed most in tournament play. In Hold’em you will have to fold hand after hand, not playing and watching others play before you sometimes for hours on end. In OFC Poker you will have to play hands that don’t win you any points and don’t get you anywhere, you will have you play poor players that don’t know what they are doing, going through the motions with them rather than knocking them out straight away. In all of these games you will need to sit for hours on end, playing the same game hand after hand. This will sound tedious to may players, but if you love the game and if your head is in the game, then it won’t. That is what poker is all about after all, and if you can’t spend your days, weeks and months playing this game, then you will struggle to make it as a poker professional.

One of the best ways you can advance your game is to talk to other players. This applies to all games, but especially to poker, where bouncing ideas off of other players can be crucial to the learning process. This is what the best players do, which is why you will find poker professionals on many message boards out there, and why many of them have even created their own message boards.

So, with that in mind, where are the best boards to improve your knowledge of the game?

TwoPlusTwo: This is one of the most popular poker forums on the internet. It is a little heavy on advertising for our liking, but for a site that doesn’t charge any sort of fee and doesn’t sell a product, it only makes sense. They need to make their money and pay their bills somehow. You can find videos, tips and more on the TwoPlusTwo forum, and we would advise that you have a good luck around before you join. There is a lot to catch up on, so read through the many forums and the posts, covering everything from the Poker Video section to Beginners Question. If you think you’re good enough to go deep in the biggest tournaments but you don’t have the money to put up a stake, you can also visit the Staking section and get someone to stake you.

Poker Strategy: This is the place to learn all about strategy, with many different poker variants covered. There is less of a focus on additional topics here, with everyone talking about poker hands, moves, tournament play, cash play and more. Poker may seem like a simple game at first, but there are many ways to approach it and play it, which is why even the best players who have been playing for decades are still learning the game and picking up bits of strategy as they do.

CardsChat: The focus is very wide on this message board, and the many poker networks and sites are also discussed in more detail. This is useful, because whilst the game is the same, there is a huge difference between a game of Hold’em on Pokerstars and a game of Hold’em on 888 Poker. Of course, OFC Poker is our main focus on this site, and on Cards Chat you will also find some discussions relating to this up-and-coming variant, although these discussion are not as widely available and as extensive as they are for the other, more popular, variants.

Poker Forums: Although considered a smaller community, there are still 20,000 members or so on this site, with a wealth of topics open for discussion. At any given time this site has hundreds of members viewing, and even during off-peak times you will find between 50 and 100 people browsing and posting. Again, this is not as much as some of the other sites on this list, but those limited numbers and that smaller community is just what some players are looking for.

Open-Face Chinese Poker is on the rise, with more amateurs and professionals taking to this game and learning how to master it. There are also more online and offline Open-Face Chinese Poker tournaments than ever before and the future is bright for this exciting variant.

With that in mind, and with so many players keen to learn, we have discussed some simple strategies and tips below.

Pay Attention to your Opponent

Just like in blackjack, Open-Face Chinese Poker involves paying as much attention to your opponent’s cards as your own. In Open-Face Chinese Poker your own cards are just a little more important than those held by your opponent, but don’t ignore them. You need to watch how their hands develop so that you know which hands you can sacrifice and which hands you need to make stronger. Open-Face Chinese Poker is all about building three winning hands, weakening one hand in order to strengthen another and so on. There is a very fine line between success and defeat, but if you pay close attention to what your opponent is doing, then you can straddle that line safely.

Start Small

You might think that there isn’t a lot of risk involved with Open-Face Chinese Poker and therefore you might increase your stake. After all, it’s a points based system and you’ll probably get enough points of your own to make sure that you don’t lose too much money, right? Not really. It is not uncommon for things to go very bad for you, as they can do in any variant of poker, and if you have set the value for 1 point very high, then you will lose a lot of money when things do turn ugly.

Make your first few games and your first few tournaments your practice games. Bet low and see the games more as a way to learn strategies and to gain experience than a way to win money. Once you get good and once you begin to make some cash, you can increase the amount you are playing for. When you have played the game for a good length of time and are confident with it, then you can play for an amount that will really make things interesting.

Don’t Ignore the Front Hand

Many players tend to ignore the front hand, stick a few high cards there and not paying any attention to it at all. This is a huge mistake, but you can also use the fact that other players will ignore it to your advantage, securing a win by putting a decent hand up there. Obviously you can’t just stick a super strong hand up there, because if you don’t have stronger hands below then you will foul and you will lose everything. Make sure you have created strong hands elsewhere and then focus your attention on the front hand and on something that is better than a simple high card. Most of the time this will guarantee you a win and if your luck is in then you could get a clean sweep and the bonus points that go along with it.


Even before online poker in the United States was squashed by government regulators a decade ago, online poker players were moving to Asia. In places like Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam even low-stakes grinders could bank enough profits to feel like a high roller when they could find a strong internet connection. But the advantages of cheap living are often offset by creaky infrastructure, culture shock and inhospitable surroundings.


These days live poker players are spreading out across Asia as well. Let’ s look on some of the top Asian countries for putting down poker stakes…




The former Portuguese colony of Macau, lying a scant 40 miles west of Hong Kong, emerged as a world gambling center shortly after sovereignty was transferred to China in 1999. There are more than three dozen major casinos and some 300 card rooms operating in an area of about 11 square miles.


Like Las Vegas, Macau is powered by gambling; eight in every ten jobs is connected to the casinos. While everything in the front of the house looks like Las Vegas, Macau far outstrips Sin City in the cash room in the back. In flush times, Macau would ring up gaming revenues seven times as high as Las Vegas.


These are not flush times, however. The Republic of China has initiated anti-corruption measures directly at the glitzy gambling dens of Macau. The result is that the high rolling whales for which Macua was known have virtually departed in unison. No big-stakes gambler wants to expose a mega-bankroll to the vagaries of government investigations.


Revenues have been halved from almost $40 billion per year to less than $20 billion. That is still three times more than Las Vegas so poker players will still find plenty of middle class and low end action. Living in Macau or nearby Hong Kong also means being tied into one of the true world cities so there is never a lack of action outside the casinos either.




When Filipinos say gambling is a way of life in the Philippines they can point to sabong, a form of cockfighting that was popular even before the Spanish colonized the region in 1521. Gambling in the country was corralled by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) back in 1976 which brought an end to illegal gambling activities. The first casino, The Manila Bay Casino, opened a year later.


PAGCOR oversees more than forty casinos and many dozens more standalone poker rooms. Even when operated by private interests, these games are under the tight control of the state. PAGCOR rules make card playing in the Philippines uniform across the country. A rake of 10% is standard and while this can seem high, no tipping is allowed at tables so winning poker players should not be too concerned about the rake. There are plenty of popular tournaments for players to dive into and a lucrative poker tournament circuit.


The capital city of Manila is the hub of Philippine gambling, with about half of the country’s casinos. The most spectacular are located on the shores of Manila Bay in a complex known as Entertainment City. Four billion-dollar casinos are planned for the space, two of which have already opened. It is no coincidence that the land for Entertainment City was reclaimed from the bay – this is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.


Since land is scarce in the 7,107 islands of the Philippines, no foreigner can own any. But poker winnings go a long way in the island nation that boasts one of the lowest costs of living among middle-market countries in southeast Asia. Nineteen languages are commonly spoken among the population of 100 million, but English is one of the national languages.




Singapore is an island city-state at the end of the Malay peninsula that has been a major shipping crossroads since its founding in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Until recently, when it was passed by Shanghai, the port of Singapore was the largest in the world. More importantly to gamblers is the amount of money flowing across the gambling tables in Singapore.


Legalised gambling was only passed in this nation of five million people in this century and the two casinos in Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands, only opened its doors in 2010. Even so, the duo generates enough revenue to challenge Las Vegas as the world’s second biggest generator of gambling money with more than $6 billion annually (both far behind Macau).


While poker players can count on finding a big money game in Singapore they can also count on making it home with the money. Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and it seems to drop each year. Street crime is a rarity and murders are almost non-existent – usually fewer than 20 per year. Consider that Finland, a similar-sized country known for its relative domestic tranquility still deals with more than 100 murders each year.


Big winners can also expect to live under the radar in Singapore where conspicuous wealth is an everyday part of life. The world’s fourth-largest financial centre mints millionaires at one of the quickest paces in the world. The fast pace of business means almost half of the work force is in Singapore on a temporary basis. The richly multicultural society maintains four official languages – Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English, with English considered the common tongue. On the downside, poker players had better hope the cards are friendly at Singapore tables. This is the most expensive city in which to live in the world.







“A witty woman is a treasure; a witty beauty is a power” – George Meredith

Truer words were never uttered. Certainly at the poker table. It may not have been male chauvinism but fear for their wallets that kept poker the bastion of the boys for so long. World Series of Poker co-founder Doyle Brunson was once approached for his opinion of including women in the tournament. “A top notch female player?” he parried back. “Naw. I don’t believe there is such a thing.” Amarillo Slim Preston chimed in, “I’ve got an agreement with the ladies: if they agree not to play poker, I’ll agree not to have any babies.” Both men agreed that if a women ever won the World Series of Poker, they would slit their own throats. Brunson added that he would use a dull knife.

The story goes that the Ladies Championship at the World Series of Poker was finally started in 1977 as something for the wives and girlfriends to do to keep them from pestering the men during the Main Event. The buy-in was tip money – $100 – and Jackie McDaniel, a one-time Las Vegas cop drew an ace-high club flush to walk away from the final table with $5,580. The buy-in for the women’s tournament eventually went up to the current $1,000 in 1992 but it remained a seven-card stud event until this century when the same Hold’em game that the men were playing was adopted. Even then, the WSOP for women was held on Mother’s Day until 2004 when that final patronizing morsel was retired.

Tossing the women a bone in the form of their own tournament did not mean they were not snooping around the World Series of Poker Main Event tables. In 1978 Barbara Freer became the first woman to buy in to the No Limit Hold’em main Event. Wendeen Eolis made history in 1986 by becoming the first woman to cash in the tournament. The field was then 141 players.

Let’s look at some of the milestone makers in the distaff march that has seen women’s participation in the testosterone-filled World Series of Poker grow to 4 percent of the field.

Barbara Enright

Her older brother introduced Barbara Enright to five-card draw poker when she was four years old. She grew up listening to doo-wop music in Los Angeles before taking traditional jobs as a bartender, cocktail waitress and hairstylist. Less traditional was her affinity for the California card rooms she began frequenting in 1976. She soon found that part-time poker was more profitable than the money earned at her other jobs combined. Enright began making poker her full-time source of income.

Enright began entering the WSOP Ladies Championship and won in 1986. In 1994, she became the first two-time winner. The following year Enright battled all the way to the final table of the World Series of Poker $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event and finished 5th – the first, and still the only woman to reach the final table of the tournament’s marquee competition.

Enright followed that trailblazing performance in 1996 by winning the Pot Limit Hold’em event. Barbara Enright, the first female holder of three WSOP bracelets, was enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame. When the Women in Poker Hall of Fame was started the next year, she was naturally one of the quartet inducted in the inaugural class. Still playing high stakes poker, Enright has 30 career titles and 16 cashes at the World Series of Poker where she has made four final tables.

Starla Brodie

While Barbara Enright holds the most WSOP bracelets among women, the pioneer bracelet winner was a former options trader from New Jersey, Starla Brodie. Starla was used to making six-figure bets in the options game so poker stakes did not intimidate her. She and her husband would fly to Las Vegas every year to play in the World Series of Poker. In 1979, Starla hooked up with Doyle Brunson, whose name in poker circles is so often preceded by “legend” that many assume it is his first name, for a Mixed Doubles Seven-Card Stud event. Brunson and Brodie beat out 24 other teams to claim bracelets.

In 1995, after 18 years of trying, Brodie copped a WSOP bracelet on her own by winning the Ladies Championship. She came to the final table third in chips but filled out a straight to win the tournament and $35,200. That total paled in comparison to the $400,000 she was said to make in an average year in the trading pits back East. She was never known to play major tournament poker after that and passed away at the age of 59 in 2014.

Vera Richmond

In 1907 Herbert Marcus went into business with his sister and brother-in-law, Carrie and Al Nieman who were both alumni of the biggest retailer in Dallas, A. Harris and Company. They turned down a chance to own a pioneering Coca-Cola franchise and instead set up shop peddling the high-end clothing Carrie Nieman brought back from buying trips to New York City. The business was an immediate success and by 1914 was operating from a four-story red brick and white stone building downtown on the corner of Main and Ervay streets. A century later that is the internationally famous Nieman-Marcus.

Vera Richmond was the daughter of Carrie and Al Nieman which meant she brought both Texas breeding and large amounts of cash to the poker table. In the 1970s it was more common to find an ace on the floor underneath the blackjack table as find a woman at a poker table. But Vera Richmond, who was the major domo of Vera Designs in Beverly Hills, was not easily intimidated. As her friend, June Field, pointed out, “Vera had as much money as any of them, as much nerve, and could out cuss any of them.”

How vindictive was the dislike of Brunson, Johnny Moss, and Stu Ungar for Vera Richmond? After she became the first woman to win a WSOP open event – the $1,000 Limit Ace to 5 Draw in 1982 – the poker community acknowledged the accomplishment by ignoring it. When Enright won her gold bracelet in 1996 it was widely assumed that she had just become the the first woman to win a WSOP open event. Nope, that was Vera Richmond.

June Field

It was not unusual for Richmond and Field to gravitate towards one another. Back in the early days of tournament poker, when the ratio of men to women was about 200 to 1, the women often drew inspiration and confidence from one another. Field scored a bracelet herself in the 1982 World Series of Poker in the  $400 Ladies Limit 7-Card Stud event.

She clearly knew her way around the poker table but her more permanent mark in the poker community came with the founding of Card Player magazine in 1988 – “the magazine for those who play to win.” Before retiring in Las Vegas Field went on to start poker cruises and additional magazines.

Linda Johnson

A one-time publisher of Card Player, Linda Johnson, also was inspired by the women players of the 1970s who helped encourage new women in the game and make them feel welcome in oft-times hostile card rooms. Johnson won a bracelet of her own in a WSOP open event in the $1,500 Seven-Card Razz event in 1997.

Her boundless energies in promoting poker with hosting charity events, announcing for the World Poker Tour, promoting cruises, and teaching seminars have earned Johnson the moniker of “The First Lady of Poker.” She was one of the inaugural members of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2008.

Marsha Waggoner

Marsha Waggoener was another member of that first Women in Poker Hall of Fame class. She hailed from Brisbane, Australia where she dealt blackjack in the casinos. When she reached her mid-thirties, after years of eyeing the big-time gambling action in the United States, Waggoner herded her three children into a plane and came to Reno, Nevada to live the life of a professional poker player.

Her bold move has been rewarded with money finishes in more than 100 major tournaments and 20 of those have taken place in the World Series of Poker. Waggoner still makes time each year to return home and compete in her country’s biggest poker tournament, the Aussie Millions. She could use the same title herself, having pocketed more than one million dollars in tournament play at the poker table.

Susie Isaacs

Nashville native Susie Isaacs got her first taste for poker when she was four years old and was recruited as a parental lookout while her cousins dealt poker across a Monopoly board set up as a decoy. After she sold her beloved comic book collection for $2.35 she was able to buy into the game.

Isaacs rode back-to-back titles in the World Series of Poker Ladies Championships in 1996 and 1997 to her spot in the inaugural class of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. She finished 10th in the 1998 Main Event as well. She has written continuously on poker as “Ms. Poker” since 1988 and has been invited to play on the Pro Poker Tour of the World Poker Tour and the Seniors Poker Tour.

Nani Dollison

Nani Dollison matched Barbara Enright’s feat of three World Series of Poker bracelets with two wins in the Ladies Championship and an open event bracelet. The South Korean native accomplished all that in a two-year span of 2000 and 2001. It was a long time coming however.

Dollison departed South Korea when she was a tender 18 years old in 1972, trailing her new husband who was U.S. military. The union was not a fortunate one and the teenage Dollison found herself dealing cards in a California clubs. It would be a quarter-century before she worked up the confidence to enter tournament play in Mississippi where she worked as a dealer. With three years she was a triple bracelet holder and has earned her money only on the players’ side of the table since.

Vanessa Selbst

When Vanessa Selbst captured the $25,000 Mixed-Max No-Limit Hold’em event at the World Series of Poker in 2014 she not only became the first female winner of three open event bracelets but she represented the complete arrival of a new breed of woman poker player. No folksy origin tale for this 31-year old. Selbst was raised in Brooklyn and matriculated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She departed for Yale University where she hauled in degrees in Political Science and Law.

At the same time Selbst was an instructor at Deuces Cracked, a poker instruction website. On the real tables she won her first bracelet when she was only 24 in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event. Another triumph followed in 2012 in the $2,500 10-Game Six Handed event – the same year she was picking up her degree from Yale Law School. Selbst has not spent much time filing briefs as she has cashed 20 times in the World Series of Poker and made it to eight final tables. Her total take from tournament tables already exceeds $10,000,000 and she is the only woman ever to climb the rankings of the Global Poker Index to #1.

Jennifer Harman

Selbst’s third open event bracelet pulled her out of a tie with Jennifer Harman as the only woman to have won two open events at the World Series of Poker. Harman, inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2009, was born in Reno, Nevada in 1964 where she picked up poker like most kids learn how to play baseball elsewhere. She was playing professionally by the mid-1980s.

A petite blonde, Harman nevertheless forged her reputation in high-stakes cash games. She was the only distaff member of “The Corporation,” a group of players who engaged Dallas billionaire businessman Andy Beal in $100,000 to $200,000 limit Texas Hold ‘Em poker, considered the richest game of all time as millions of dollars routinely changed hands.

Harman won her first open event bracelet in 2000 at the No Limit Hold’em 2-7 Draw event. She had never actually played the game before entering and picked up a quick tutorial from Howard Lederer before joining the competition. Here second bracelet came in the 2002 $5,000 Limit Hold’em tournament, a game with which she was more familiar. A kidney transplant recipient, Harman has advanced to 12 final tables in the World Series of Poker from 32 cash finishes.

Annie Duke

Speaking of cashing at the World Series of Poker, no woman has done if more often than Annie Duke. Poker fans know Duke’s name but even casual acquaintances with the game would recognize her maiden name: Anne LaBarr Lederer. Her brother is professional poker veteran, Howard Lederer. Mr. and Mrs. Lederer played a mean game of cards for secondary school teachers, enough to send Howard into the professional game at an early age.

Annie pursued a more scholarly path, earning degrees in English and psychology from Columbia University and then chasing a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. She soured on academia, however, got married and moved to Montana in 1992. She was becoming more and more interested with what her brother was doing with his life. Howard sent her a $2,400 stake and some poker instruction books. He kept her on the phone for hours with strategy lessons. After experiencing success in the card rooms of the Big Sky country, Duke headed for Las Vegas in 1994 to play poker professionally; she was 29 years old.

Success struck like a thunderclap. At the World Series of Poker that year she racked up a 14th place and a 5th place finish in her first two tournaments. In the Main Event she finished 26th. She would eventually finish as high as tenth in the Main Event – while nine months pregnant. After arriving in Las Vegas, Duke had four kids. She also had 38 cashes in the World Series of Poker, only 33 men have ever experienced more (Howard has 44).

Duke won her only WSOP bracelet in 2004 when she thumped a field of 231 players in the Omaha Hi-Lo Split event. She has appeared at 15 final tables, another record for women. She has been a staple of televised poker tours and been a tireless fundraiser for charity through the game. To date, Annie Duke has taken over $4 million from the table in tournament poker.

Kathy Liebert

Did we mention tireless? Kathy Liebert holds the record for most World Poker Tour events entered by a professional poker player – man or woman – with 116. She has won almost $2 million in WPT money, another record for women.

Kathy’s world traveling began in Nashville, Tennessee where where she was born in 1967. She went to school up north in Poughkeepsie, New York at Marist College. Armed with a business and finance degree, Liebert embarked on honest work. A friend thought her numbers acumen might translate well into tournament poker and encouraged her to try a Las Vegas junket. Kathy finished second in her first tournament, an Omaha Hi-Lo competition. Then she finished second again in her second try, this time in a Hold’em event. She needed to buy an extra ticket on the plane to carry all her winnings on the flight back East.

Elected to the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2010, Liebert has invested much of her $6,000,000 in winnings in the stock market from whence she came before Las Vegas. She has 36 cashes at the World Series of Poker, including a bracelet from the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout in 2004.

Cyndy Violette

That year 2004 was quite a breakout for women at the World Series of Poker. Duke and Liebert won bracelets in open events and so too did Cyndy Violette. Cyndy was playing cards with her siblings even before the family relocated to Las Vegas when she was 12 in 1971. When she was legally allowed to enter the casinos she beat a path to the poker tables and picked up a job as a blackjack and poker dealer.

At the age of 25, Viloette started playing tournament poker. When she won $74,000 in an event at the Golden Nugget it was the biggest prize won by a woman to that time. Nonetheless, Cyndy drifted away from poker, devoting time to a second husband. When that marriage failed to last as well she returned to poker and was distracted this time only by a passion for vegetarian cooking. Her shining moment in 2004 came with the bracelet for the Seven Card Stud, Hi-Lo Split event.

Cyndy Violette took her place in the Women In Poker Hall of Fame in 2009. Although she concentrates on high-stakes cash games, she has still managed 35 cash finishes in the World Series of Poker. When she is not at the tables she prefers to dabble with her poker-inspired clothing line.

Loni Harwood

Loni Harwood appears to be the future of women’s poker. She grew up in Staten Island, New York learning poker online. She has the requisite smarts and sharp eye for numbers, earning a finance degree from the State University of New York, Albany in 2012. She was just 23 years old when she won a WSOP bracelet in the $1,500 No Limit Texas Hold’em event. The $609,017 payday was the largest ever handed to a woman in the World Series.

Harwood also made three final tables in open events in 2013 – Violette is the only other woman to accomplish that feat. Loni cashed six times in 2013 and came back the next year to cash four more times. If she continues this pace she could take women’s poker to heights never before seen.

Jennifer Tilly

No survey of women in poker should fade away without mention of Jennifer Tilly. In 2005, Tilly stepped off the Hollywood soundstage to defeat 600 players and win the Ladies’ No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em event at the World Series of Poker. Tilly brought glamour to the game and helped weld a bond between celebrities and poker, which played well on television.

Tilly was no lucky amateur. She has recorded 12 money finishes at the World Series of Poker and another 11 on the World Poker Tour. She continues to weave acting and poker into the tapestry of her life.


An an OFC Poker player you have undoubtedly heard of the poker professional Shaun Deeb. His name is synonymous with the game of OFC Poker as he was one of the first professional poker players to embrace it and he has done his best to promote it ever since. But just who is Shaun Deeb?

The Basics

Born in 1986 in Troy, New York, Shaun Deeb began playing poker when he was just 16. He hosted tournaments himself, charging a buy-in of $20 and allowing players to re-buy. There were around 30 players in these tournaments, which allowed Deeb to test his skills against sizable fields on a regular basis. He also won a hefty sum of cash.

When he finished high school he went to university, but he wasn’t there long before he gave it up for a career in poker, a game that had followed him to university and one that was clearly on his mind more than studying. By this time most of his play occurred online in multi-table tournaments. As is the case with many pros, he was playing as many as 20 tables at once, which allowed him to increase his variance and get a profitable return.

Live Poker

Deeb had never been to las Vegas until he went there to play poker in 2007. He tested his skills against the best professionals in the world and was able to pickup a World Seres of Poker bracelet, along with 3 final WSOP table finishes and 23 In The Money finishes. Deeb has also played a number of WSOP Main Events, but his highest finish to date was in 2012, when he finished In The Money down in 319th place.

Deeb also finished In The Money in three European Poker Tour events, although he has yet to win a title or even reach a final table, and he has the same record in the World Poker Tour. His biggest live poker cashes have come in the 2009 EPT NLHE High Roller event, which he won (although there were only three players) and the 2011 Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure, where he finished second in a Bounty Shootout event.


Deeb has actually retired from poker before, only to come back in 2010. At 24, it seemed like an odd decision to retire, but after playing since he was just 16, and after struggling to gain traction in the poker world, it is fair to assume that he had tired of the game and just needed a rest to focus on other things. As is usually the case, that rest only made him realize just him how much he missed the game, which was why he returned.

OFC Poker

Deeb has always maintained that he plays OFC Poker to improve his skills in Hold’em, believing that variety is key and that the more poker variants he plays, the more he will understand about the biggest game in poker. Like many OFC Poker fans, he also believes that this game has more potential than any other variant and that one day it may even replace Hold’em as poker’s biggest game.

Deeb has released videos and written articles about OFC Poker, and he also talks about the game on social media. If you want to learn more about OFC Poker, you should try and follow the advice of this top player.


The ubiquitous “they” say that a poker player has not arrived until a bracelet as the World Series of Poker has been won. That being the case, quite a few Asian players are currently in the house…

Owais Ahmed (Pakistan)

Growing up in Karachi, Owais reveled in the accomplishments of countrymen who brought the field hockey and cricket World Cups home to Pakistan. After migrating to the United States and the University of California at Irvine, Ahmed was able to add another world championship to that elite list in 2011 when he won the $2,500 Omaha Hold’em/Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event at the World Series of Poker. He overcame a three-to-one chip deficit against Mike “The Grinder” Mizrachi to win the title at the final table.

Ahmed, whose day job is as a data warehouse analyst and supply chain manager has remained busy at the World Series, cashing at least twice every year since 2010, reaching five final tables.

Dao Bac (Vietnam)

Dao Bac was born in Vietnam in 1956 and came to the United States when he was 33 years old. Married with two children, Dao made his way as a professional poker player after graduating from the card rooms around Southern California.

A winner of major tournaments and frequent presence in cash games, Dao broke through for a bracelet in 2007 in the $1,000 S.H.O.E. Event. S.H.O.E send players thought rotating tables of Seven-Card Stud, Limit Hold’em, Omaha High-Low, and Stud Eight-or-better. He immediately gave the gold bauble to his wife, Hanh Nguyen. A practicing Buddhist, Dao is often spotted at tournaments peering into a leather-bound prayer book when he is out of a hand.

Johnny Chan (China)

Johnny Chan is at the vanguard of Asian players competing in poker tournaments in the West. He was born in 1957 in Guangzhou, hard by the Pearl River in the Guangdong province of South China. While he attributes his success to the unfamiliarity of traditional players going against Asian players, Chan himself was in Phoenix, Arizona with his family by the time he was 11 years old, learning American ways.

Chan eagerly adopted the conventions of his new land and went to the University of Houston with an eye towards hotel and restaurant management. He decided he would rather manage stacks of chips in a casino, however, and dropped out to pursue the life of a professional gambler in Las Vegas. Despite his scant time in Asia, Chan picked up the moniker “Oriental Express,” following a demolition of a final table in 1981 in less than an hour.

He certainly rolled over opponents like a freight train. Chan won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker in consecutive years in 1987 and 1988. Jerry Buss, who disposed of his substantial real estate fortune on poker and the Los Angeles Lakers, offered Chan an NBA championship ring if he could win three in a row. The Oriental Express almost made it, losing to Phil Hellmuth in a heads-up showdown at the final table in 1989.

Chan became the first player to win ten World Series of Poker titles and he has made it to 27 final tables. He is known for playing with an orange in front of him, which some interpreted as an Asian mysticism but he claims it is just an air conditioner to help ward off the cigarette smoke in the casino. Chan has written books and done consulting work for casinos and game designers. He also owns a fast-food franchise in the Las Vegas Stratosphere Hotel.

David Chiu (China)

David Chiu was born in Nanning, China before making his way to the United States and Colorado where he ran a restaurant. He took a second job dealing poker and gradually found himself more often on the other side of the table. He began entering tournaments and in 1996 when he was 36 years old. Chiu narrowly missed reaching the final table that year in the World Series of Poker $10,000 No Limit Texas Hold’em Main Event and finished 10th. As a consolation, Chiu reeled in his first bracelet by winning the $2,000 Limit Hold’em event.

Chiu is partially deaf in both ears, a consequence of a swimming accident. He claims this helps him concentrate and gives him an advantage in reading his opponents at the table. Whatever accounts for his poker magic, Chiu has cashed at the WSOP every year since 1998. All told, the easy-going Chiu has pocketed cash 67 times at the World Series and brought home five bracelets.

Quinn Do (Vietnam)

Do came from Vietnam with his family to Seattle when he was 11 years old, back in 1986. When it came time for college he headed over to the local University of Washington to begin a career in criminology. He never made it to graduation, ditching the schooling not for gambling but for life as a restauranteur. He was dishing out Vietnamese fare in Seattle and Los Angeles when he took up poker in 2004.

The very next year Do was in possession of a World Series of Poker bracelet, taking down the field in the $2,500 Limit Hold’em event. Since then Do has cashed six times in the WSOP and been a consistent performer on the World Poker Tour with three money finishes and one advance to a final table. He fought his way to second place money behind Phil Ivey in that tournament, the 2008 LA Poker Classic.

Nani Dollison (South Korea)

Nani learned poker from her father when she was growing up on the Korean peninsula. On New Year’s Eve 1972 when she was 18 years old Nani headed for America on the arm of her new husband, a United States serviceman. The marriage did not see another new year and Dollison was soon working in California card clubs running chips and dealing cards.

Dollison began honing her game in cash events in the card clubs but did not try tournament play until 1998 after moving to Tunica, Mississippi to distribute cards at the Horseshoe Casino. She worked part-time and studied the masters at no limit Texas Hold’em when she got the chance. She learned her lessons well enough to win bracelets in 2000 and 2001 in the $1,000 Women’s Championship and in 2001 scored her biggest win at the World Series of Poker by taking the bracelet in the $2,000 Limit Hold’em event, cashing for $441,440.

Dollison has since given up her casino jobs, supporting herself at the tables. She has piled up eight finishes in the money at the WSOP and finished as high as 115th in the Main Event in 2005.

Hasan Habib (Pakistan)

Hasan Habib first enjoyed widespread recognition in Pakistan when he emerged from his hometown of Karachi to win the 14-and-under national tennis championship. He left Asia to attend the University of Redlands and study business. Habib eventually started a nationwide chain of video stores but saved enough time to play casino poker. He took home his first tournament cash in 1993 at the age of 31.

Seven years later he was competing at the final table in the Main Event at the World Series of Poker and finishing 4th. In 2005, Habib became the first Pakistani to win a WSOP bracelet at the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Split event. He has snared 25 money finishes at the World Series and reached three final tables on the World Poker Tour. Any angst over the demise of the video tape has been soothed by over $5.5 million in tournament winnings.

Thang Lu (Vietnam)

The player they call Tiger Luu owns two WSOP bracelets, winning the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. Luu left his native Vietnam for the United States when he was 17 years old and worked as a dealer in Las Vegas while he sharpened his playing skills. The lowball specialist likes to say his favorite poker game is Badugi, a variation that plays like Triple Draw with low hands.

Tony Ma (Vietnam)

As a seaman in the South Vietnamese Navy, Tony Ma had been on many missions in the Vietnam War but April 29, 1975 was different. While at sea his cargo ship received word that the South had just surrendered and so the captain did not stop sailing until the boat reached the Philippines. The sailors received asylum but were forced to leave their families.

Tony received an American sponsor in the United States and wound up in southern California where he worked as a ship welder and truck driver. His off-hours were spent at Pai Gow Poker tables and playing dominoes. One day while playing cards he was struck by the inspiration that he could make $100 a day just playing cards. It seemed like a good idea to his wife so he set off with a $5,000 bankroll to become a professional card player.

He entered his first tournament in the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles in 1994. In a field of 300, Ma finished sixth. He returned home and painstakingly wrote out the mistakes he had made that produced that unsatisfactory result. By 1996 he was at the World Series of Poker and winning his first bracelet in the $5,000 Limit Hold’em Event.

Ma has notched over 20 money finishes since then and added a second bracelet in the $2,000 Limit Hold’em Event in 2000. In 1999 he was tabbed as Card Player Magazine’s Player of the Year. After his first 15 years as a tournament poker player, Ma had pocketed over $4,000,000 in winnings – about $750 a day.

Men Nguyen (Vietnam)

Men Nguyen was born in 1954 in Phan Thiet and left school when he was 13 years old to drive a bus and earn money for his family. He spent most of his formative years working on a plan to escape Communist Vietnam. Finally in 1978 he boarded a boat with 87 countrymen and sailed to Malaysia where political asylum from the United States was waiting. He moved to California.

While studying to become an American citizen Nguyen joined a junket to Las Vegas in 1984. That weekend Men sat in on his first poker game. He was soon a regular, generating so much action he was called “Money Machine.” Citizenship arrived in 1986 and his first tournament win came a year later. Nguyen shoveled his poker winnings into a dry cleaning business and then a furniture store but he found such commercial ventures to be a drain on his poker time. By 1990 he was at the tables full time.

Men Nguyen has never won the World Series of Poker but has copped more than 75 other tournaments. He has cashed 79 times at the WSOP and claimed seven bracelets in five different events. Four times Nguyen has been named Card Player Magazine Player of the year and his tournament winnings are well north of $10,000,000.

But beyond all that Nguyen is recognized as one of the finest mentors in the game. Many consider him to have trained more tournament winners than any other teacher. So many, in fact, that Nguyen is most often referred to simply as “Men the Master.”

Minh Van Nguyen (Vietnam)

One of Men the Master’s star pupils has been his cousin, Minh Van Nguyen. Nguyen splashed onto the poker tournament scene in 1999 and in 2002 stormed to a 24th place finish in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event at the World Series of Poker. The next year he made it all the way to 11th while capturing his first gold bracelet in the $1,500 Seven-card Stud Hi-Lo Split. In 2004, Nguyen won another bracelet by battering the field in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold’em Event. He has been a regular money casher at both the WSOP and the World Poker Tour.

Phi Nyugen (Vietnam)

Known for his mild-mannered approach to the game, Phi Nyugen early on gained a reputation for going deep into tournaments. He won gold bracelets at the World Series of Poker in back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004 in No Limit Hold’em events and has cashed regularly in both the WSOP (21 times) and on the World Poker Tour (six times).

Scotty Nyugen (Vietnam)

The Prince of Poker was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam in 1962 but his mother quickly hustled him out of the war-torn country. He spent time in Taiwan before obtaining a sponsorship and coming to the United States at the age of 14. He gave his sponsors cause for regret when he was booted out of school for spending more time in poker rooms than classrooms.

Nyugen eventually went through dealer school and started casino work. He would regularly give back his nightly wages at the poker tables and became known for amassing – and losing – substantial bankrolls. He also became accomplished at going through large quantities of legal, and illegal, substances.

By his thirties Nyugen had honed his game to become a formidable tournament player. He won his first gold bracelet in the 1997 $2,000 Omaha 8 or Better Event and the following year triumphed in a memorable Main Event when a full house of nines over eights was dealt on the table in the final hand and Scotty happened to be holding J-9. His elation was short-lived however as he got the news that one of his brothers had been killed in a car accident back in Vietnam while driving around and celebrating Scotty’s victory.

Nyugen has been known for his emotional and sometimes boorish play which culminated at the final table of the 2008 WSOP $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. World Championship Event. Nyugen walked away with his fifth gold bracelet but alcohol-fueled tirades against fellow competitors and even waitresses left his public reputation in tatters. Nevertheless, the Prince of Poker remains the only player with first place trophies from the WSOP Main Event, the WSOP Players Championship and a WPT Championship. He is also one of only 19 competitors to pile up over $10 million in tournaments winnings.

David Pham (Vietnam)

David Pham was born in South Vietnam at the height of American involvement in the war in southeast Asia in 1967. When he was 17 years old he boarded a boat for the United States with 144 other refugees; only 45 survived the Pacific crossing. Pham found a job in his cousin’s laundry business but he wound up learning more about inside straights than pressing shirts – his cousin was the famed nurturer of poker playing talent, Men “The Master” Nyugen.

Cultivating an aggressive style, Pham’s first foray into professional poker was disastrous as he went bust. Pham and his wife ran a nail salon while he practiced some more. When he next took the plunge into poker it was in Atlantic City. This time he prospered and in 2000 “The Dragon” cashed in 17 major tournaments and was named Card Player’s Player of the Year. The next year he was wearing his first golf bracelet for lacerating the field in the $2,000 S.H.O.E Event.

In 2007, four major tournament wins led to another Player of the Year nod. Pham has made 11 final tables in the World Series of Poker, winning two bracelets. He has stormed nine final tables on the World Poker Table and another on the European Poker Tour. He maintains his base in Bell Gardens, California, one of only five cities out of 88 in Los Angeles County that allows casino gambling.

John Phan (Vietnam)

The Vietnamese-born Phan has been playing poker since 1990 when he was 16 years old. “The Razor” is known for having one of the sharpest minds in the game. And with a busy tournament schedule he needs to maintain a sharp edge. After a string of money finishes at the World Series of Poker, Phan broke through in 2008 by thumping fields in the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Event and the $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw Event.

While the cards were hot, Phan burned through the World Poker Tour and won that title as well. When 2008 ended, The Razor had accumulated enough points to be named Card Player’s Player of the Year. Phan has 16 WSOP cash finishes and is closing in on $6 million in tournament chips.

Kevin Song (South Korea)

Kevin Song has finished as high as 20th in the World Series of Poker Main Event and copped a bracelet in 1997 in the $2,000 Limit Hold’em tournament. He has cashed at the WSOP 33 times and taken home first prize in the Diamond Jim Brady event, the L.A. Poker Classic and the Legends of Poker Tournament.

Not a bad resume for a fellow who considers himself nothing more than a semi-professional player whose main vocation is selling Southern California real estate. Song dabbled in poker as a teenager in South Korea, where he remained until he was 30 years old. Once in the United States, he did not take up serious poker until 1992. His part time job has brought in more than $3 million.

Suk-Min “Steve” Sung (South Korea)

The Sung family left Seoul for California when Suk-Min was seven years old in 1992. He got interested in playing poker by watching his father and was never able to shake the game from his system. He enrolled at the University of California at San Diego to follow an economics and computer engineering curriculum but no one was betting on the sheepskin. Sung dropped out to live the life of a professional poker player.

In 2007, when he was just 22 years old, Sung made his first two final tables at the World Series of Poker. Two years later he won his first bracelet in the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event and in 2013 Sung raked in over $1.2 million by trumping 175 entries in the  $25,000 No Limit Hold’em Six Handed event. He has also reached the final table three times at World Poker Tour Championships.

Willie Tann (Singapore)

One of the game’s elder statesmen, Willie Tann grew up in Singapore during the days when gambling was illegal. He played at university with his classmates while studying law. He continued his law studies in England and that has been his home base since the 1960s.

Tann made a final table at the World Series of Poker in 2000 at the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event and five years later he snagged a WSOP bracelet by winning the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event. Tann has seven money finishes at the World Series but he is best known for his mentoring of up-an-coming players from his village of Bovingdon in Hertfordshire. On the circuit Tann is known as “The Dice Man” but is also known to answer to the names of “The Governor” and, for his reputation as a teacher, “Mister Miyagi.”

An Tran (Vietnam)

In his 63rd year in 2015, An Tran has earned the moniker of “The Boss.” He was born in Saigon in 1952 but has long hung his hat in Las Vegas. It took him until 1989 to cash at the World Series of Poker but two years later he was sporting a gold bracelet, dismissing the field in the $1,500 pot limit Omaha Event.

In 1992, Tran went on a tear, reaching six paid final tables, setting an all-time record. He did not win a single time, however. The Boss also reached the final table in the WSOP Main Event in 1996 but wound up fifth. He has cashed 43 times and pocketed nearly $1 million from the World Series but still has won just that one bracelet. Tran has an explanation – he sold his 1991 bracelet and believes he has been under a “curse” ever since.

J.C. Tran (Vietnam)

Justin Cuong Van Tran is the youngest of eight children. In 1979, when he was two years old, the entire brood moved from Vietnam to California. Tran enrolled in California State University in Sacramento and stayed to earn a degree in Business Management Information Systems. But Tran was spending most of his time gathering information at the Capital Casino.

Tran began cashing inn the World Series of Poker in 2004 and reached final tables that year, the next and in 2006. That final year he found a seat at an impressive 10 final tables in major tournaments, including four on the World Poker Tour. In 2007, he had his poorest showing at the World Series of Poker but was named the World Poker Tour’s Player of the Year.

Tran’s first WSOP bracelet came in the 2008 $1,500 No Limit Hold’em Event by beating back a massive force of 2,718 entrants. That was worth $631,170. A second bracelet came in the 2009 $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha. J.C. has visited 11 final tables at the WSOP and six on the World Poker Tour which have led to over $12,000,000 in tournament winnings.

Kenny Tran (Vietnam)

Kenny Tran still sends home a chunk of his poker winnings back to his extended family in Vietnam. Plenty of that cash has come from his style of play which has caused some to call him “Sick Call Kenny.” That style was cooked up while working at a California McDonalds and playing poker at a local bowling alley.

In his mid-twenties in 1999, Tran began making his first tournament appearances. He burnished his credentials as a high stakes cash player at Los Angeles’ Commerce Casino and picked up a gig as a sponsored pro online with Full Tilt Poker. Tran has finished as high as 16th in the Main Event at the World Series of Poker and in 2008 he scored a bracelet and more than half-a-million dollars in the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em World Championship.


In this article we’ll give you some advice for how you can earn more money playing games like OFC poker. These rules also apply to other variants.


There are guaranteed poker tournaments on all sites and even in the offline world. This is where the casino or poker room will add some money to the pot, and some of them add a lot. These tend to boost numbers, but if you can find a guaranteed tournament on an up-and-coming site, and one that runs during off-peak hours, then you can end up playing for a pot that is twice the size it should be. Sites like TonyBet are ideal for this as they are still growing, yet they are not afraid of throwing money at their tournaments.

Watch Your Bluffing

There is a time to bluff and a time to be honest. In online poker, these times are easy to tell apart. If you’re playing in the free-rolls and the small stake games, then don’t bluff, because you will be called. There are a lot of gamblers in these games, what poker players like to call “fish”, and there is no telling how they will react. Some will call a bluff just to gamble, some will call a bluff because they have no idea what is going on.

However, if you’re playing in the higher stakes against better players, ones who know the game, then you should bluff. Providing you do it right, they will very rarely take their chances and unless you bluff all of the time (and therefore tell them what you’re doing) they’ll believe you.

Never Show Your Cards

This applies to all games of poker and at all times. You want to keep the players around the table guessing, and if you show your cards after a hand, then they’ll understand how you played that hand and will get an idea how you might play it again in the future. Poker tournaments are long and you could be playing with the same people for hours, so that hand, and hands like it, will come again.

There is one exception to this rule, but it doesn’t apply to all games.

The Exception

The exception to the rule discussed above comes when playing Heads-up games of Hold’em. It can also apply to Badugi and draw games, but less so for Omaha, OFC and others. Basically, if you are playing a very tight player who calls nothing and folds at every turn, leaving you very little opportunity to take his chips, then you should try and bluff him (a tight player will probably fold when faced with a big bluff) and then show him that bluff. This is basically a way of needling him, poking him, aggravating him. Many players get annoyed in this situation and even if they don’t start loosening up (which most will do) then at the very least they will call future hands, thinking you’re bluffing and not wanting to be humiliated again. There is also a number of players who will immediately try to get back at you, bluffing big and then showing you, so be suspicious if they suddenly bet big on the very next hand.

Patience is a Virtue

There are two traits that all successful poker players have: patience, and the ability to stay calm at all times. Lose your calm and you’ll make frustrated or even vengeful bets, and these rarely work in your favor. Lose your patience and the same will happen, but you’ll also lose your focus. If you can’t sit in the same spot, playing the same game for hours on end, you’re not going to make it as a poker player.

October 13, 2006 is the day the online poker music died. That was the date President George W. Bush signed into law the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006. Essentially the obscure law was intended to prevent key American ports from being consumed by foreign interests. Just one of the parade of faceless legislation that marches through Washington under the guise of keeping the country running.


But at the last minute, the Republican-controlled Congress slipped an entirely unrelated provision into Title VIII of the Act that reverberated across computer screens worldwide. It is known as the UIGEA – the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and it “prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.”


The UIGEA was aimed at online poker players. The law did not make it illegal to play poker online but it scared off banks and any third party processors who would fund a poker player’s bankroll. Overnight American online casinos scurried underground and foreign online casinos cut ties with American players. While online casino gambling continued to grow and develop around the world, the American market was left to stand on the sidelines, shuffling its feet and looking forlornly at the ground.


It is coming on ten years now, so what is the current state of real money Texas Hold’em in the USA? In the interim, the online poker industry has taken on the UIGEA in court but nothing of note has ever emerged from the legal labyrinth. There have been appeals to the World Trade Organization with the expected results – nothing – from pleading to an international organization lacking enforcement apparatus. Essentially, the American online poker player is in the same position as October 13, 2006 – it is possible to find overseas operators who are willing to challenge the murky provisions of the law and accept U.S. players. It just takes time and effort to uncover them.


The situation, however, is improving. The states of Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey have legalized online poker and there is more pro-online gambling bills percolating in American legislatures. Ironically, the decline of popularity in poker in general may be working in the favor of real money online games in 2015. The online game was getting so much publicity in the early years of the 2000s that brick and mortar casinos believed they were losing players and money to the virtual online tables.


The result was a strange alliance between the casino interests and the moralists who are always looking for a chance to outlaw any form of gambling. Together, they were able to get into the ear of lawmakers and eliminate online poker. But after the passage of the UIGEA online poker players did not log off their computers and head to land-based casino card rooms in droves. In fact, a general malaise has settled over the poker world.


So the online real money games in the United States are coming back, slowly but surely. In the near future the floodgates may open completely. If and when that happens American Hold’Em players can once again log in with impunity. They most likely, however, will not find the vibrant online poker community they were forced to abandon a decade ago.






No one blinks twice when large amounts of money are thrown around the Aria casino. This is, after all, the centerpiece of the CityCenter complex that is the largest privately funded construction project in United States history. The stunning curved glass and steel high-rise towers are the work of Argentine-American architect César Pelli, progenitor of the world’s tallest buildings. This is the place where Masa Takayama flies fresh-caught Bluefin Tuna direct from the Japanese coast to his Bar Masa kitchen four times a week. So it takes some serious dollar amounts to arch eyebrows around the Aria.

But that is what has happened since Open-Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) blew into town a few years back. Open-Face is the variant of the traditional Chinese Poker game where players build and showdown three separate hands. The difference in Open-Face is that the cards are exposed as the hands are constructed. It is a four-player game although the popular Pineapple variation is often played by pros with three and it can also be contested heads-up. There is no betting in OFCP but rather the hands are played for points.


It is those points and how much they are worth that are generating the buzz around OFCP. At Aria the games are often played for thousands of dollars per point. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in chips can move around the table in a single hand. When talking with a poker professional about OFCP it does not take long for the conversation to get around to “swings.” The big swings in a matter of minutes are what draw gamblers to the game.


Open-Face dates back to the mid-2000s but the game knocked around under the popular radar for most of its existence until some pros began playing high stakes side games. Incidents were reported of players skipping big-money buy-in Hold’em tournaments to remain at the OFPC tables. One attraction of Open-Face to big players is that you can quit while you are ahead – or behind – and not be forced to play until the end of a tournament.


Open-Face even had a trial seat at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2013. It has not been invited back and the game’s recognition has grown not from the massive number of players taking it up but from the reports of massive numbers of dollars being wagered in casinos like Aria and those in Macau. Focusing on the boxcar-sized stakes rather than luring large numbers of player seems to be the tack for growing OFPC online as well.


TonyBet Poker has emerged as the leading player in online Open-Face. In December 2014 the first-ever live Tonybet Open Face Chinese Poker World Championship. A few WSOP bracelet holders showed up and after 13 hours of play the big winner was two-time American women’s chess champion Jennifer Shahade who claimed the lion’s share of the biggest OFPC prize pool (€218,500) to date. The High Roller event required a €10,000 buy-in.


The €1,000 Main Event Pineapple drew 135 players, touted as the largest field ever assembled for an Open Face Chinese event. Tonybet worked hard to put fannies in those virtual seats. The site ran daily satellite tournaments and gave away three tickets to the Main Event every week leading up to the clash in Prague.


Tonybet has committed to its evangelism for OFPC as the first poker site to play the game online. The site has increased its number of preliminary events leading to the 2015 Open Face Chinese Poker World Championship from 12 to 17. The satellite tournaments can be entered for as little as €5. So it is possible to experience those big swings even when the numbers involved will not cause a stir in the poker rooms of the Aria casino.


The Open-Face Chinese Poker community remains comparatively small. Mostly it intrudes into poker news feeds due to its high stakes. Whether down the road those headlines will be about high participation rates is a card that remains hidden.