Open-Face Chinese Poker by Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Part 3: The 3 Pineapples
Tonybet Poker ambassador Isabelle Mercier returns with more tips and advice for playing open-face Chinese poker, this week focusing on three popular variants on the standard OFC game.
Welcome back open-face Chinese poker fans! Happy to be writing this third part of my own little OFC guide! So far we’ve discussed the history of Chinese poker, the appearance and popularity of the open-face format, and how the game is scored including royalties.
Since OFC was first introduced, the game has been in non-stop evolution, with variations on the classic OFC game being introduced. Three of those variations — “Pineapple,” “Progressive,” and “Deuce-to-Seven” — will the be topics of this part of my guide.
These days “Pineapple OFC” — with “Fantasyland” — is the most popular and well-known form of the game.
In this variation, the number of players is limited to three rather than four. This is because after the initial five cards are dealt and placed by the players, they subsequently receive not one card at a time (as in traditional OFC), but three cards each round, from which they have to position two and discard one. That difference also means that unlike in a four-handed game of traditional OFC, not all the cards in the deck ultimately will be visible to the players. Nevertheless, counting outs remains super important!
Even more fundamental and strategy-influencing is another big difference introduced in Pineapple OFC. When you successfully place a pair of queens or better on the top line (without fouling, obviously), you gain access to what we call “Fantasyland” which means that for the following hand you will receive all your cards at once, affording you the luxury of placing them wherever you want on your board.
More precisely, you will receive a total of 14 cards and you will have to place 13 of them, discarding one. You’ll have the absolute certainty of not fouling that hand, (unless you make a mistake in placing your cards LOL)! Therefore the game involves focusing not just on avoiding fouling and beating your opponents’ lines, but also on trying to make at least a pair of queens on top in order to get to Fantasyland!
As for the “Progressive” variation of OFC, it involves a different type of Fantasyland, which I think is very well adapted, and will most probably become the new standard of the game.
In Progressive OFC, when you successfully place a pair of queens on top, you get 14 cards on the next hand, just like in the Pineapple variation. But when you place a pair of kings on top, you’ll get 15 cards on the next hand; when you place a pair of aces on top, you’ll get 16 cards on the next hand; and when you place trips on top, you’ll get 17 cards on the next hand!
Wow... talk about an advantage! To be able to see 17 cards and place 13 however you want — you can just imagine all the crazy hands you can make and enormous royalties you can collect with those!
I love this variation of the game. For one thing, the small pair on top that had huge value in the original closed Chinese Poker game loses much of its potential in Pineapple OFC, where the goal is always to put a pair of queens or higher on top. However in Progressive OFC, this very same small pair can turn into trips and regain its usefulness thanks to the 17-card reward that comes along with it in Fantasyland!
In fact, I had a long discussion with Bruno “King” Fitoussi and we are not sure at all that being in Fantasyland with 14 cards is so much of an advantage. Admittedly, you have the absolute certainty of not fouling, which is definitely a non-negligible edge. But very often you’ll find yourself making a hand without huge potential — something like a straight in the back, a pair in the middle, and ace on top — which perhaps diminishes the advantage somewhat.
Meanwhile when you’re not in Fantasyland, you have access to a total of 17 cards (the five initial cards, then 4 x 3 cards from which you’ll place two each time to total 13). Even though busting out will be relatively frequent, it will also be frequent to make enormous hands and sick bonuses!
At the end of the discussion, we agreed that we should call Paul “X-22” Magriel so that he could make some incomprehensible crazy genius mathematical calculations to finally give us a final answer on the question (LOL)! But one thing we categorically agreed on is that if you can get to Fantasyland with 15 cards in Progressive OFC, the answer is 100% clear — it’s definitely a huge advantage over not being in Fantasyland!
My forecast is that OFC Progressive is the absolute realization of this game, and that it is here to stay. I’m very motivated to become an expert in this variation that I am so passionate about!
That being said, I’m just as captivated (or maybe more) by the “Deuce-to-Seven” variation of OFC where in the end you’ll get to Fantasyland way more frequently. Here, just as in regular OFC, the bottom line has to be the strongest of your board. However, the middle line is played in deuce-to-seven format, meaning that the best possible hand is accompanied by a bonus and also taking you to Fantasyland.
In this variation, you can also get to Fantasyland with the top line, but here you will need a pair of kings or better to do so. And the one thing that can drive you absolutely crazy in Deuce-to-Seven OFC is actually being in Fantasyland and still busting out, because you can’t find five cards under 10 that are not making a straight or a flush. It happens only rarely, but it feels just like a bad beat!
In all three variations of OFC — Pineapple, Progressive, and Deuce-to-Seven — different rules apply in order to return to Fantasyland when you are already there, but we’ll discuss that later.
That’s all for now. Rendez-vous next week for the next part of the “OFC No Mercy Little Guide.”
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