Cry Me a Personal River: PokerStars Tests New Games at Grand Final

One of the great things about Texas Hold’em is how easy it is to learn.

If you’ve been playing it for a while, though, you might be looking for some new twists or variations to make it more exciting.

PokerStars Ideation Manager Christin Maschmann set up a table at the EPT Grand Final to test some new ideas in practice.

Staff members, media personnel and pros like Theo JörgensenPierre Neuville and Irish Open champion Patrick Clarke all joined to see just what potential some of these variations might have.

Here are some of the games played and how they went over. Check them out at your next home game and feel free to submit which ones you’d like to see in your PokerStars lobby.

All the names of the games are purely made up so if you can you’re welcome to come up with better ones.

Blind Omaha

1. Pick’em Hold’em

In this game you get two hands dealt instead of one. After the flop is dealt you have to get rid of one of your hands.

After that, gameplay resumes as usual with the hand you picked. You're not allowed to switch cards between your hands.

Response: The fact that you see four cards instead of only two is obviously additional information, and information is always an advantage.

Also, with two hands instead of one you have twice as many chances to find a playable hand, which is good for everyone at the table.

However, if played live, you’d need a very attentive dealer as the temptation to switch cards between your hands is pretty big. Online, this wouldn’t be a problem, of course.

Rating: 3/5

2. Blind Defender

In this game the player in the big blind is the only one that has more options. When the pre-flop action gets to him the big blind is allowed to draw one or two new cards.

Then he still has all the options: call, raise or fold. The extra chips remain in the pot no matter what the big blind decides to do. This, of course, comes at a price.

Response: As this was the first time the game was played there was controversy about how much it should cost the big blind to draw.

The price could be x times the big blind, you could make it dependent on the pot size, and you’d probably also have to take into account how many players are already in the hand.

It seems to be a variation that boils down to a mathematical equation. Chances are, good players will figure out quickly when to draw and when to fold.

Rating: 2/5

Pot Limit Omaha Cards and Chips

3. Texmaha

The is No-Limit Hold’em as you know it except you need to use both your cards. So, it’s a little bit like Omaha but with half as many cards.

Response: Although you might think at first that this is close to Irish Hold’em, it actually limits your options dramatically.

Let’s say you play A♦ J♣ on a board of Q♦ T♦ 9♦ 8♦ 2♠. You don’t have a flush, and you don’t have a straight. Actually, you only have ace high.

The game turned out to be a lot less fun than we first thought and was quickly dismissed.

Rating: 0/5

4. One-Eyed Hold’em

Every player gets dealt one card open and one card face down. Apart from that, no changes to the gameplay.

Response: In this variant most of the hands tended to end on the flop. Pocket pairs that were lower than the highest flop card become pretty unplayable if you can see that someone has hit top pair.

However, the additional information you get from each of your opponents resembles Stud poker a little bit, and that game wasn't the most popular poker game in the world for nothing.

It’s a fun game; definitely suited for your home game, but not necessarily online.

Rating: 2/5


5. Random Board Hold’em

Six board cards are dealt face down. After every betting round, cards are flipped over.

The number of cards flipped over are determined by dice while the dealer picks the board cards to be flipped.

As it is possible to have only one card turned over per betting round there can be up to six betting rounds post-“flop”.

Response: Sounds more complicated than it is. Admittedly, we took the randomization as far as possible and you could easily limit the number of betting rounds or eliminate the random pick.

Or you could limit the pot size by playing limit or even revive something old-fashioned like spread limit.

As the linear succession of flop-turn-river is not given anymore, at the end of the day this is definitely more of a party game than a serious Hold’em variation.

Rating: 2/5

6. Holdaha aka Omaxas aka Omahaxas Split

This was one of the more interesting ideas. Every player gets six cards face down and then has to split them into a Hold’em and an Omaha hand.

Play follows the usual rules and at showdown you have to win both the Hold’em and the Omaha hand to get the whole pot.

If two different players win one of the hands, the pot is split between them.

Response: This game gives you the additional task to figure out how to split your hand into two, which was difficult, but also fun and exciting.

Betting becomes more complex as you’re betting on both of your hands simultaneously, which doesn’t make too much sense if one of them is weak.

All in all, a promising idea. We’d expect something like that to go live at some point, as split games in general are becoming more and more popular.

Rating: 4/5

7. Arch Hold’em

In this game there are only two betting rounds – pre-flop and post river. The complete board is dealt at once.

Response: With only two betting rounds it brings back memories of Five Card Draw poker, and it’s a lot faster than all the other variants we tried.

However, the game has one big disadvantage. It’s boring. Let’s quickly move on.

Rating: 1/5

personal river2

8. Personal River

Instead of a community river card every player gets a card face down before the last betting round. The board only has four cards, accordingly.

You are allowed to use one, two, or three of your hole cards to make your hand, which gives you a lot of options and leads to some amazing twists.

Look at the hand in the picture. Both players have a straight, but the one on the right uses two cards to make a king high straight while the other can use all three of his cards for Broadway.

Response: This game feels like playing Hold’em, and then just before the river gets dealt someone says "let’s play Stud from now on!"

This might be the most promising of all the games tested during the EPT Grand Final. It’s simple to pick up, fast and adds to the game more than it takes or randomizes.

Rating: 4/5

How did you like the games we tested? Please try them at home and leave a comment below.

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