With all the craziness going on in the world with the novel coronavirus pandemic, one thing is, for the most part, business as usual: online poker. After all, if people are going to stay inside, what better way to pass the time than online poker? And to keep things interesting, PokerStars launched a new novelty cash game on Tuesday called Swap Hold’em.

Pitch your cards

Swap Hold’em is a Texas Hold’em game and can be played with no funny business whatsoever. Where it gets its name from, however, is the twist. There’s always a twist. In Swap Hold’em, players can toss away one or both of their hole cards and draw new ones.

The hole card swap can take place any time in the hand, but only once. Players can swap out their cards before the flop or on the flop, turn, or river. Yup, if you get all the way to the river and want one or two new hole cards, you can go for it. And you don’t have to bet in the betting round until after you swap your cards. Thus, if you missed your draw, but nobody has bet, you can always swap a card out and see if you get lucky before committing any chips.

The mechanics of Swap Hold’em are easy. Just click on one or both hole cards to highlight them and then click the big “Swap” button to the left of the traditional betting buttons to complete the trade.

At that point, the new hole card or hole cards are in your hand and you can proceed as normal. Players who have swapped have an icon next to their table placard with the number of swapped cards displayed. It is also possible to view the cards you got rid of if you want to torture yourself or, preferably, if you want to verify for odds purposes. To do so, just hover your mouse over the swap icon.

Sometimes I just want to fold

I took Swap Hold’em for a whirl on PokerStars.net (it is only available right now on the .NET and .UK clients, but will roll out to others) and it works just fine except for one quirk. If you have not bet in a round, you cannot fold until you swap a card.

It’s weird. Say, for example, you are on the button pre-flop and everybody folds to you. You need to call the big blind or raise in order to stay in the hand. In this case in Swap Hold’em, there is no “Fold” button. It is only until you choose at least one card and exchange it that the Swap button changes to a Fold button.

This does not happen if checking would keep you in the hand. You can still check. But if you haven’t acted yet and need to call or raise to say in the hand, the software makes you swap before you can fold. If you have already bet in the betting round and someone raises, you can fold when the action gets back to you.

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