March 6, 2014 -- With Pineapple OFC's exploding popularity, we have been cranking out the
strategy around it. But as the recent L.A. Poker Classic illustrates, standard Open Face is still the tournament
game of choice. So if you haven't played a lot of Open Face and a home game or tournament is in your future, here's a
strategy series just for you -- "Two Cent Tips". We begin with a common early mistake.
OVERVALUING SMALL FRONT ROW PAIRS
One of the easiest ways to foul is to set a pair in front on the deal. It's
not always wrong, but without proper backing it can be disastrous. Here is an example of a risky set:
This is a typical beginner mistake. The intentions are good: a pair can often win the front row, and since
scooping all three rows scores 6 points, why not lock up the front right away?
Now that Pineapple Open Face is becoming a popular variant of the game, there is going to be a lot more attention
paid to Fantasyland. Why is that? It's easier to get there. In Pineapple you receive 17 cards, setting 13 as in the
normal version but discarding 4. You simply have more choices and line options, and more monsters are spawned. Consequently,
you will be in Fantasyland more frequently, as well as playing against opponents who are in Fantasyland more frequently. Simultaneous
trips to Fantasyland will occur surprisingly often (surprising, I suppose, if what you're used to is standard OFC).
The above Fantasyland hand presents an interesting situation. If you scan the cards you will see there is a full house
and a flush available. And, as you would normally be setting a boat in back and flush in the middle during the course
of play when you are not in Fantasyland, it is a natural tendency to auto-set this way:
As 14-card FL goes, this set is barely medium strength, especially against another player in Fantasyland. The back row boat is likely to win against non-FL players,
and the middle row K-high flush is likely good against either FL or non-FL. The royalties from the boat+flush scenario against non-FL could be up to
14 points per opponent (back row boat scoring 6 pts and middle flush 8). However, there is a glaring weakness to the set which is
quite obviously the 7-high front row.
What to do with this collection of ..... well, trash?
It's a very nice thing when you are dealt a monster first five cards in Open Face Chinese Poker. Q/KK/AA, for example,
is a coin flip for Fantasyland, and it's likely you'd wrap up the middle
row with KK, where a single pair or even ace-high is often good. Alternatively, if you set x/Q/KKAA, you still have the same
shot at pairing the Q, and about a 60% chance to make a nut full house in back.
Another good-looking first five cards is 4 to a flush, which has over an 85% shot to get there.
Then, of course, there's your standard luckbox first five - a flush, boat, or quads in the hole - which will
obviously be set in the back row giving you many options for filling out the middle and front.
But like in any other poker game, you are not always dealt the perfect hole cards. So how can you maximize value
and/or control the damage from being way behind at the start of the hand?
I had just woken up from a nap and decided to play a few HU Open Face Chinese hands on one of my Android apps. I was probably on my 3rd hand
when I caught the above starting 5. I set my cards like so:
Looking back at the hand later, I realized I must have been a little foggy from
sleep when I made that set. For one thing, I'm not a big believer in the 'two-flush' getting there. Not that it doesn't happen,
but the odds are against it, and if I was going to try to flush the back row, why not set up the Q2ss instead of
8-high? Furthermore, if I'm not trying to set a flush in back, why not put the 9c with the 87hh and be 3-up-and-down to the
straight? 87 suited obviously can make a straight flush, but hoping to hit with only two to it is, in a word,
delusional. In retrospect, I wouldn't say it was my smartest play.
Practice makes Perfect! Use our beta trainer to practice your Pineapple OFC sets - and see what quality of cards a 14-card
OR 15-card Fantasyland opponent will typically have. Click the links below to jump into either sandbox!