Future of Chinese Poker

I am sure you remember when Gregory “the Mad Greek” Grivas pulled four eights on the final hand to win the Chinese Poker event at the World Series of Poker. The owner of a San Diego electronics company, who plays most of his poker in pot-limit Omaha in California card rooms, gave out an ear-piercing war whoop when the winning cards were revealed at the final table. Everyone remembers that, right? You don’t? Really? Think hard.


It is understandable that not many remember the Mad Greek winning his bracelet in Chinese Poker in the WSOP. It was not last year, nor the year before that. It was back in 1996, after all. That was the second, and last, appearance for Chinese Poker during a brief two-year run on the dance card of poker’s biggest event.

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Future of Chinese Poker


Chinese poker is a four-man game with each player receiving an equal number of cards from a standard 52-card deck and siphoning them off into three separate hands of five cards, five cards and three cards. The play is for points earned by matching each of the hands against their equivalents at the table. Traditional poker hands are used to ferret out the winning hands, although the ranking does not transfer exactly.


In the first decade of the century a variation of Chinese poker emerged where players were only dealt five cards, face up instead of face down. Each player then took turns building the three requisite hands by drawing cards in turn. Open-face Chinese Poker (OFC) has ignited in popularity in poker rooms in recent years, especially in high-limit side games. It even got a seat at the table in the World Series of Poker in 2013 as a non-bracelet event.


So, is Chinese Poker the next big thing in poker, where the future of the game is headed? Well, if you are of the opinion that betting and bluffing are at the essence of poker and those strategies are what make it the world’s best card game – and most players are – then it is impossible to take Chinese Poker too seriously. There is no betting on ones hand in Chinese Poker, either in the building or at the end.


By way of analogy, it would be as if there was a game to challenge the supremacy of American football that used the same name but only allowed the ball to be touched by the feet. The ball could never be picked up and thrown and players could not deliver courage-sapping defensive tackles. Oh, there is a game like that? How is that doing in unseating American football from the throne of sports in the United States?


Aside from the common name and the formation of the hands, Chinese Poker has no relation to poker. The game it most resembles is Gin Rummy, in the building of hands and the quest for points. Traditionally, rummy was the game that was dealt in card rooms by players waiting for a seat at the poker table. In the 21st century, Chinese Poker has assumed the same role as Gin Rummy in the previous century.


That does mean there are not players who prefer Chinese Poker to Hold’Em and that there is not plenty of money changing hands in OFC games. There are devoted OFC players and there is big money being drawn away from poker tournament pools for them to chase. But as for Chinese Poker coming off the sidelines to become the main attraction, that just does not seem to be in the cards.