After a testing period in January, PokerStars has officially launched poker side bets to most of its players. It appears that the side bet option is available on the .COM, .UK, .EU, .NET and Russia-based clients. It may only be available to certain accounts right now, though.
Though some media reports say that PokerStars announced the addition of side bets to the poker tables, it does not look like there has been any sort of official announcement. Nothing can be found on the PokerStars blog or the PokerStars main page, nor have I, an esteemed member of the poker media, received an e-mail about it (feel free to comment to tell me I’m totally wrong, by the way, especially if I am a loser and didn’t receive an e-mail that others did). The entire thing is shrouded in mystery, which is quite odd, particularly because PokerStars loves to hype its new features. But the sidebets are live, so there you go.
Following player suggestions, the default is for the sidebets window to be hidden from view. Players can go into the options in the PokerStars software to enable it.
Currently, sidebets are available on all Hold’em tables, except for Zoom games. Players can place two different types of bets. The first is a pre-flop bet for the next hand. This is a wager on what one’s hole cards will be. For example, one might bet that their hole cards will be a pair of Kings.
The second type of bet is a post-flop bet, which is a bet on what the texture of the flop will look like. One might bet that the flop is all one suit or perhaps it’s three-of-a-kind.
The money used to place sidebets comes out of a player’s poker account, not from the chips they have at the table. After all, it would be silly to let a player drain the chips they are using to play poker (insert argument about draining their overall poker account here). The sidebets are also made against the house, not other players. They are completely independent from the actual poker being played. A player might put a sidebet on whether or not they get dealt pocket Aces, but win or lose that bet, they still play the poker hand however they normally would.
And while this is certainly a feature for PokerStars to grab more of our money, there are rules in place that ensure players don’t get totally ripped off. If a sidebet is placed on a flop result and there is no flop, the bet is returned. If the table breaks before cards are dealt to determine sidebet outcomes, the bets are returned. And the sidebets only count if the player is dealt into the hand. Thus, if a player sits out or is disconnected, the sidebet is not made.
As with virtually anything PokerStars has done over the last couple years, this is another initiative designed to target casual players. The idea is that recreational players want to play poker for the fun, for the action, so giving them something else to bet on in order to increase the excitement will keep them around.