Recent Strategy Articles

We pick out a spot in tournament Stud-8 to talk odds, starting hand strength, and the concept of freerolling in a split-pot game.

First-five setting strategy for the lowball variation must be adjusted, and some early-game tactics that are slam-dunks in Pineapple OFC should be tossed out the window!

It seems like it's hard to mess up Fantasyland. After all, you see all your cards at once. Beyond avoiding an obvious mis-set, are you acheiving highest situational hand strength and max value from your opponent(s)?

Pineapple OFC is rarely a game you can make decisions based on intuition. Here's a spot I went with my first instinct, but only after a quick math fact-check.

July 24, 2014 -- A street-by-street examination of an extended flush draw in Pineapple OFC. Often delayed gratification is worth it!

July 21, 2014 -- When you have the option to pair the middle row or complete your back row flush, when it is right or wrong to flush it out? Pineapple OFC.

Classification of QTTJJ, a Cannibal. Odds given to make full house with JJTT, as well as pairing the Q. Both Standard-OFC and Pineapple-OFC.

3 settings of 4 7 J 3 5. Is setting a gutshot in the back the best way to get value from this lowly-looking starting 5?

Warren Buffet says "risk comes from not knowing what you're doing". And in Pineapple-OFC, that means MATH. We did our homework and crushed this hand with AA on top.

3 settings of A56TA. You know how AA is 80% likely to beat 22 preflop in NLHE? Well, 1 in 5 times it doesn't - and that's exactly what happened with our 3-flush back row draw.

3 settings of Ad 8d 10c 2h 4h in lowball 2-7 Pineapple. With street-by-street analysis and scoring based on royalty equity, scoop equity and Fantasyland EV.

Standard OFC: Overvaluing small pairs in front Part II - scoop equity, royalty equity, & 'gamble E.V.'

Standard OFC: Beginner Strategy - A common mistake is overvaluing small pairs in the front row

Pineapple OFC: Taking an alternate line while in Fantasyland to improve your scoop equity.

Standard OFC

Standard OFC: That back row straight came in - but what was the math behind it?

Poker coach and author Derric Haynie talks about the complexities that make Open Face Chinese Poker a game for the future.

Standard OFC: Think twice before you set that back row monster....are you thinking vertically as well as horizontally? It's about overall hand strength.

Standard OFC: You're dealt a sorry first 5. Can a medium pair in front save the day? With front-row royalty equivalency facts that often escape attention.

Standard OFC: A key decision point on the bubble of an Open Face Chinese tournament, analyzed with pictures and percentages.

Standard OFC: 3 to the straight flush - it's sexy, alluring and fun. Should you go for it?

Standard OFC: An exploration of all scoring possibilities in heads up Open Face, with tips on improving PPH (points per hand) average.

Pineapple OFC Articles

3 settings of 4 7 J 3 5. Is setting a gutshot in the back the best way to get value from this lowly-looking starting 5?

Warren Buffet says "risk comes from not knowing what you're doing". And in Pineapple-OFC, that means MATH. We did our homework and crushed this hand with AA on top.

Pineapple OFC: Taking an alternate line while in Fantasyland to improve your scoop equity.

3 settings of Ad 8d 10c 2h 4h in lowball 2-7 Pineapple. With street-by-street analysis and scoring based on royalty equity, scoop equity and Fantasyland EV.

Pineapple OFC: Awww Yeah! Vegas Open Face takes on Open Face Odds in a heads up Pineapple match. Analyzed by both players.


Pineapple OFC: Before carelessly discarding unwanted cards, consider whether you can create an illusion of good draws for your opponent.

Pineapple OFC: Vegas Open Face guest blogs with a blow-by-blow analysis of a live Pineapple Open Face hand.

OFC Theory

Standard OFC Theory: You are dealt 35667, out of position. How to think about setting your hand, not forgetting there's an elephant in the room -- 8's through J's. Introduction to array sorting.

Standard OFC Theory: Strategy analysis of set 1 of 35667, with array sorting, draw ranges, and 6th street probabilities examined.

OFC Theory: Did you know there are 7,462 unique starting hands in Open Face Chinese poker? Ok, great - now rank them.

OFC Theory: The "Cooperators": hands that can be split into complementary draw ranges within the total array of unknown cards.

OFC Theory: The "Cannibals": Cards that merge draw and value ranges, adding to one row while simultaneously subtracting from another.

Guest Post: Derric Haynie of SOLVING OFC and SIX PEPPERS


Open-face Chinese Poker is a truly fascinating game. At first glance it seems like it's just going to be a variant of the boring and solved game: Chinese Poker, but after playing it a few times, you realize it has a depth of complexities, an infinite (for all practical purposes) number of possibilities, and an exciting and engaging game-play experience. Some of the things that are the driving force behind the rise in popularity of Open-face over its predecessor are:

1) It's simple to understand, but not boring and repetitive.
2) It really challenges the players every step of the way.
3) It keeps players constantly discovering better strategies and building their intuition and knowledge base.
4) It has minimal down time and keeps players thinking while it is not their turn - much more so than more traditional forms of poker, where a lot of folding occurs.
5) It has the right amount of luck, or chance, but not so much as to take the (feeling of) control away from the player.
6) Each player feels like they have a chance of winning (both through to the end of most hands and from the beginning of session to the end).


Open-face is very simple to start playing, especially because so many people are already familiar with generic poker hand rankings, but also because some people have played regular Chinese Poker before, in which all the concepts transfer over to the new rule system. But just because it's easy to learn doesn't make it easy to be good at; there are clear differences between novice players and advanced players. It also doesn't help that humans are notoriously bad at risk assessment (Google search it if you don't believe me). It will take most people a while to truly understand the detrimentally low chances of many conditional probability situations that you can leave yourself in, in this game (like having to hit runner-runner pair-pair not to foul). But over time the punishment of these poor decisions becomes noticeable and most players adjust by finding a more cautious play, even if they aren't sure about the exact math behind the situation. Sadly, one of the less desirable side effects of having all the information in front of everyone at the same time is that a novice player can easily learn from their opponents just by playing with them. This is much harder in games like NLHE - No Limit Hold 'Em - where the hidden hole cards prevent absolute knowledge of an opponent's strategy from really ever being obtained (even though with each hand you will always get closer).


The reason this game is a constant challenge is because of math. Whether they are feeling out what the best play is, or making a cold hard calculation, most players are doing some form of math, usually in their head (but not always) throughout the course of the game. With an estimated 1.01E+45 - that's: 1,010,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000, 000,000 - number of different [1] situations, it can be very challenging to figure out exactly what kind of estimation/calculation you need to use. It could be pot odds, conditional probability, enumeration, outs/dead card counting, etc. Even though the math isn't on the surface of the game, it is the driving force behind it, and therefore the driving force behind the challenge.


With so many different situations, it's easy to understand why the learning never stops. When you encounter a slightly different situation, you are forced to think abstractly about what to do in this new situation as compared with some similar ones you have encountered in the past, and then you need to know what the difference is between them and how you can categorize that to improve your decisions in the future. This is the way you build your intuition and knowledge base of the game. Undoubtedly some people will build their intuition the wrong way, maybe by doing math the wrong way, by not caring enough and just playing for the thrill of playing the game, or by falling victim to different forms of the gamblers' fallacy [2] and other math/economic problems humans are notoriously poor at. Building your intuitive foundation correctly will turn out to be extremely important when looking to take your game up to an expert level.


Since no players can fold, and every situation is different, the game keeps you on your toes, constantly calculating and recalculating as more cards come out. You can't just sit back and wait for your turn, you have to be dedicated to the game in its entirety or you will miss information and make mistakes. So naturally the fast-paced nature of the game favors the player who can take many factors into account simultaneously and make great split-second decisions. Undoubtedly there will be a few lulls in the action as a player goes into "the tank" with one of their decisions, but other than that a hand can play out relatively quickly. Every hand you play, you will have made up to 13 important decisions that will help determine whether or not you win or lose.


In games where people are willing to wager money, it's important to have a degree of luck in order to ensure the worse player(s) either a) don't figure out they are the worse players or b) keep coming back for the chance to get lucky and win money. In chess, there is relatively low luck. This means the more skilled player wins nearly every time, and the less skilled player will quickly learn this and quit. With the luck of the draw in Open-face, it can often be very hard to determine who the best player is, and even if you know who it is, there is no reason to assume they are going to win this time, or even over 100 hands, or more. This kind of luck can help drive action in the game and create a sustainable poker environment where the bad players don't lose too fast as to be turned away from the game, but the better players are eventually rewarded for outwitting their opponents. Luck is also very important throughout the play of each hand. It helps provide hope; hope for hitting a flush draw, making Fantasyland, or just simply not getting scooped. This kind of hope, however much of a long-shot it is, provides players with significantly more happiness than they would have say playing a game of chess and being behind by many pieces. So it is the hope of getting lucky that will continue to drive action in Open-face games, and create the discrepancy between understanding good plays and making bad plays.

[1] Notice I said different, not unique. Many different situations will be exactly the same from a strategy perspective. More on this in a later article.

[2] Like when you hit Fantasyland and are all excited, you remember you made a bunch of points and it was fun, so you just go for it all the time regardless of whether that is a good play or not.

For more information on products and articles written by Derric Haynie please visit SOLVING OFC

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