Traditional Chinese poker: all you need to know about it
Chinese poker is a card game that combines elements of poker and mahjong, which was originally created in the early 1900s by Euchre players who were learning mahjong. It isn’t clear whether Chinese poker originated in America or China, but it has evolved into one of 8the fastest-growing games in America over the last decade.
The game is frequently abbreviated to “Chinese” and is also referred to as “poker mahjong,” since the overall goal of the game is to obtain certain poker hands. The objective for each hand played in Chinese Poker is either to win by having a better hand than your opponent, or score points more quickly by building a large point-scoring hand and forcing your opponent to discard.
Chinese poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and four players.
Standard poker rankings apply, with aces always high; the ace of hearts (also called the “Ya” card) is considered to be highest, followed by the ace of spades (the “Mo” card), then the ace of clubs (the “Tang” card) and finally the ace of diamonds (the “Wa” card).
All four players are dealt a total of thirteen cards, which they arrange into a five-by-two grid on their individual boards. Its also called pai gow poker and the cards in it can be arranged and rearranged by each player at any time. The remaining eleven cards form the “hand,” and this deck is held behind the meld tableau, out of view of other players.
At the start of a hand, each player’s goal is to make two separate hands: A poker hand (also called a “high hand”) and a point-scoring hand.
A player can have at most one poker hand, but may have up to four scoring hands.
If the “Ya” card is not in the meld tableau, this cannot be used as a melded pair since it is both an ace and a wild card (it can represent any other card). Likewise, if the “Wa” card is not in the meld tableau, this cannot be used as a melded pair since it is both an ace and a wild card (it can represent any other card).
A player’s high hand consists of five cards: four face up (laid out above the meld tableau) and one face down (hidden in the player’s hand). The four face-up cards must all be of the same rank, with the fifth card being a different suit.
The point-scoring hand consists of 13 cards: Twelve face up and one face down. The 12 face-up cards must have at least two of the following properties:
Combinations of three or more cards cannot be used to make a point-scoring hand.
The game starts with an ante (a predetermined wager that must be made by all players), after which each player is dealt thirteen cards, face down. These cards are arranged into a 5 x 2 grid on the players’ individual boards.
The dealer button rotates clockwise with each hand and is a marker indicating where the betting will start. In the first round of betting, players may either check (not bet) or open with a raise any amount up to all of their chips. The next player must either match that raise or fold, losing their ante. If the first player checked, then the next player is free to raise any amount up to all of their chips.
Each subsequent round of betting continues in this manner, with players either calling (matching) a bet, folding, or raising. There are no limits on how much can be raised in any given round of betting; players may raise with any amount of chips they wish (or none at all).
The game continues like this until there are only two players left in the hand – one is the dealer and the other is not. When that happens, both players turn their hidden cards face up; whoever has the better hand wins.