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Chinese poker takes over the world stage

Poker variant based from the Chinese game pai gow a staple in international tournaments
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China has been a center stage of world sport in recent years, thanks to the staging of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the rising popularity of traditional Chinese sports such as martial arts and dragon boat racing. But one game that originated in China is becoming a fast-rising variant in the competitive card sport of poker. This game is called Chinese poker.

Chinese poker is already a popular card game in many parts of the world, but was only introduced in international poker tournaments only in the last decade of the previous century. The exact origins of Chinese poker have yet to be ascertained, but recent findings show that Emperor Muzong of the Tang dynasty played a domino card game in the second half of the 10th century. It was soon developed into the game called pai gow in the dynasties following the Tangs. This was later transported to the United States in the 19th century by Chinese immigrants, just as poker was being invented by Americans. Pai gow and poker soon merged into what the world knows as Chinese poker.

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A regular poker match becomes ‘Chinese’ if one changes the number of cards per hand, invites more players to compete, and remove the dealer out of the game. Here, two to four players receive a 13-card hand and divide it into three poker hands: two containing five cards known as the middle and the back hands, and one composed of three cards called the front hand. The back must be the highest ranking hand a player must have, while the front must be the lowest. If a player makes three flushes or three straights, he or she is automatically declared the victor. Therefore, the mechanics for Chinese poker is fairly simple: one only needs a basic knowledge of the poker hand hierarchy and sheer luck in order to win a game.

Chinese poker first entered into the world poker scene when it was played at a World Series of Poker (WSOP) $5,000 buy-in event in 1995, but was later dropped two years later. Chinese poker, nevertheless, remained well-liked with professional card players, including internationally-renowned high-rollers Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, and Barry Greenstein. The popularity of the game recently propelled Chinese poker back to the international poker tournaments, being introduced at the $2,500 buy-in match in the 2012 Poker Caribbean Adventure and the $5,000 event in the 2013 Betfair Aussie Millions Poker Championship. Poker pros have also been playing Chinese poker during the sidelines of the WSOP in Las Vegas, echoing the call for the game’s return to the most prestigious poker competition in the world.

The card sport’s popularity among high-rolling poker pros and its inclusion in bigtime poker competitions all signal the emergence of Chinese poker on the world stage. More Western players are now taking interest in the card game, glued into its unpredictability and high stakes that the Chinese and East Asian first loved. It’s just a matter of time to see Chinese poker return to the WSOP!

The above article is a guest post.

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