Fantasyland in Open Face Chinese Poker is a variation in which you are rewarded for making a qualifying hand that has a pair of queens or better up top. If you meet the qualifications, you then get to set your next hand after seeing all of your cards, giving you a huge advantage. This variation has caught on and is being played by more and more of the Open Face Chinese community. You can play OFC using this mobile app.
I’m actually not a huge fan of Fantasyland, mainly because I think it causes many players to play better and develop strategies that cause them to place high cards in the top where they would otherwise just kill their hand with low cards.
Some players will obviously go to an extreme and foul trying to make a big pair up top, but these players generally fall into the category of those who are unlikely to get very good at the game anyway. For players who will advance and improve, I have seen Fantasyland games cause them to quickly see the value in builds that focus on getting pairs and big cards into their middle and top hands.
Again, there are different strategies for different situations, but often going for a bigger hand on the bottom is more intuitive. Novice players can miss out on the chance to develop their top and middle hands when the opportunity presents itself.
With big cards and pairs, I almost always forego going for a straight and will often pass on a flush opportunity (even in non-Fantasyland games) in order to build hands that can develop to where I can get a big pair up top. If done without taking on a ton of risk, your worst case scenario often includes a hand with big cards in the middle and top, which usually gives you the chance to win at least one of those lines even if your hand doesn’t come together as you had hoped.
Two pair on the bottom, a big pair in the middle, and a draw at a big pair up top is a strong hand. If you get to where you have T-T-8-8 on the bottom, A-A in the middle, and K-Q on top, you have a huge hand. Even with a couple off-cards thrown in your bottom and middle hands, you still have a hand that can easily scoop and is very unlikely to get scooped. And more importantly, you are drawing very live to a big royalty worth seven or eight extra points.
Many hands don’t allow you the opportunity to build for big pairs up top. If you are dealt nine-high as your starting hand, it can be very difficult to form your hand in a way that pairs are possible. It is probably not best to do so, but when you have big cards early on, it can pay to get some of them into your top and middle hands and give yourself a shot at the big pairs up top, especially if you are playing Fantasyland and often even when you are not.
If you aren’t playing Fantasyland yet and have decent games going, don’t rush to add it in, as it can speed up the progression of your opponents’ games.
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Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com.