How To Play Chinese Poker

Posted September 15, 2009 by Andrew in Articles

Chinese PokerIt seems that there is an emerging (though quite not prominent yet) poker variant in existence today. According to Nicole Gordon of PokerNews, well known names in poker have shown quite a propensity for this type of poker. What am I talking about? Chinese poker, or 13 Card poker as it is also known, seems to be catching poker greats in its lure. Stories are rampant wherein poker greats play the main role. Each story varies but the end result is the same – poker players love 13 card poker and spending a lot of money on it.

So what is 13 card poker? Nicole Gordon’s column provided a good read about this. She wrote:

Chinese poker can be played with two to four players and is played for “points,” with each point worth a set amount of money. A low-stakes game between friends might be played for $1 or $5/point, while a side game at the World Series of Poker might run more in the $100-$300 point range. No chips are needed, only a pencil and paper to keep score. Each player is dealt 13 cards face down which they will need to arrange into three different poker hands– two five-card hands and one three-card hand. These are called the back, middle and front hands. The back hand must be the highest-ranking hand of the three, while the middle hand must be of a lower rank than the back hand but higher than the front hand. Hands are ranked like in any other poker game from a royal flush all the way down to high cards. The exception is that in the front (three-card) hand, straights and flushes do not count.

What is the main objective of Chinese poker? It has its similarities to say, Texas Hold ‘em in that you have to beat the other players around the table. However, there are differences:

A player’s objective in Chinese poker is to set each of their three hands in a way that will beat the other players’ corresponding hands. Once everyone has arranged their cards, each player’s three hands are set face down on the table in front of them with the back hand closest to the player, the middle hand in front of the back hand and the front hand up top. Hands are now turned face up, with each player comparing their three hands to each of the other players’ three hands. Back hands are compared to back hands, middle to middle and front to front.

How about scoring? When I read Gordon’s column, my first reaction was “What, no chips?” I was a bit dismayed as the sound of clicking chips is one of my favorite sounds! Anyhow, here’s how they score:

Points are awarded depending on how many of the other players’ hands you outrank. The most common system of scoring in Chinese is called “2-4 scoring.” which boils down to two rules– (1) If a player wins two of three hands over another player, they win two points and (2) if a player wins all three hands over another player (a “scoop”), they win four points. Scoring in Chinese poker may seem difficult at first, but it becomes very mechanical with a little experience.

About the Author


Andrew Keyes is a poker enthusiast, a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant. You can visit to get poker articles along with winning poker tips, tested poker strategies, the latest poker news, free poker tools, cool poker resources, and more! Visit today and you can download some of the best poker bots for automating your poker play!