PokerStars Alpha Testing Bonkers New Power Up Poker Game



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Hold onto your butts, everyone. A new poker game from PokerStars is in the pipeline. And this isn’t just another Spin & Go or Zoom Poker variation. Power Up, now in very limited Alpha testing, is something that takes a game of hold’em and quite literally adds new cards that give players the power to transform the hand. In Power Up, the players get magic powers. They even get magic powers to counteract each other’s magic powers. I’m dead serious about this.

In a post on the PokerStars blog, PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations Severin Rasset explained that his company has “been putting significant resource toward poker innovation.”

“The common goal of these innovations is continue to maintain a high level of engagement from our active players, to reactivate players that may be tired of playing poker as it is today, and to speak to potential players that haven’t discovered the game yet,” he added.

Then he explained Power Up and what is going on with the game:

Today, the latest of our innovations, PokerStars Power Up entered Alpha testing. It’s a combination of traditional enjoyable No Limit Hold’em injected with powers that give players the ability to influence how hands play out and change up game play in a variety of ways with boards, cards and chips. 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.

Let’s back up. While PokerStars has revealed little about how Power Up works, here’s what we can glean from the short, 35 second video and pictures on the blog:

Power Up is a hold’em game (perhaps some sort of short-handed Sit-and-Go contest, but we can’t be sure) in which, in addition to hole cards, players get special power-up cards. These cards can be used at various spots in a hand – maybe each betting round, if desired – to completely alter the hand. Some power-ups change cards. Some remove cards. Some add cards. Some let players see cards to come.

Based on a screenshot of these power-up cards, here is a list of at least some of them:

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

There very well may be more power-up cards; those were just in the screenshot. Additionally, there appear to be point values assigned to each card. Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Global Poker Index, introduced a similar game a year ago called HoldemX, also in Alpha testing. Power-up cards in that game, called “xcards,” also had point values. Players were given a points budget before a match and could select a number of cards to have on hand using the point values and budget as a guide. It is possible that the points on the power-up cards work the same way.

This game obviously alters the skill aspect of poker, as someone getting outplayed can reverse the flow of a game through the use of the power-up cards. At the same time, the use – and possible pre-game selection – of these cards is a skill in and of itself, so people who are used to the machinations of a game like Hearthstone may already have a step up on the competition.

As mentioned, Power Up is only in Alpha testing right now. PokerStars has sent invitations to a select number of play money players in the United States to help provide feedback and make sure everything works on a technical level.

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