Crazy Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker (with Fantasyland)
This month I’ve been teaching myself how to play Crazy Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker with Fantasyland. It is an awesome game, but needs a new name. For now, we’ll call it “OFC.”
Using Corvid’s OFC Poker app on my iPad ($5.99), anyone with an iPad or iPhone (I suspect this is also available for other smart device formats – Samsung, Droid, whatever…) can play OFC with friends, in much the same manner of Words With Friends and similar games. The app does not accept deposits or settle up monetary bets.
OFC is designed for 2 players, although it can be played with 3 players. Leave out the Crazy Pineapple part, and 4 players can play. But never more than that. The OFC app is set up for 2 players only (if there is a setting to add a 3rd player, I haven’t discovered it yet). In this game, players take turns, so when it is your turn, the app simply waits for you to act. When you do, your opponent gets a prompt that the action is now on him or her.
How to play, you might ask?
OFC is built on traditional Chinese Poker. In traditional Chinese poker, each player is dealt 13 cards. You then organize the cards into 3 poker hands: Two 5-card hands, and one 3-card hand. The 3-card hand is placed on the table above (or in front of) one of the 5-card hands, which is placed above the other 5-card hand. There is a requirement for the bottom hand to be the strongest, followed by the middle hand, with the top hand being the weakest. No straights or flushes can count for the top hand since it only has 3 cards. So an arrangement might look like this:
Top 8d 8c 3s One pair of eights
Middle Ts 9d Tc 9s Kd Two pair, tens and nines
Bottom Ah Kh Jh 4h 2h Flush, ace high
Next, you compare your top hand to your opponents top hand, middle v. middle and bottom v. bottom. Whoever has the strongest hand on each row wins one “point” for that row.
If real money is involved (this is poker, after all), each point has an agreed upon monetary value. While at the WSOP this summer, I saw OFC being played in the cash games area for $10 per point and higher.
Next, you determine whether any bonus (or “royalty”) points have been won. If you win all three rows, in addition to 3 points, you also get a bonus of 3 more points for scooping. There are also bonuses based on hand strength. The minimum requirement is a straight on the bottom (worth 2 bonus points), or three of a kind in the middle (worth 2 points), or a pair of sixes on the top (worth 1 point). In my sample hand above, the flush on the bottom is worth 4 bonus points, and the pair of eights on the top is worth 3 bonus points.
Notice that I could have arranged these cards differently, with two pair of nines and eights in the middle and one pair of tens at the top. The pair of tens would be worth 5 bonus points, so that would be a more profitable play.
If the top hand is stronger than the middle, or the middle is stronger than the bottom, your entire hand is “foul” (a/k/a “misset” or simply disqualified) and you are not eligible to win ANY points on the hand regardless of the strength of any individual row.
Got it? That’s just traditional Chinese Poker. Now for the Open Face part.
In OFC, each player is dealt 5 cards and takes turns setting these initial cards in the 3 rows. It might look like this:
Top 2c Useless card
Middle 7d 7h Setting a pair
Bottom Qs Js 9s Setting up for a flush or straight
Once a card is placed at the top/middle/bottom, it cannot be later moved to another row. OFC is a button game, so the player with the dealer button acts last, and has the benefit of seeing the opponent’s first 5 cards before acting. In the example above, if I had the button and my opponent showed 4 spades in his arrangement, I might try a different strategy instead of going for a flush on the bottom.
Then each player is dealt one card at a time, in sequence (button still last to act), and places each card in one of the rows to try to score the most points. After the first 5 cards are set, back and forth you go for 8 more cards, one at a time, until all 13 have been set. There are 3 simultaneous equations to solve here: 1) not fouling the hand, by making sure the bottom beats the middle, which beats the top; 2) having enough strength in each row to beat the opponent’s corresponding row; and 3) winning bonus/royalty points. Here is a good article with full details of bonus/royalty scoring.
Got it? But wait, there’s more. Whenever the top hand is QQ or higher (QQ earns 7 bonus points, and the hand is not fouled, you get to go to “Fantasyland.” This simply means that on the next hand, you get all 13 cards at once (like traditional Chinese Poker) and have complete information to use in arranging your 3 rows. Not only is there no risk of fouling your hand, but you never miss out on a huge hand like quads or a straight flush by splitting these up into different rows early in the hand. When you finish arranging the hand, you place all of the cards face down in their respective rows, so your opponent has no knowledge of which cards he might need to complete his rows are already dead. To your opponent, your hand looks like this:
Top x x x
Middle x x x x x
Bottom x x x x x
Obviously, going to Fantasyland is a huge benefit. But there is also a lot of risk of fouling the entire hand, if for example your first five cards include two Kings, and you decide to place them on the top row prior to having stronger hands in the middle and bottom. Gulp!
Got it? But wait, so far I’ve only covered OFC with Fantasyland. What about Crazy Pineapple?
In the Crazy Pineapple version, after the first 5 cards are set, each player is dealt 3 cards at a time. When it is your turn, you set 2 of 3 on the board, selecting the optimal row, and the 3rd card is discarded. Instead of 9 turns per player to complete a hand (initial 5 cards, then 8 turns with 1 card at a time), it only takes 5 turns per player (initial 5 cards, then 4 turns of setting 2 cards and discarding 1). This speeds up the game. Crazy Pineapple also gives you more total cards to choose from, resulting in more bonus points and trips to Fantasyland, making this the most popular version of the game for high rollers and gamblers. Since your opponent is looking at more total cards, when you do get to Fantasyland in the Crazy Pineapple version, you get dealt 14 cards instead of 13, and sometimes that last card is just what you need to score extra points.
Thus the final full name: “Crazy Pineapple Open Face Chinese Poker, with Fantasyland.”
About that name… it is hilarious when I mention this game to some of my poker-addicted friends. They screw their faces all up and say, oh my gosh, I could never learn a game as complicated as “Crazy Fantasy Island Open Face, Closed Mouth, Ancient Chinese Parcheesi Poker with a Twist” or whatever that was you just said. It’s just too complicated. This reaction comes before they even hear how the game is played.
Now that I’ve played a few dozen games, I can tell you dear readers, this game is not really so complicated. The mechanics are actually pretty straightforward: make 3 hands of progressive strength, then compare to your opponent’s 3 hands.
What is needed is a simpler name. When you first heard of Texas Hold’em or Omaha, surely that didn’t sound as difficult as building the entire Great Wall of China. I think I’m going to try “Open Face” as a short-hand name. Regular OFC players tend to fall back on the 3-letter acronym (“TLA”) OFC, but I’m not a big fan of TLAs in the first place. I mean, WTF, some people have trouble deciphering the acronyms, and the short-hand becomes a big WOT (waste of time) when you could have gotten TTP (to the point) by simply pronouncing the words rather than the letters. OMG. Let’s rein in the acronyms. LOL.
If you want to try some Open Face with me, for fun or money, download this app on your smart device. My ID is KKing David. I’m currently playing with 3 friends for $0.10 per point. The app sets up a game as 20 hands in the Crazy Pineapple version, or 10 hands of the regular OFC version, but this appears to be an arbitrary cutoff. In a live, casino OFC game, the loser of each hand would pass chips to the winner based on the net points for that hand. Since the app doesn’t facilitate the exchange of money, settling up after each batch of 20 hands makes sense. So far the largest scores have been about 100 points over a game of 20 hands, which at $0.10 per point is ten bucks.
Hopefully more posts to follow exploring some of the strategic and tactical issues, which I am still very much in the infancy of learning.