At long last, PokerStars is ready to unleash its experimental Power Up Poker variant on the general public.
Now scheduled to release in the fourth quarter of 2017 PokerStars hosted a demo of the game during this week's PSC Barcelona.
PokerStars is hoping the new game will shake up a stagnant poker meta and potentially reverse some of the decline in traditional poker over the last few years.
The game will hopefully attract new players and give existing players a reason to play again.
Enter the Supercharger
Poker players often play other video games in their spare time so it seems natural to create a game that brings poker closer to eSports.
For years video games like League of Legends or Hearthstone have had one component that poker has never been able to offer: Thematic flavor.
PokerStars is trying to change that with Power Up and even hired several writers to create an in-game universe for the game.
Power Up has its own background story and players will choose from an array of avatars that all have their own individual features and story.
To improve animation the new game uses a special graphic engine that is also used in other games. Supernova players were invited to test the first version of the game to find out weaknesses and/or bugs.
“We wanted fun to be the main focus and move away from the hoodies and sunglasses type of game," said PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations, Severin Rasset.
“The concept was to add new powers and features to poker without destroying the natural balance.”
What’s New About Power Up?
In Power Up you’ll sit at a 3-max table -- at least for now. You’ll get cards like a standard game of poker but you’ll also receive special power up abilities.
You start with three different powers out of a total of nine. These powers include things like:
Reload – exchange one of your hole cards
X-Ray – lets you see one of your opponent’s hole cards
Scanner – shows you the first two cards of the deck
Upgrade – gives you a third hole card and lets you discard one
Disintegrate – lets you destroy one community card
All the powers cost you energy units, of which you only have a limited number, so you can’t just keep on using your special powers. Players will be able to generate some of their energy with every hand played.
At the presentation in Barcelona Team PokerStars Pros Bertrand Grospellier and Liv Boeree joined in to give a practical demonstration. It became quite clear rather quickly that the special powers give the game a hitherto unknown depth.
Powers can be combined so there will be dozens of different potential combos, each having a different effect on how the game will play out. Also, whenever you’re using one of your powers, you’ll receive a new one randomly chosen from the original nine.
A Constantly Shifting Meta Game
As we know there are a lot of very smart players out there and they’ll figure out quickly what the optimal strategic use of these powers is. However, PokerStars has taken measures to stop anybody from getting a real edge.
In the future there will be powers added and others removed and the price of individual powers might go up or down.
Thus the game will always be changing and it will be difficult for anyone to dominate forever using one strategy.
Power Up Poker also alleviates concerns over stalling. Blinds don’t go up after a certain amount of time but rather a defined number of hands. Therefore stalling is essentially impossible.
Still, it’ll take you some time to figure out how and when to use the different powers. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes a very fast-paced, action-packed game that turns out to be a lot more than traditional Texas Hold’em.
Parallels to HoldemX
Anyone who follows poker closely will instantly be reminded of HoldemX, which the GPI introduced last year but which never really went anywhere.
Both games were based on very similar concepts and it seems like that concept was taken up by two parties at the same time.
We can’t say for sure who originally had the idea, but what we can say is that the PokerStars product is a much more polished one.
Whereas HoldemX was abundant with powers, many of which were not very useful, Power Up is a more thoroughly thought-out product and the graphics are a mile away from what HoldemX was.
In fact, the graphics are a large part of the fun in Power Up. They are reminiscent of the worlds of Terminator, Robocop, and Cube, and the avatars recall fantasy characters from Lord of the Rings and Gormenghast.
Target Date: Q4
Making predictions on how successful a game will be is incredibly difficult but Power Up will surely find its spot in the poker world.
Power Up brings with it an almost board game-like interactivity, the way you might know it from games like Catan or El Grande.
The target date for the full version to go live is the last quarter of 2017. Power Up will also be available for Mac and Mobile and it will come with a full tutorial. Create a new account at PokerStars via our review page to get ready to give it a go.