PokerStars Tweaks Power Up
In the past month or thereabouts, PokerStars launched the second public Alpha of a radical new game format called Power Up. It’s not a totally brand new idea, as in early 2016, Mediarex Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Global Poker Index and Global Poker League, launched HoldemX Alpha, which is very similar to Power Up. But this is PokerStars and since PokerStars is the big boy on the block, Power Up is naturally going to get more attention. Recently, PokerStars took down the Power Up Alpha, but it has returned and with it come a few changes to the game’s structure.
To review, Power Up, at its most basic, is a three-handed, winner-take-all, No-Limit Hold’em Sit-and-Go (enough hyphens for you?). It immediately diverges from regular poker, though, with the additional of power cards.
In addition to their hole cards, each player is dealt two power cards at the start of the game, hidden from the other players. These cards allow players to invoke powers that fundamentally change the texture of the game. Essentially, these cards give players “super user” types of abilities, the kind of cheating controls all poker players dream about. For instance, you might be able to destroy a board card, swap out a hole card, or see what cards are to come.
Each power costs a fixed amount of energy, denoted on the card itself. Players begin with 10 energy and receive 2 more energy at the beginning of each hand up to a maximum of 15 energy. Players also receive a new power card at the start of each hand up to a maximum of three power cards in their hand at a time.
Here is a list of the available powers, along with their energy costs:
Clone: receive a copy of the last power played this hand (2 energy)
Disintegrate: choose a card to destroy that was dealt on the current street (4 energy)
EMP: prevent the use of additional powers on this street (3 energy, reduced from the original 4)
Engineer: choose the deck’s next card from three options (5 energy)
Intel: view the deck’s top card for the rest of the hand (3 energy)
Reload: select either or both hole cards to re-draw (5 energy)
Scanner: view the top two cards in the deck and discard them if desired (4 energy)
Upgrade: draw a third hole card, discarding one (5 energy)
X-Ray: force all opponents to reveal one randomly selected card (2 energy)
The changes PokerStars has made to Power Up since the beginning of the month are really just tweaks, likely designed to fine tune the flow of the game.
Players now start with 2,000 chips, down from 2,500 before. Starting energy is the same at 10 and 2 energy is added after every hand, but now the maximum energy is 15, whereas it used to be 20. This is probably a smart move, as the 20 max made it way too easy for players to be able to constantly use powers without worrying at all about energy economization.
Players also used to be given three power cards at the outset of the Sit-and-Go, whereas now they get two. I have tried it both ways and I don’t really think this is going to have much of an effect on the game. It is fine – there is no reason to max out everyone’s powers right away – but players also don’t usually use all of their powers immediately, so it’s probably not a big deal.
Blinds start at 40/80 and go up every five hands when all three players are still in the game; this shifts to every six hands when heads-up. Previously, blind levels increased every seven hands, period. This, combined with the shorter starting stacks, definitely made the game feel like it was moving faster (I believe the blinds were smaller at the start of the match before, as well, but I can’t say for sure).
Unfortunately, sitting here in the United States – land of the free – I can’t play on PokerStars.com proper. Thus, my experience with Power Up has been on PokerStars.net for play money. One nice change the PokerStars made there – and I am unable to speak on whether or not this is similar on the other PokerStars sites – is that the buy-in for Power Up tourneys is just 1,000 play chips now. Before the update, the lowest buy-in was 10,000 chips. PokerStars allows players to get a free 12,500 chips every four hours, but the original buy-in level made it tough for players with new accounts or those simply low on chips to try Power Up. I started fresh with 12,500 chips, as I had never played on .net before, and after I lost my first Power Up game, I had to wait four hours to replenish my chips and try again.