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20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker

  • Nikolai YakovenkoNikolai Yakovenko
20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 0001

Open Face Chinese has become one of the most popular games in poker. Top pros like Jason Mercier, Barry Greenstein and Shaun Deeb have become unofficial ambassadors for the game, while dozens of other pros can be found playing the game either late into the night or on their tablets. One of those players is Nikolai Yakovenko, who helped create the ABC Open Face Chinese Poker iPhone app.

Yakovenko, also known as "Googles," is originally from Moscow, Russia and is now a poker player and software developer that resides in Brooklyn, New York. After several years at Google New York working on ranking algorithms, he's been developing independent software projects ever since while making both World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour final tables. Here Yakovenko, who has $313,598 in WSOP earnings, walks you through 20 rounds of Pineapple OFC (which he actually played) and offers strategy and his thought processes throughout. This is the sixth piece in a series of articles that will run every Tuesday and Thursday on PokerNews

To catch up on the action, and to learn how these articles are formatted, check out the first two pieces in the series:

Round 649 (first to act) – Kings and Queens

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 101

This starting set seems to violate some of my rules (kings in the middle, queens on the top) but in this particular case the arrangement makes sense. Try to set it up differently. Not nearly as pretty.

Let’s not be slaves to a general rule. Queens don’t belong in the middle, but playing a two-card straight flush on the bottom with a queen… that’s a good play.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 102

1. ({K-Hearts})/({4-Clubs}{2-Hearts})/({10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}), ({J-Spades})/({6-Clubs})/({3-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{4-Hearts})
2. {K-Hearts}/{4-Clubs}{2-Hearts}/{10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}/{6-Diamonds}{Q-Spades}{A-Clubs},

This is certainly a good draw, but we have choices, not that choices are bad. Making choices separate us from the apes, and from the Communists.

Even the simian plays ace-middle here, as two aces in the middle sets us up for Fantasyland. The question is, do we play the {Q-Spades} or the {6-Diamonds}, and if so, where?

Going for the flush isn’t a bad idea. As I’ve mentioned earlier, live flush draws with three rounds to go are big favorites to get there, but this statement is a bit misleading. The ace of diamonds belongs in the middle, while the king of diamonds helps us up top. Once we play the three-flush, we’re committing two of our remaining six cards to be diamonds. This restricts our freedom to make good hands in the middle, and on the top.

On the other hand, if we play the {Q-Spades} on the bottom, we only need one more card for two pair plus. And any queen or ten we get is not a card that we need elsewhere in the hand. Add in the fact that with {Q-}{Q-} on the bottom, a pull like {7-}{7-} is now more useful to us, and we have a winner. The six of diamonds is a nice card, but we don’t need it.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 103

1. ({K-Hearts})/({4-Clubs}{2-Hearts})/({10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}), ({J-Spades})/({6-Clubs})/({3-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{4-Hearts})
2. {K-Hearts}/{4-Clubs}{2-Hearts}({A-Clubs})/{10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}({Q-Spades})/{6-Diamonds}, {J-Spades}/{6-Clubs}({3-Clubs})/{3-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{4-Hearts}({8-Hearts})/[?]
3. {K-Hearts}/{4-Clubs}{2-Hearts}{A-Clubs}/{10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}{Q-Spades}/{10-Spades}{A-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}

Oh boy did that work out!

To be fair, had we played the three-flush we’d still pair the ace in the middle, as having a four-flush on the bottom isn’t so bad. But given the choice, I’d take a live two pair over a four-flush any day.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 104

1. ({K-Hearts})/({4-Clubs}{2-Hearts})/({10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}), ({J-Spades})/({6-Clubs})/({3-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{4-Hearts})
2. {K-Hearts}/{4-Clubs}{2-Hearts}({A-Clubs})/{10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}({Q-Spades})/{6-Diamonds}, {J-Spades}/{6-Clubs}({3-Clubs})/{3-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{4-Hearts}({8-Hearts})/[?]
3. {K-Hearts}/{4-Clubs}{2-Hearts}{A-Clubs}({A-Diamonds})/{10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}{Q-Spades}({10-Spades})/{4-Hearts}, {J-Spades}/{6-Clubs}{3-Clubs}({2-Clubs})/{3-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{8-Hearts}({6-Hearts})/[?]
4. {K-Hearts}/{4-Clubs}{2-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{A-Diamonds}/{10-Diamonds}{Q-Diamonds}{Q-Spades}{10-Spades}/{Q-Hearts}{J-Diamonds}{7-Clubs},

The computer makes its flush, but we fill up. The one downside of playing queens-full on the bottom is that it’s a bit harder to go to Fantasyland up top. That said, we might have as high as a 30% of catching a king on the last draw.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 105

Alas, it was not to be, but hey, {j-}{j-} on top for +6 points is nice. Surprisingly, this is the first time that we make a “consolation pair” bonus up top, looking for Fantasyland, but settling for a smaller bonus. These bonuses can add up, as {J-}{J-} on top is the same bonus as a full house on the bottom.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 106

We managed to win back some points over the last few rounds, despite starting this part of the match against the computer’s Fantasyland.

After 15 rounds of our 20 round match, we are almost exactly where we started, but it feels like the momentum is on our side. Let’s finish in style!

Match Restart: Up +1,058 points after 649 rounds

Round 650 (button) – Only Two True Outcomes

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 107

It’s hard to resist the straight-flush start. Yes, yes, I know the straight flush isn’t live.

1. ({A-Spades})/({4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts})/({J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}), /({K-Clubs}{3-Clubs})/({7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds})

Playing {3-}{3-} in the middle and king up top wouldn’t be bad play, either. And it would actually keep the straight flush in play.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 108

Whenever there’s room for choice, there’s often cause for regret. Playing the {3-}{3-}-middle looks a lot better, right about now.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 109

I go with a somewhat unusual play here. With all of the queens live, I sell out for Fantasyland, and give up on my bottom right away.

1. ({A-Spades})/({4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts})/({J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}), /({K-Clubs}{3-Clubs})/({7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds})
2. {A-Spades}/{4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}({10-Spades})/{J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}({9-Diamonds})/[?], /{K-Clubs}{3-Clubs}({A-Diamonds})/{7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}({6-Hearts})/{J-Hearts}

It’s easy to make two pair on the bottom, as my seven, six, and three are all partially live. So I’ll take two pair there as a given. Now I’ve got five outs to make {k-}{k-} or {a-}{a-} in the middle. Not a lock, but pretty likely. All I need is a big pair up top. Somewhat demanding, but it’s live.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 110

The middle comes in right away. Yes we could have had an ace-high flush on the bottom and been drawing to a second flush in the middle.

Let’s not focus on that.

1. ({A-Spades})/({4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts})/({J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}), /({K-Clubs}{3-Clubs})/({7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds})
2. {A-Spades}/{4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}({10-Spades})/{J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}({9-Diamonds})/[?], /{K-Clubs}{3-Clubs}({A-Diamonds})/{7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}({6-Hearts})/{J-Hearts}
3. {A-Spades}({A-Clubs})/{4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}{10-Spades}({5-Spades})/{J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}{9-Diamonds}/[?], /{K-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{A-Diamonds}/{7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}/{5-Clubs}{K-Diamonds}{2-Spades}

Meanwhile, the computer is swinging away like Reggie Jackson.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 111

Boom! That’s what we were looking for. Lock down the two pair. Free-rolling for Fantasyland.

1. ({A-Spades})/({4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts})/({J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}), /({K-Clubs}{3-Clubs})/({7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds})
2. {A-Spades}/{4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}({10-Spades})/{J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}({9-Diamonds})/[?], /{K-Clubs}{3-Clubs}({A-Diamonds})/{7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}({6-Hearts})/{J-Hearts}
3. {A-Spades}({A-Clubs})/{4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}{10-Spades}({5-Spades})/{J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}{9-Diamonds}/[?], /{K-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{A-Diamonds}({K-Diamonds}{5-Clubs})/{7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}/{2-Spades}
4. {A-Spades}{A-Clubs}({6-Spades})/{4-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}{10-Spades}{5-Spades}/{J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}{9-Diamonds}({9-Clubs})/[?], ({Q-Diamonds})/{K-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{A-Diamonds}{K-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}/{7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}({3-Hearts})/{8-Diamonds}

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 112

And we miss the freeroll. The computer steals our queen, but he fouls out, so we end up six points ahead. We could have made all kinds of better hands, including Fantasyland, with different first and second round plays, but this is the home stretch, no time for second-guessing.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 113

Round 651 (first to act) – No Hesitation

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 114

No chance we aren’t going for Fantasyland here. Not even if it takes a triple negative.

Speaking of which, since we don’t know which big cards aren’t dead, knowing that we need to qualify with a big pair in the middle, this is the rare case in which we play a small pair on the bottom.

We’ll qualify no problem, as long as we can improve the hand a little every round.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 115

This isn’t what we were looking for. That said, it’s still early, and our bottom hand is very live, so let’s focus on improving the middle.

1. ({Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds})//({3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}), /({6-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{4-Hearts})/({5-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds})
2. {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}/({5-Spades}{4-Diamonds})/{3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}/{10-Spades},

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 116

Excellent. Our first very lucky draw in several instalments of this match.

If we were playing backgammon, this draw would immediately be highlighted as a “very, very lucky” roll. All we need now is a trey, and eight or a pair in hand, to make Fantasyland. With two draws to go, I’d estimate our chances at around 80%.

1. ({Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds})//({3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}), /({6-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{4-Hearts})/({5-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds})
2. {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}/({5-Spades}{4-Diamonds})/{3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}/{10-Spades}, ({10-Clubs}{8-Spades})/{6-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{4-Hearts}/{5-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}/[?]
3. {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}/{5-Spades}{4-Diamonds}({4-Clubs}{5-Hearts})/{3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}/{A-Hearts},

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 117

That’s a miss.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 118

But the last draw gets there. It gets there twice!

1. ({Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds})//({3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}), /({6-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{4-Hearts})/({5-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds})
2. {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}/({5-Spades}{4-Diamonds})/{3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}/{10-Spades}, ({10-Clubs}{8-Spades})/{6-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{4-Hearts}/{5-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}/[?]
3. {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}/{5-Spades}{4-Diamonds}({4-Clubs}{5-Hearts})/{3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}/{A-Hearts}, {10-Clubs}{8-Spades}({Q-Spades})/{6-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{4-Hearts}/{5-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}({10-Diamonds})/[?]
4. {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}({A-Diamonds})/{5-Spades}{4-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{5-Hearts}({6-Spades})/{3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}/{2-Spades}, {10-Clubs}{8-Spades}({Q-Spades})/{6-Hearts}{A-Clubs}{4-Hearts}/{5-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}({10-Diamonds})/[?]
5. {Q-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}{A-Diamonds}/{5-Spades}{4-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{5-Hearts}{6-Spades}/{3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{8-Hearts}/{J-Clubs}{J-Spades}{3-Diamonds},

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 119

We scooped the computer, and we’re going back to The Land.

20 Rounds Part VI: Yakovenko's Step-by-Step Strategy Guide for Pineapple OFC Poker 120

Check back on next week as Yakovenko takes you to fantasy land.

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