If it ain't broke, don't fix it! That's one of those old sayings that many inventors and Silicon Valley programmers often ignore. Because let's be honest… not all innovations are rooted in necessity. Sometimes tweaking some already good can make it even better. In this instance, PokerStars was looking to tweak classic Texas Hold'em. Somewhere at PokerStars HQ, they have been working on their latest Frankenstein. This new innovation is called Power Up.
In the last couple of years, PokerStars tried to look outside of the box to boost revenue. Once they added almost every variant of poker, they focused on tweaking tournaments. As a result, we got Spin&Go and Beat the Clock. Those are addictive and fun, but also generate a ton of rake. But innovation has been the prime directive.
According to a blog post by Severin Rasset, “These projects challenge some of the assumptions around poker and provide a completely new experience for both existing and new players. We want to maintain engagement with our current players and reactivate our lapsed player base, by identifying and tapping into our player's current interests as well as predicting future trends and develop product to suit.”
Looks like PokerStars is seeking inspiration outside of traditional hold'em and flirted with the esports/video game genre. Power Up is hold'em at its core, but there are other elements.
Severin Rasset explained, “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.”
There are specialty power cards that held the player and spice up the game. I don't know exactly how one acquires these special “powers” or power card, but some of them sound super cool.
It's really almost like a flashback from those drunken and stoned kitchen table games we played in college with random wild cards and outrageous tweaks in the rules. In that instance, this could be something that interjects some more fun and looseness into a game that has become increasingly serious.
Some of the powers include… Clone, Disintegrate, EMP, Engineer, Intel, Reload, Scanner, Upgrade, and X-Ray.
The X-Ray power allows you to see one hole card from each opponent. The Upgrade allows you to draw a third hole card (then discard one). The Scanner lets you view the top two cards in the deck. Reload allows you to redraw selected hole cards. Intel is sort of like rabbit hunting and allows you peek at the deck's next top card. The Engineer power allows a player to choose the deck's next card from three options. EMP prevents powers on a particular street (blocking your opponents' power). The Disintegrate destroys a specific board card and I could see this being nicknamed the flush killer. And the Clone power allows you to copy that last power card.
PokerStars' Power Up reminds me a tweaked and jacked-up version of Hold'em X. Alex Dreyfus, the mastermind behind the Global Poker League, introduced Hold'em X last year. Hold'em X which is an esports variant of the basic Texas Hold'em game, featuring specialty cards that affect the action.
Power Up by PokerStars is still in alpha testing, but here's a sneak preview…