If you follow my Twitter feed or even if you just read the PokerStarsBlog regularly, you know I've become obsessed with Open-Face Chinese Poker. At EPT Sanremo I played for 34 hours straight, then slept for 9 hours, then played for another 20 hours.
I'm not sure there's anyone in the world that is as hooked as I am on this game right now. Shaun Deeb might be up there. He was part of that 34-hour marathon in Italy and he also flew down to Florida in October just so we could play some more. We both find the game to be so much fun for a number of reasons.
For one, it's a relaxing game. Any time that you're playing a game in which you have to decide how much to bet, there's a lot more pressure. For this game, there's no pressure because there's no betting - but there's also still a ton of decision-making throughout the hand. You can make so many different decisions to change the way you're going to play your hand.
Also, because the game is still new, there's not any set strategy yet. No one's "solved" the game. That makes it more fun than some other poker variants where hands are often played in a standard fashion.
There are also a lot of variables in Open-Face. For example, if you're playing in a four-handed game, a lot of times you're going to look at your hand and what you're trying to make and also what the other players' hands are and what they're trying to make. If you lose two out of three spots to another player, you lose one point. But if you lose all three spots you lose six points. That's a massive difference.
It means that sometimes you may be forced to gamble because you're going to lose against everybody, which means losing six points - plus royalties - to each opponent. Sometimes you might be hoping to win just one spot, maybe with a strong ace-high up top which may be good against everyone, and then you only lose three points instead of losing 18.
One of the things that's difficult when you first start playing Open-Face Chinese Poker, especially if you've played regular Chinese Poker, is that the hand values are strange. In regular Chinese Poker, you might have a straight in the back, two pair in the middle, and queens up top.
That hand would be massive in Open-Face. In Open-Face a lot of times you're going to have maybe a pair in the back, a pair in the middle and king-high up top. So I would say learning the hand values is difficult at first.
My advice to new players is to find a friend to play hands with. The more hands you play, the better you'll feel about your understanding of the game. It definitely takes some practice, like any form of poker, to get comfortable at it.