PokerStars Unfold

No Regrets: PokerStars Introduces Unfold

When PokerStars removed its limited-run game Showtime from its cash-game lobby last week, it confirmed rumors by teasing a new offering to come. That new game arrived on Thursday and its name is exactly what everybody thought it was going be: Unfold.

Speculation, including mine, was that a game called Unfold would have to give players the option to retrieve their cards from the muck and get back into the hand after folding. And, on the most basic level, this is what Unfold is. It gives you a second chance if you regret folding after you see the flop.

It is not as simple as just unfolding and proceeding as normal, though. That wouldn’t be fair to the players who stayed in the hand. As part of my speculation, I figured there would have to be some price, and probably a steep one, to be able to get a do-over of sorts. Seeing as nobody ever could have guessed that, I am a genius.

Pay to Play (Again)

Here’s how Unfold, a Texas Hold’em variation, works. Before the cards are dealt, everybody at the table is required to pay an ante, which goes to the “unfold pot.” After the flop, everyone who has already folded is given a few seconds to decide if they would like to pull their cards from the muck and unfold. Those who wish to get back in the game must pay amount equal to the unfold pot.

From there, the players who unfolded don’t do anything else. They just wait until the end of the hand and the player from the unfold group who has the best five-card hand wins the total unfold pot. The players who did not fold pre-flop play out the hand as normal and compete for the main pot. They do not get any of the unfold, just as the unfolded players do not get any of the main pot.

Unfold is currently available on the .com client at stakes from $0.01/$0.02 through $1/$2 (is available on other real money clients as well as the .net client). The unfold ante is 30 percent of the big blind, except at the $0.01/$0.02 and $0.03/$0.06 stakes, as the math simply doesn’t work out (the unfold ante is $0.01 and $0.02, respectively).

Imagine, If You Will

To give an example of how a hand would play out, let’s say we are in a $1/$2, where the unfold ante is $0.60. There are five players dealt cards, so the unfold pot is $3. There is a raise and a three-bet pre-flop, causing three players to fold (players C, D, and E) while players A and B continue on to the flop.

When the flop is dealt, players D and E decide to unfold and thus pay $3 each – the equivalent of the original unfold pot – to get back in the hand. The unfold pot is thus $9 (we’ll ignore the rake for ease of use). Players A and B play out the rest of the hand heads-up as they normally would, with Player A eventually winning a $30 main pot. Players D and E wait through the turn and river and player D ends up with the best hand between the two of them, winning the $9 unfold pot.

As you can see, players are limited on what they can win by unfolding – PokerStars isn’t going to let someone come back in and take everyone’s money – but a decent chunk of change can be won depending on how many people unfold.

There are three situations in which the unfold antes will be refunded to everybody and no unfold pot will be awarded: nobody unfolds, the main pot is decided pre-flop (and thus there is no chance to unfold, since it takes place after the flop), and fewer than two players fold pre-flop. Additionally, there must be at least four players dealt into the hand for the unfold mechanic to be in play.

One thing I found interesting when watching games is that if only one player unfolds, that player automatically wins the unfold pot. I would have originally thought that the unfold antes would be returned in that case, but thinking about it further, it does offer the opportunity for players to take some calculated risks and essentially bet that nobody else unfolds.

“This has never been done before,” said Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations, in a press release. “Unfold means more action and opportunities for players, reducing the all too familiar sinking feeling of making the correct pre-flop lay down, only to then find you would have flopped the nuts. We’re very excited to offer something new and completely different.”

PokerStars Ambassador Fatima de Melo added:

I feel way more comfortable folding hands knowing that there’s great potential to hop on to the Unfold pot if I want to. I remember playing a World Series of Poker event about five years ago and I folded 3s pre flop and the other players went all-in with aces against queens, and I would have won the hand with a set of 3s! This was for the chip lead and I was like “oh my god, why did I fold?”. Well I had to fold because they went all in pre-flop. But the Unfold button would have definitely been nice there!

Unlike Showtime Hold’em and Split Hold’em before that, Unfold is intended to be a permanent fixture in the PokerStars cash game lobby.

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