Table Talk: When Will The Open Face Chinese Fad End?

trendI started with fighting words today, didn’t I? Let’s all just calm down and have a soothing cup of tea. It’s windy and chilly here in Vegas and I need some warmth. Besides, I’m getting low on cognac so I’m saving it for later.

One item that stood out to me from the past week’s news was this article about alleged cheating involving a popular Open Face Chinese mobile app. When the allegations come from Barry Greenstein, many players take note, as do I.

Let’s start with my poker truth. I don’t play much poker, and I certainly don’t even entertain the idea of mixed games. I work very hard in my career and other aspects of my life and choose not to spend time learning every new poker game – Badugi, Baduci, etc. – that intrigues many poker players. I understand the interest for people for whom poker is a passion, though the constant need to change the game and master each new variation seems a bit much. But to each their own.

Then there was Chinese Poker, which is not a new variation but something that many young players picked up over the last few years. That requires 13 cards per player, who turns that into two five-card hands and one three-card hand with some stipulations of strong versus weak hands. Ah, a challenge for the new generation of poker players. Instead of prop betting on whom can tread water the longest in shark-infested ocean waters, they chose to play Chinese poker. I supported that.

Then came Open Face Chinese Poker. Players became obsessed, tweeting and blogging about the new amazing game. The rules are different, in that players are dealt five cards face up, which they set, and subsequent cards are dealt one at a time around the table. There are other rules that I won’t get into here. Suffice it to say, it became the new poker fad. From high stakes players competing for $100 or more per point to those playing for $1 per point, it was all the rage. It still is.

It even made its way to the 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure as one of the events offered at the series. And it will be offered at the 2013 WSOP, though not as a bracelet event but to be considered for one in the future.

Barry Greenstein wasn’t immune to it, as he was playing on an iOS app, as many poker players do. After becoming suspicious of a very winning player, he had his computer-programming nephew investigate, and he determined that the app was designed in a way that made cheating possible. While Greenstein declined to name the program used, it is likely one that many others use as well.

And yet players continue to compete. Phil Hellmuth regularly tweets about big OFC losses, and numerous other players are consumed by it. At what point will they begin to care that there may be cheating? Most likely, it won’t interfere with their fun until the cheating becomes rampant. Remember the UB scandal? Once it was made public by a few players who documented their suspicions, everyone jumped on board with stories of their own. It may only be a matter of time before enough players are scammed to declare OFC an unsafe game without proper licensing and regulation.

I may be taking this too far. In fact, OFC is more likely to be replaced by another game before the situation gets out of hand.

Regardless, there are warnings. Greenstein’s public warning is the most significant at this point, and some players are taking heed. There may not be cheating on every OFC app, but isn’t it better to be safe than entertained? Shouldn’t safety come before a gambling fix?

I’m aware that these are not my problems, as I admittedly don’t play. I’ve merely been in the poker world long enough, reporting on scandals and unfairness, to be wary of a game that is so easily manipulated. I wish luck to my friends who continue to play on mobile apps.

Let me know when the next game takes over. Will it be Deuce-to-Seven Open Face Limit Chinese? Open Face Chinese Hi/Lo 8 or Better? Or is there a Macau Poker waiting to emerge from the high stakes rooms of the casinos frequented by the likes of Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan? I suppose I’ll hear about it on Twitter when it happens.

Now that I’m all riled up about OFC, I’ll be finishing this tea and opening the bottle of cognac now. Confusing card games and cheating allegations require something fairly strong.