Last year, PokerStars introduced a “novelty” cash game every few months as a way to keep things fresh, a way to keep players interested in cash game poker. Mix things up, you know? The games, though, were only temporary, which obviously would not please people who enjoyed them. At the same time, it was known in advance that they weren’t permanent and having too many games would water down the player pool, so I doubt many were complaining too vigorously. Good news, though, for fans of several games, as it looks like they are back in multi-table tournament form.
Last fall, Poker Industry PRO interviewed Severin Rasset, PokerStars’ Director of Poker Innovation and Operations, who said, “We are considering putting variants in, such as MTTs, because player feedback showed that they [would appreciate] this. Some players were disappointed that they could not find games when we turned them off, so this is something that we want to potentially offer,” so we knew this could be coming.
And with the latest PokerStars software update, we can see that four novelty games are on the way. There are no tournaments currently scheduled, but if we click on the Tourney tab at the top of the lobby and then expand the “Game” filter to show all game types, we can see 6+ Hold’em and Showtime Hold’em under the “Hold’em” category and Showtime Omaha and Fusion in the “Omaha” category. Let’s review what each of these games entails.
6+ Hold’em was launched in mid-January and is still available in the cash game lobby and if any novelty game becomes permanent, it will be this one. In 6+ Hold’em, all cards with values two through five are removed from the deck. Because of this, hand rankings are slightly different because the probabilities of getting certain hands has changed. In 6+, a Flush is stronger than a Full House and Three-of-a-Kind is stronger than a Straight.
Showtime Hold’em was released in May of last year; I don’t believe Showtime Omaha was ever launched as a cash game, but I could be wrong. Both games play exactly like normal Hold’em and Omaha games, so unlike the other novelty games, there is not actually any change in the actual game mechanics. The quirk with the Showtime games is that when a player folds, his hole cards are turned face up for the duration of the hand.
This slight twist can drastically change players’ strategy. Players who have not folded will have more information than in a normal poker game and how a player perceives his or her hand strength can change quickly. Players might also need to adjust their play styles, as someone who lays down strong hands a lot will be seen for the nit he is and someone who bluffs a lot but eventually folds will be found out.
Fusion was inserted in to the cash game lineup in November and is named as such because it is a mashup of Hold’em and Omaha. In Fusion, everyone is dealt two hole cards like in Hold’em, but after the flop, those who are still in the hand are given a third hole card. After the turn, another hole cards is dealt, giving everyone remaining four. After that, it’s Omaha – make the best five-card hand using two hole cards and three board cards.