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Open-Face Chinese Poker by Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Part 6: The Two-Pair Pickle

Isabelle Mercier


  • In a new “OFC No Mercy Little Guide” entry, Isabelle Mercier looks at tricky spots with two pair in Pineapple OFC.

  • Go for the full house in back or split your two pair? Isabelle Mercier returns with more OFC strategy advice.

Tonybet Poker ambassador Isabelle Mercier returns with more tips and advice for playing open-face Chinese poker.

Hello all, and welcome back again to my “Open-Face Chinese No Mercy Little Guide”! Up to now we’ve gone over OFC’s history, talked about basic rules and variants, and in the last couple of articles gone through several pieces of fundamental advice for OFC Pineapple.

Today let’s start looking more closely at some tricky situations that often present themselves in OFC Pineapple. I’m going to draw from some of my own plays at Tonybet Poker to help illustrate the situations better.

Tricky Situation #1: Two-Pair Scenarios

This situation will happen very often in open-face Chinese poker and will give you a headache every time! Take a look at the following example:

Open-Face Chinese Poker by Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Part 6: The Two-Pair Pickle 101

This exact play presented itself to me yesterday. Obviously here my {J-Diamonds} will go in the back, and instinctively I’ll tend to put the {5-Hearts} in the middle. But here comes the tricky part.

My initial game plan with this hand had been to make at least two pair in the back and try to secure a pair of aces in the middle and a pair of kings on top in order to go to Fantasyland. But now when I place the {J-Diamonds} in back and {5-Hearts} in the middle, I will not be able to hit my ace and place it there on the middle line unless I make at least trip jacks on the bottom.

This situation will present itself more often than you think. In order to make the right decision, you’ll have to look at your opponent’s board carefully. First of all, you’ll want to see if there are indeed some aces left in the deck (because if there are none, there’s no need to worry about making two pair with aces in the middle). Secondly, you’ll have to look for what your live cards you have in the back — that is, the ones that could come along to beat your two pair in the middle.

Eventually, after looking at the board, I did decide to place my {5-Hearts} in the middle, even though my sole ace in the middle was already covering my sole king on top. I thought I could also make two smaller pair in the middle, or perhaps even catch a jack in the back with an ace in the middle!

Obviously, this was my next draw:

Open-Face Chinese Poker by Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Part 6: The Two-Pair Pickle 102

Had I not put the {5-Hearts} in the middle, I would have been looking good to go to Fantasyland by placing the {A-Hearts} in the middle and the {K-Spades} on top. Indeed, knowing that all my jacks and nines were still alive, I would have taken that risk with great enthusiasm!

However, since I positioned the {5-Hearts} in the middle, I was much less inclined to try to catch a sole jack in the back, so I had to compromise and go for a conservative move. I placed the {A-Hearts} on top to secure my ace-king there, and put my {3-Diamonds} in the middle, hoping to make two pair in the back, two smaller pair in the middle, and still be in a position to go to Fantasyland if all that happened while I caught another ace or a king.

As it turned out, in that hand I did catch a {9-} and would have been able to go to Fantasyland, had I not placed the five in the middle on the second draw.

Just like in hold’em or other poker variations, it’s always easier to analyze a play after the hand is finished and knowing the ultimate results, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right play to place the five in the middle! It only means that in those special cases, you’ll have to be more observant than usual, looking closely (as always) at your live cards and your opponent’s board before you make the decision.

Similarly, always keep in mind that your two pair in the back have to be stronger than your two pair in the middle. With that in mind, let’s look at this play:

Open-Face Chinese Poker by Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Part 6: The Two-Pair Pickle 103

Amateurs have a quick tendency always to use their bigger cards and so here will place the {J-Spades} and the {6-Spades} in the middle. Certainly a pair of jacks is stronger than a pair of sixes or fives. However, if you look at the big picture, what will you do if you catch your jack on the next draw?

You’ll put it in the middle for sure, completing your pair of jacks, but look at your board — doing that would prevent you from being able to make two pair in the middle, unless you fill a full house on your bottom line! Therefore, in this particular case, I’ll prefer to go with the {6-Spades} and {5-Hearts} in the middle. That would enable me still to make two pair in the middle that would be smaller than my two pair in the back, not requiring me to make a full house on the bottom and still leaving me in good shape to get to Fantasyland.

And if I do make my full house in the back, the {6-Spades} and {5-Hearts} are also connecting cards, so I could eventually make a straight in the middle. Obviously, again, your live cards will be highly important when making choices in these kinds of situations.

This brings me to my last point regarding these tricky two-pair situations, one having to do with the initial deal when you receive two pair in your first five cards. Let’s look at the following draw — would you place your cards this way to start the hand?

Open-Face Chinese Poker by Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier, Part 6: The Two-Pair Pickle 104

A lot of players would do just that, hoping to make a full house in the back. Personally, for the reasons we just covered and since here my two pair in the back are so small, I would prefer to split them and place {8-Spades}{5-Spades}{5-Clubs} in the back and {4-Hearts}{4-Diamonds} in the middle. (That is assuming I am first to speak and have no information about my live cards.) Otherwise, if I don’t complete my full house in the back, I will probably not be able to make two pair in the middle, unless I miraculously catch two pair of deuces and treys to place there.

As a general rule, I’d say it’s usually the correct play to split two pair lower than sevens rather than play both in the back. Then again, it always depends on various factors, including your live cards and the playing style of your opponents.

Rendez-vous next time for more of my “OFC No Mercy Little Guide” when we’ll consider more tricky situations in Pineapple OFC.

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