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Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker: An Introduction

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Jun 29, 2022

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Several years ago, Pineapple Open Face Chinese (POFC) Poker was immensely popular amongst the high-stakes community and with a marvelous blend of luck and skill, really fits the bill as a great gambling game. Longshot gambles are often the correct play and provide an amazing adrenaline rush when they come home.

While the action may have slowed down somewhat, it is still very popular online at all stakes and at some live venues, most notably the World Series of Poker.

Rules of the Game

POFC can be played with two or three players and over the course of a hand each player must place thirteen cards consisting of three cards in the front (or top), five cards in the middle, and five cards in the back (or bottom). Play commences with the player to the left of the dealer button and rotates in a clockwise order.

Each player is initially dealt five cards that must all be set face-up and after that there are four subsequent rounds (or pulls) where three cards are received of which two must be placed and one is discarded face down. In total, each player receives seventeen cards which often results in big holdings being shown down.

In order to make a qualifying hand, the back hand must be stronger than or equal to the middle and the middle hand must be stronger than or equal to the front, as determined by traditional poker hand rankings. The best possible front holding is three aces as there is no such thing as three-card straights or flushes up top.

If you fail to make a qualifying hand, your hand is considered fouled and you automatically lose six points to each non fouling player in addition to any royalties (see below) that must be paid out. In addition, when your hand is fouled you also forfeit any possible royalties that you may have accumulated as well. Fouling is possible because you are not dealt all of your cards at once and while it is undesirable to foul, sometimes we can play a hand 100% correctly and fail to qualify.

After every player has placed 13 cards, the hands are compared amongst every player holding a qualifying hand. You score one point for each line that you win and if you are lucky to scoop your opponent(s), you get an additional three bonus points. The difference between winning two out of the three lines and scooping is substantial as it’s worth an extra five points.

Royalties for strong hands are also possible and play a very large role in POFC strategy. The royalties, or bonus points, can be seen in the chart.

Royalty Payouts

Front
Pairs (Deuces thru Aces) 1-9
Trips (Deuces thru Aces) 10-22
Middle
Three of Kind 2
Straight 4
Flush 8
Full House 12
Quads 20
Straight Flush 30
Royal Flush 50
Back
Straight 2
Flush 4
Full House 6
Quads 10
Straight Flush 15
Royal Flush 25

Any player holding a qualifying hand can collect royalties, even if they have been scooped. For example, suppose the results of a POFC hand are as follows:

Player A Royalties Player B Royalties
Front J-J-3 6 9-9-4 4
Middle K-K-2-2-A 0 Q-Q-7-6-8 0
Back Full House 6 Flush 4
Total 12 8

Player A receives 12 royalties, one point for winning each of the three lines, and three bonus points for scooping Player B, for a total point tally of 18. However, Player B gets four bonus points for his pair of nines up top and four for his flush on the bottom for a total of eight royalties, which he can use to reduce his overall loss to 10 points.

If the players were gambling for $10 a point, Player B would pay Player A $100, the dealer button would move, and the next hand would be dealt.

As an additional twist to the game, whenever someone makes a qualifying hand where they are able to place a pair of queens or better up top, they advance to a Fantasyland (FL) bonus round. When a player goes to FL, they have the advantage of being dealt 14 cards all at once and get to set their cards face down while everyone else is forced to play out a normal hand. The button does not move for FL as it is considered an extension of the same hand.

The value of going to FL is tremendous as a player gets to maximize the value of their hand without fear of fouling and can also observe their opponents’ completed hands before setting their final hand. In order to remain in FL you require quads or better in the back, a full house or better in the middle, or trips or better in the front.

Why Play POFC?

POFC is a nice change of pace from the normal poker grind and can be incredibly addictive. Even if you are just practicing on a free app, you may find it extremely difficult to put down. By the way, the artificial intelligence on most apps is not very strong so before deciding to play for any meaningful amount of money you should be able to soundly beat your computer opponents.

It’s also a less confrontational game which allows you to play heads-up without the feeling of getting run over by constant aggression or a cold run of cards. It’s a fun game to play with friends because if one person loses badly it’s easy to just chalk it up to bad luck.

Also, if you do not trust online poker due to possible collusion and potential “super users” that can see your cards, POFC offers a much safer environment since you can play heads-up and the majority of your cards are face up. In theory, it’s possible that there are some players out there with some form of real-time assistance; however, if the stakes are relatively low and the action is moving fast this isn’t a great a concern.

Finally, the more variants you play equals less time on the sidelines and greater opportunities to seek out action players. Having the ability to be able to sit in any game at any time is the mark of a true seasoned gambler.

Deuce-to-Seven Pineapple Open Face

There are many variations of POFC, the most popular being deuce-to-seven Pineapple (2-7 POFC) where the object is to make the best deuce-to-seven low in the middle hand. It seems as if 2-7 POFC would be more complex due to the twist of building a low in the middle, however, it is probably the easiest variation of Pineapple to play at a competent level.

In regular High POFC, our decisions tend to be more complex as we have three high lines to consider and low bricks that are somewhat difficult to deal with in that game are much easier to navigate in the 2-7 version as we can often just simply drop them in the middle.

This is not to say that 2-7 POFC is easy, experience is still highly valuable, we must set our hands correctly, and also require a grasp of the mathematics behind late game situations in order to do very well. However, I think you will find that regardless if you are building a potentially great holding or a probable dud, many hands seem to play themselves. In the next installment, we will introduce the basic strategic considerations of 2-7 POFC.

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. If interested in learning more, playing mixed games online, or just saying hello he can be reached at haneyk612@gmail.com.