Thursday, December 06, 2012

Eating It Up: Open-Face Chinese Poker

Whenever I hear someone referring to “Open-Face Chinese Poker,” it makes me think of food. In fact, it often makes me hungry.

One reason is the way the name of the game -- the latest new variant to capture the poker community’s attention -- sounds like “open-faced sandwich.” As in oh, man, you’ve simply got to try this Open-Face Chinese with avocado and sprouts and a slice of cheese melted on top. Delish!

The other is the excitement with which many people who’ve played the game seem always to talk about it -- as if their appetite (so to speak) for more open-face Chinese is unending.

For example, Jason Mercier not long ago wrote a post over on the PokerStars blog titled “Why I love Open-Face Chinese Poker” that begins with him referencing a recent session wherein he played the game for 34 consecutive hours, slept, then woke to play 20 hours more.

Again, it sounds like the game is some sort of lotus-like delicacy that once you try it you cannot stop eating it.

Mercier goes on in the post to discuss reasons why he is so “hooked” on the game, although I suppose the points he makes aren’t necessarily unique to OFCP.

He likes how unlike other forms of poker there is no betting involved during game play (just points tallied at the end), although that is an aspect of the game that is similar to regular Chinese Poker. He also likes the fact that it is a new game to many and thus “no one’s ‘solved’ the game” nor have “standard” plays been developed as yet. That, too, one could argue, is always going to be the case for whatever new variant comes along, at least at first. It depends on the nature of the game, however, how great a resistance to being “solved” it might have.

Mercier also talks about the many variables OFCP can have, especially when played four-handed. Again, something similar might be said of other poker variants, with some games presenting many more variables than others.

If you’re not familiar with OFCP, Jennifer Shahade has written an article describing “How to Play Open-Face Chinese Poker” for Card Player. There she spells how OFCP differs from regular Chinese Poker while also delving further into the game’s sudden popularity.

The big difference with OFCP is that rather than being dealt all 13 cards initially, players only get five cards to start, then the remaining cards one at a time thereafter, setting their hands as they go (top, middle, and bottom as in regular Chinese).

It is therefore harder to make strong hands in OFCP, and so royalties are adjusted accordingly. Indeed, royalties are a lot more prominent (and complicated) in the game, awarded not just for super-strong hands but all of the way down to having a pair (on top). There’s also a greater danger of missetting one’s hand -- that is, “fouling” one’s hand by not ensuring the highest-value hand is in back, then the second-best is in the middle, then the weakest is on top -- than is the case in regular Chinese poker.

As an indicator of OFCP’s popularity, there is actually going to be an Open-Face Chinese Poker event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure next month. It’ll be a $2,000 + $150 buy-in tournament that will incorporate a “shot clock” so as to force players to make decisions about setting their hands more quickly.

I enjoy regular Chinese Poker, which can be an especially fun game for passing the time when traveling or in situations where it isn’t feasible or convenient to get out chips and set up to play other forms of poker. I haven’t really tried OFCP that much as yet, only having had a taste of the game thus far. A bite or two, so to speak. So I haven’t come close to experiencing getting “hooked” on it such as has happened a few times for me when learning other variants of poker (pot-limit Omaha springs to mind).

It does seem a little like OFCP edges over into territory occupied by card games like gin or bridge or spades, at least in some respects (e.g., the rhythm of the game, the points system), while still being poker.

Am kind of curious how the game got its name. I understand how calling it “open-face” helps indicate the difference between setting your hand secretly (as in regular Chinese) and out in the open (as in OFCP), but why “open-face” rather than just “open”? I guess there is a precedent in blackjack, as there is an “open-face” version of that game. But again, why the “face”?

Anyhow, will have to try it for real soon. Meanwhile, I’m going to have some lunch.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Eddie said...

And you reminded me of this old Simpsons episode: http://youtu.be/dXEGDcIAuLY

12/06/2012 3:46 PM  

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