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)?
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).
A DAY TO LEARN, A LIFETIME TO MASTER
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 FUN IS IN THE CHALLENGE
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  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.
LEARNING IS FUN
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  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.
LUCK VS. SKILL
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
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.
 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.
 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