Pokerstars Power Up Poker
New Poker Gaming – Coming Soon
If you’re an avid poker player it’s likely that the burst of news reports seen In February 2017 around Pokerstars new version of poker – Pokerstars Power up – won’t have bypassed you.
And if you’re a poker newbie this may be your first exposure to Pokerstars planned industry-shaker.
Either way, the game has every potential for becoming as big as traditional poker itself, and for a multitude of reasons…….
Information is gradually becoming more widely available, as you might expect from a game that’s still in trial phase and which Pokerstars will have had a deep interest in maintaining some mystery around. At least until they were sure they had a perfect product to unleash.
History is littered with product releases that went out too early, with disillusionment following when there were problems that could have been prevented with adequate pre-release testing and correctional development. Pokerstars seem determined that this won’t happen with their new industry game-changer!
On this page we’ll take a look at exactly what is known about the game, and assuming Power Up Poker does make it to a global stage I’ll be keeping this page up to date to cover every relevant aspect of Pokerstars offering.
What Is Pokerstars Power Up Poker?
In an attempt to consolidate and improve their position as the leading poker room, Pokerstars have released a number of innovative games in recent times like Spin N Go, Zoom, and Beat The Clock. In some cases, they’ve taken the traditional gameplay we all know and turned it into something fresh and exciting, with new players who wouldn’t have got involved now coming to the poker tables.
But in such a competitive industry, no one can rest on their laurels. ‘Stars will recognise that as much as anyone, and it looks like they’ve picked up the baton and are running full pelt into poker’s future with their proposed Power Up game.
So what exactly is it?
Well, we know what power up poker is right? – a version of the great game where power up cards can be used by players to influence – or change – the way that hands might be played out in the ‘normal’ game.
From what’s known so far, Pokerstars version is exactly that….
Games of Texas Holdem with power up features activated by special cards which can influence the outcome of hands.
The original statement made back in early 2017 by PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations – Severin Rasset- stated…..
Today, the latest of our innovations, PokerStars Power Up entered Alpha testing. It’s a combination of traditional enjoyable No Limit Hold’em injected with powers that give players the ability to influence how hands play out and change up game play in a variety of ways with boards, cards and chips. This project introduces a lot of new features to poker that we have built from scratch and it’s taken a lot of time and effort to get
to this stage in the game’s life. We balanced the game for six months in a sandbox environment with a group of very high volume experienced poker players and gamers to attempt to break the game in every possible way. We integrated a new engine within our software, created animations and powers, and put a lot of time and thought into how poker players will have fun with the game.
As an introduction this was fascinating stuff, and it seemed that Pokerstars had already come a long way since reportedly kicking off development of the game in 2014.
Interestitingly it was around that time that Esports began to take off, and this has clearly had an influence on how gameplay has been developed. The result is a more of an experience than a game, where you as a player can become immersed in a virtual world known as the Neutrino. Each player plays a part in this virtual world based on their history.
July – August 2017 – Pokerstars Power Up Alpha Tests & Next Steps
In July of 2017 the completion of the initial alpha test phase was announced on the Pokerstars blog, with Severin Rassett writing that ”more than 150,000 games played by more than 90,000 unique players” took place in that trial. The game had appeared totally unexpectedly on the main Pokerstars site, allbeit only visible to players from specific countries.
The results of this clearly provided the poker giant with a firm footing on which to continue development, resulting in another appearance on the main website towards the end of August. This latest release has been a little less secretive than the first, with Pokerstars themselves demonstrating the gameplay in a live presentation in Barcelona.
How To Play
So we know the game is essentially played following basic traditional Holdem rules. Where the fun and complexity kicks in is in how the power up aspects are introduced.
The Power Up Cards
The game is currently based around 9 different power up cards:
Clone – replicates the last power up played in a hand (cost – 2 energy points)
EMP – disallow any players from playing power ups in this hand (cost – 3 energy points)
Intel – Get to see the top card in the deck for the rest of the hand
Engineer – Engineer the hand by choosing the next card from various options (cost – 5 energy points)
Disintegrate – Destroy/remove a board card turned in the hand (and assume replace with a new one) (cost – 4 energy points)
Scanner – Get to see the top 2 cards in the deck and choose whether to discard them (cost – 4 energy points)
Reload – Redraw specific hole cards (cost – 5 energy points)
X-Ray – Make all opponents show one of their hole cards (cost – 2 energy points)
Upgrade – Draw a 3rd hole card then choose which one to discard (cost – 5 energy points)
Power Up is played in a similar way to a normal Holdem tournament, with each player dealt two starting cards from a standard deck and beginning with an equal number of chips (2500). The dealer is chosen randomly at the outset with each player taking turns to be responsible for dealing subsequently. Blinds increase every seven hands.
In addition to the standard two starting cards, each player also receives powers in the form of three power cards.
Playing The Power Cards
These power cards belong to the player until used.
Powers are used by playing the card when it’s the players turn before the standard poker action (ie, fold, raise etc) and can only be used at that stage of play.
Any player not holding the maximum number of power cards allowed will receive a new one at the start of the next hand.
Multiple powers can be used at the same time, and a player should never have two powers the same (except where the Clone is used to generate a duplicate).
Using a power card also uses up an energy allocation – displayed as a yellow number next to the players avatar. All players start with the same energy allocation of 10 power points. Different cards use up different amounts of energy, and this energy is replenished at small amounts after each hand (2 points at a time and allowing a player to have up to 20 as a maximum).
Any player with no energy remaining cannot use any more power cards until sufficient energy levels are replenished.
At any point where a player goes all-in, any displayed cards already on the board become locked and can’t be affected by the play of any more powers.
Further detail can be found on the FAQ page.
Number Of Players
In each game there can be a maximum of three players, a number which was reached during testing phases which showed that heads up games might be too intense, and more than three participants made the play too slow.
The point of avatars is a little difficult to understand given that initially there doesn’t seem to be any point.
Your choice of avatar is designed so that it gives you no unfair advantage, ie one avatar is no ‘better’ than another as far as winning or losing a hand is concerned.
If you look on the game as an experience though, you can see that having an avatar that has a life history – and might make choices based on that history – could encourage you to play in a way that would suit that persona.
It’s a fairly clever idea from Pokerstars – if that’s what they intended – although at this point we’ll need to see how the idea develops.
Full details of how to play can be found on the tutorial pages where you’ll find an easy to follow visual guide.
With a clearly impressive design team behind it, you won’t be surprised to find that Pokerstars Power Up offers some impressive visual entertainment. Graphics are clean and crisp, as you’d expect from a video game. They’re fun too, with examples like a bolt of lightning ‘burning’ used power cards bringing something extra to the gaming.
Where To Play
Clearly you can only play with Pokerstars itself, and navigation to the PowerUp section will depend on what country you’re based in.
For UK players there is a dedicated PowerUp section on Pokerstars.UK.
Once we get a full release, you’ll find details here of exactly where to go to start playing on the Pokerstars website for each country.
Is It Legal
Any regular poker player will know about the huge debate that’s raged for many years over the legality of traditional poker, particularly in the US. There’s no problem in some other parts of the world of course with the UK being a prime example, but any US players are currently limited to playing legally either in a small set of US states (and only for play within those state borders) or at one of the sweepstake style social gaming sites like Global Poker.
So where does PowerUp Poker fit into the legal framework?
Well clearly it’s still poker, and as such is subject to current legal rules.
But much of the argument around whether poker can become fully regulated everywhere is based on the debate around whether it’s a game of skill or chance. The latter will always place it into the bracket of gambling, adding fuel to the argument against its legality in the jurisdictions where it’s currently still not legal.
The problem (or opportunity) for Power Up then is going to become clearer as views develop on the skill level that’s really needed to play effectively.
Power Up Poker In The Regulated US States
You might be thinking introduction of Power Up into those US states where online poker is legal is a given, but it’s not quite that straightforward.
That’s partly because gaming laws in some jurisdictions dictate that a players 2 hole cards must always be private, and in the Power Up version there could be instances where they’re revealed. In addition the nature of the game itself – with ability to use power cards to influence hands – may lead to some lengthy investigations by regulatory bodies before they become fully comfortable with what’s going on.
Clearly it’s very early to be talking about successful playing strategies. Those are going to develop over time.
What is obvious though is that to be successful at power up poker is going to need a mix of skills. Definitely a firm grasp of standard poker strategies, but bundled up with some experience of playing power up type games like Hearthstone or Magic The Gathering and a good handle on what the power up cards will do and in which circumstances to play them.
There are sure to be some ways in which knowledgeable players can develop successful power up strategies that will put them at an advantage. Imagine being able to change a hand in which you’re clearly the underdog to make you the favourite and you’ll see the point.
Note though that Pokerstars appear to have thought this through at an early stage, seemingly with the intent of not allowing the game to be overly dominated by clued up players in the way that traditional poker has become.
In particular there has been some focus on avoiding making any power cards be too powerful, and clearly the ‘no power cards when someone is all-in’ rule is designed with this in mind.
Various elements of the game could also be changed at any point which could change the startegies needed to be successful, for example the number of power cards allotted, random additional allocations etc.
One strategy that’s clearly going to be useful to appreciate is how to use Power Ups in combination, while another obvious strategy will be to lock down the board so no other powers can be used. In addition there needs to be some clever focus on when to buy new powers, and when to sit tight and store up your energy levels. There’s a balance to be achieved in this for best results.
Some of the pros and cons will be seen differently by different types of players – types which can broadly be broken down into three groups.
For the more experienced players there’s a likelihood that the majority might view the game with certain amount of disdain. In fact you’ll already find threads on various popular poker forums expressing this view, and plenty of them.
Given the intention is to bring in fresh players who may either never have played before, or have played but dropped away, there is clearly a chance for more seasoned players to hold an advantage – especially from the perspective of poker strategy itself. Experienced players may also note that Power Up can bring in new recreational players to traditional poker – potentially ‘fixing’ a problem that’s been brewing over recent years (ie the lack of new players coming in to the game).
The biggest negative for the pros though is the difficulty they’ll face in making easy profit. The game has been designed to prevent that situation from happening, though you won’t be surprised to find that some players work out a way round it.
All in all, the focus of Power Up on the fun side of gaming may keep many pros and the more experienced poker players away.
Casual Poker Players
This group may well be the ones who are more likely to find the game attractive. It takes away the probability of getting cleaned out quickly by the sharks, and the endless variation on how hands can be played out offer a whole new focus on a different type of skill while still requiring good standard strategic poker play.
It also meets the need for faster games with little waiting around and plenty of action. Most games can be done and dusted within around 10 minutes, and players are selected from a pool at random rather than them having to select a table and wait. By being limited to three players per game this ensures that everyone can get some quick poker action.
It’s hard to see any real negatives for casual players.
New Poker Players
For new poker players there are a whole bunch of positives and again very few obvious negatives.
The positives come from the game itself – it’s been designed with this group in mind. They can play without the fear of getting overwhelmed by better poker players, gain an introduction to poker in an enjoyable environment which places them on a more level playing field, and get some great gameplay and graphics thrown in too.
They’ll definitely find the overall concept challenging, and it may offer those players a route into traditional poker which they’d never have taken. Pokerstars of course have various other game types available, some of which were designed to create better opportunities for recreational players just the same as Power Up does.
One negative for all potential players (at the outset anyway) is that real money games aren’t yet available. The positive here of course is there’s an opportunity to get your head around the gameplay with free gaming and be in a better position when the real money games do come along.
We’ve mentioned the game is just out of alpha trial. This was originally open to a hand-picked group of US players testing out the game in closed environments, and throughout July and August of 2017 was opened up to a wider player community for further testing.
If all goes well with any enhancements and tweaks noted, the future will see a beta trial followed by full release. What that looks like at this stage is hard to tell, but early indications are that the games will offer options of being play money or real money based. Plus they should be fully optimised for mobile gaming too.
In the longer term there has to be potential for different versions, maybe with different numbers of power cards, extra power card types, or any other combination.
And – as we covered on the home page – once the final product is released there has to be a big possibility that other operators will want some of the action. Pokerstars Power Up could be the first of a long line – a line which will lead the same way that traditional poker has and ended up with schools, video learning opportunities, books, and of course thousands of websites all covering the subject in a myriad of ways.
With interest in Esports growing, it also seems likely that Power Up can become a spectator sport, with the chance of visually appealing video type game play seemingly assured.
At a time when interest in poker appears to be on the wane, something new is definitely needed if the game is to continue to attract new fans. Arguably the bundle of new poker varieties we’ve seen in recent years have gone some way to maintaining the game’s popularity, although there’s some debate on whether those have been designed really just to attract new recreational players perhaps at the expense of keeping seasoned players engaged.
There’s an argument too that it’s precisely for that reason – that the experienced players have too much in hand over less experienced opponents – that poker is suffering.
From early reports and based on the little we know, there does seem a strong chance that Pokerstars could have a hit on their hands when the finished Power Up article sees the light of day. The next few months should see more information come to light that will hopefully confirm these early signs.