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But from the looks of it, its latest innovation looks to be traveling down an alternate path.
Instead of a dumbed-down version of No Limit Hold’em, Power Up — which entered Alpha testing on Tuesday –adds an extra dimension of gameplay to the core game.
Here’s our take on PokerStars’ first attempt at bridging the gap between eSports and online poker.
This isn’t the first time PokerStars has combined two gaming verticals, the quintessential example being Spin & Go’s.
But unlike Spin & Go’s, which incorporate a slot machine gimmick but are otherwise just a hyper turbo sit & go, Power Up adds what appears to be a deep, card-based mechanic that will impact the decision-making process just as strongly as a player’s initial holdings.
The new game also stands in stark contrast to another recent PokerStars innovation, Beat the Clock.
That game, which uses the Zoom (fast-fold) format as a basis, adds a dynamic where all tournaments end in five minutes, and prizes are distributed according to chip counts.
But it doesn’t evolve the actual game of online poker in any measurable fashion. Power Up just might.
Colleague Steve Ruddock may have summed it up best:
“Power Up might appeal to people who enjoy skill-based games and see Power Up not as a new poker variant, but as a game based on poker.”
At present, the finer details of gameplay are spotty.
What we can glean from the game description and media posted on the PokerStars blog is the following:
There are some open questions as well:
It is unknown if Dreyfus was involved in the creation of Power Up.
While there’s little denying that Power Up will be a more nuanced and complete game than previous PokerStars innovations, the presently-unknown variables will ultimately determine the skill vs. luck ratio.
These variables include:
Personally, I’m most concerned about card balancing, as even professionally developed products such as HearthStone struggle in this area (lower value cards are arguably far stronger, on balance, than higher value card).
One option is to severely limit the number of available cards, but that too, diminishes the skill aspect of the game.
Power Up is in a closed Alpha state, and is currently being tested by a select number of US-based play money players.
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