PokerStars have become the first online poker room to move towards the esports genre by releasing a real money version of their brand new game Power Up.
My son loves the game Fallout.
He used to sit there for hours, killing all manner of things while exploring the incredibly vast game space that would keep him occupied for the next couple of years.
In the future, things will be different; he will wear a virtual reality (VR) headset, he will exchange the gaming controller for a plastic weapon and will belt himself into a running machine, so he can walk or run around the vast universe while killing all manner of things from inside the game.
What hope does online poker have, competing with that?
PokerStars aren’t sitting around to find out. They are doing something about it. Today, the largest online poker room this side of the marble mausoleum that keeps my Nan’s ashes has released a real money version of a brand new game called Power Up.
Reading through the hefty array of material that’s available on the new game, it’s obvious that PokerStars are very keen to press home the point that the core of Power Up is poker.
And this is important.
One of the key criteria in game design is creating something that has the power to create a community, and therefore, word of mouth marketing. Poker is excellent at this, so there is no need to try to find a new audience when you already command the largest audience in such an exciting business.
The game is a three-handed Sit n Go with a starting start of 2,500 and blinds increasing every seven hands. The primary difference with Power Up is the addition of three Power-Up cards that give you additional options that you wouldn’t have in a standard game of Texas No-Limit Hold’em poker.
Each player begins with three Power Up cards chosen by random. Players also start with ten energy points. You need a certain amount of energy to play the cards, and energy replenishes by +2 every hand up to a maximum energy output of 15.
The inclusion of the Power Up cards is brilliant. Not only will the esports community fall in love with the game, but they also make the game of poker more skilful, a complete 360 for a company that has spent the past few years trying to remove the skill from their games to attract more recreational players.
Here are those Power Up cards:
Opponents without a revealed hole card must reveal one at random.
Peek at the next two deck cards; you may choose to discard them.
Peek at the deck’s top card for the rest of the hand.
Receive a copy of the last power played this hand excluding Clone
Destroy a board card dealt this betting round.
Draw a third hole card, then discard one.
Redraw one or both of your hole cards.
Choose the deck’s next card from three revealed options and then discard the rest.
No further powers can be played during this betting round.
Is Power Up The Next Best Thing?
Has PokerStars created something that it hopes people will want or has it created something based on what people want?
Only time will tell.
The real money games are available on the .eu client, with the .com and .UK clients following in the next few days. Available buy-ins are $1, $3, $7, $15.
There is also a backstory to the game.
It’s set in the year 2047, in a world called Neutrino.
I ripped this explanation from the PokerStars blog.
“Clean and renewable energy abounds, bioengineers have eliminated world hunger, and the world remains connected at all times through Continuous Presence. However human nature demands competition which is satisfied through intellectual sport. The biggest of all of these is Power Up. Key to its success and dominance are the nine powers, which require new strategies and approaches to be learnt to master the tactics for success.”
As I am in the US and the government believes if I play Power Up I might go slightly insane and gamble away my house, I haven’t played the game yet. I am hoping when I do that the Neutrino backstory makes sense because off the bat I am struggling to connect the dots.
You also don’t use your avatar. Instead, you adopt as one of 14 different characters, but again, I don’t understand what point that serves. In many ways, it reminds me of Tekken where to me the backstory had no impact on my enjoyment of the game. Time will tell.
Here is Chris Moneymaker talking about the game.
And here are some views from a bunch of PokerStars Team Pros.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE POWER?
Igor Kurganov – “Intel is my favourite power. Having certain information, or as certain as it gets in Power Up, is a great advantage – more so than getting to shuffle cards.”
Jeff Gross – “Upgrade. Being able to obtain an extra card and then combine two of the three is a very nice advantage to have. Having a quality, connected starting hand, sets you up for a nice opportunity in the hand!”
Jason Mercier – “X-Ray, viewing one card of all of your opponent’s seems like a huge advantage and should make it very easy to make decisions throughout the hand.”
Felipe Ramos – “First of all, I love all the powers! But, my favourite one is Clone! Imagine if you could clone anything in your life… you can in this game!”
WHICH POWER UP AVATAR MOST RESEMBLES YOU?
Kurganov – “Charlotte Nagy, I relate to a focus on pattern recognition up to some obsessiveness about patterns. The weakness of being cautious with a short stack makes some sense for a strong tournament player too.”
Gross – “Sora Hamada. His strengths suit mine, having a good memory and reading ability – also weaknesses being unfocused with so much going on!”
Mercier – “I’m most similar to Sora Hamada. We have the same playing style, my memory is very strong, but my attention span can sometimes be weak too. Also he has facial hair.”
Ramos – “Miles Legend! Basically because of his theatrical abilities at the table. Just like me!”
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH THE POWER UP LAUNCH?
Kurganov – “Power Up will greatly add to the poker dynamic and I am especially looking forward to rotating sets of powers as they will keep strategies constantly changing. In a time when professionals started playing more similarly than they used to, the addition of new dynamics will rock that boat and create a lot of entertainment.”
Gross – “I am looking most forward to a new format of poker that is completely unique. This is a very cool idea and I look forward to learning a new game with some fun twists. It will take a bit to learn but I really am excited to try this out with friends!”
Mercier – “I’m looking forward to trying a new form of poker. I’m always interested in new variants and trying to figure out optimal strategy and challenge myself to become even better.”
Ramos – “What I love from Power Up is that now I can battle for fun and I can’t wait to invite my friends that love e-Games to try Power Up too!”
As I said, I’m not sure if the game will become a success or not. But I do know that the online poker operators had to do something. Esports is on a roll right now, and it’s difficult to see why teenagers will want to play online poker with so many more immersive experiences in the market.
PokerStars decided to become the pioneer.
Now watch everyone else follow.