If you have ever been playing poker and thought to yourself, “This is fun, but it would be even more fun if new cards were added to the game and the game required even more strategy,” then PokerStars may have the game for you. Get ready to become really frustrated, though, when you have a hammer lock on the hand only to have the tables totally reversed on you. PokerStars has launched a limited alpha testing version of a new game called Power Up, a wild-looking video game hybrid of traditional Texas Hold’em and deck-building games like Hearthstone.
Aside from a brief description in a press release and blog post, a couple screenshots, and a 35-second video, not many details have been released about Power Up. From the looks of it, each player is given – or is allowed to select – a few special cards before the game that grant special abilities. These cards can be played at various points in a hand (perhaps after each betting round?) and are used to do things like change certain cards, deal new hole cards, or see other players’ cards.
In one screenshot provided by PokerStars, the following power up cards are displayed:
Clone – receive a copy of the last power played this hand
Disintegrate – Destroy a targeted board card dealt this street
EMP – prevent powers on this street
Engineer – choose the deck’s next card from three options
Intel – view the deck’s top card for the rest of the hand
Reload – redraw selected hole cards
Scanner – view the top two cards in the deck; choose whether to discard them
Upgrade – draw a third hole card, then discard one
X-Ray – force all opponents to expose one hole card
The cards also have a number at the top, which may indicate some sort of point value. Mediarex, the company that owns the Global Poker Index, launched an alpha version of a similar game, HoldemX, a year ago, and assigned a point value to each special card. In that game, players are given a points budget before the game and can build a deck of whichever special cards they want within said budget. It is possible that PokerStars Power Up works like that.
Alpha testing invitations were extended to a select number of players who play for play money in the United States. In a blog post, PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations Severin Rasset said:
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.
Should Power Up eventually go live for real money, one could see it appealing in some way to both ends of the poker spectrum. Casual players could enjoy the video game aspect of it, the ability to use special powers to even out some of the skill game with better players. On the other hand, experienced, highly skilled players could enjoy the added deck-building strategy the game will require, as well as the change of pace the game offers.
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