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PCA 2013: Open-Face Chinese - passing fad or a new standard?

The Rubik's Cube, florescent pop socks, Mr Frosty, microwave meals, pet rocks, online poker, the Atkins diet, fridge magnets, wearing your cap back to front, the mullet. All of these have been described as fads at some point. While some have stood the test of time others have not.

The current craze in the poker world is Open-Face Chinese and a test of its longevity will be carried out tomorrow with the first PCA Open-Face Chinese tournament. The $2,150 re-entry event shuffles up at 1pm tomorrow amid the cut-and-thrust of Day 1A of the PCA Main Event. It is going to be fun and will crown the first ever Open-Face Chinese poker champion. How cool is that? The answer is 'Very' in case you weren't sure. It's got a lot of the high rollers just as excited as they've been about the $100,000 Super High Roller.

Earlier today we tracked down Neil Johnson, PokerStars' Live Poker Specialist, who drew up the rules and structure for this event to tell us about some of the idiosyncrasies that he had to deal with shifting the four-handed game across.

pca_2013_neil_johnson.jpg

Neil Jonnson playing the role of Ban Ki-moon at last year's World Cup of Poker

Tournament overview
- Points-based system
- Tables will be balanced - it is not a shootout
- Unlimited re-entries for the first eight levels
- $2,150 buy-in begins at 1pm tomorrow, 7 January

"It pays out in order from what would be the small blind position. For instance, if I have 10 chips left and I owe Shaun 12 but you and Steve both owe me 20 but have to pay Shaun first then I'm out. You and Steve wouldn't have to pay me anything. You pay in position in full," Johnson told us.

I hadn't even considered paying out versus busting. Not only does it show there's a lot more to planning an inaugural cash-to-tournament transition, but there's also going to be a lot of meta-game issues for the players to balance when short stacks are in play. It should be fascinating to see how problems are ironed out.

"I think there will be a few hiccups because it's the first time that it's been done in a tournament format. It is a very slow game to begin with so we're probably have some clock issues but the nice thing is that a lot of the people playing will know each other. There will be some randoms though. We have 15 or 16 pre-registered when I last looked but, from talking to Shaun (Deeb), we could clear 40. I think it could be more successful than we thought it would," said Johnson.

Bringing a game played for points in a cash environment and squeezing it into a tournament-shaped hole is always going to be tricky. So has Johnson and co been bunking off work at PokerStars Towers to test run the game?

"We haven't done a live test as such. We've talked to a tonne of players, I've done a load of dry runs manually playing it through and also used the app to see how quickly chips would move and the impacts that would have on stack sizes as we go through the tournament," said Johnson, relishing the bread and butter of his job.

So what other considerations did he need to think of that would have left most of us scratching our heads?

Johnson on... exposing cards
"If players expose their cards out of turn it will be a one point penalty to all players at the table. If a player isn't there for their hand, which would normally be a dead hand in a regular tournament, they will have to pay a three point penalty to all players (and their hand will be dead)."

Johnson on... dead hands
"If you get up and walk away when there are decisions to still be made on your hand it will be considered a fouled hand and you will have to pay the maximum to the table plus royalties. The only exception is hands where there are no decision remaining, such as when your hand is already fouled or your have filled a flush and a straight and you have three cards at the top to come."
Shot clock?

Johnson on... exposing cards
"The dealers will not be instructed to hurry the action but we will encourage the players to self-regulate. It will be a quicker clock though. It's not going to be 60 seconds, I need to check with Mike (Ward, tournament director) but I think it's more like 20 or 15 seconds. If you haven't placed your card by zero then your hand will be dead and it will be a maximum foul. No-one will risk that."

If you want to read the rules of Open-Face then click through to this page here. And if you haven't read Jason Mercier's blog about Open-Face Chinese then you really should read Finding Fantasyland.

Click through to see live coverage of the $100,000 Super High Roller. Follow the @PokerStarsBlog Twitter account to keep up to date wherever you are.

is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.

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