Showtime Hold’em

Showtime Hold’em Comes to an End, PokerStars Coy About New Game

There was a lengthy era in the history of online poker – an epoch, if you will – in which most everything was vanilla, when there was nothing new under the sun. The games were hold’em, Omaha, and stud, and that was about it. Some online poker rooms had some unique offerings (UltimateBet, as much as we hate them, had one of my favorites, Crazy Pineapple), but most of the time, it was business as usual. A few years ago, we finally saw some innovative games introduced like fast-fold poker and jackpot Sit-and-Gos, games that have become mainstays online. This year, PokerStars has gone a bit of a different route, launching new game types with the full intention of making them temporary offerings. The latest game to reach the end of its life cycle was Showtime Hold’em, which was removed from the PokerStars poker client on Monday.

Showtime Hold’em was introduced two months ago in the cash game lobby. The gameplay was fundamentally the same as any other Texas Hold’em game – players get two hole cards, there is a flop, turn, and river, and the winner is the player with the best five card hand. It’s hold’em, simple as that.

There was one significant difference to hold’em, though, which was how Showtime Hold’em got its name. When a player folded, that player’s hole cards were turned face up for everyone at the table to see. Naturally, the immediate impact of the reveal was that those still active in the hand now had more information and could recalibrate their strategy the rest of the way.

Someone on a draw would know if he had a better or worse chance at it. A player with a pair of Kings would feel more confident if she saw someone fold an Ace. Someone who suspects their opponent is bluffing might feel better about that read if the cards he is representing are shown by someone who folded.

And whenever someone folds, well they have to tell everyone that they had just given up on a bluff, that they were chasing a draw, or that man, they are the nittiest of nits to ever nit it up. If Showtime Hold’em didn’t force players to vary their play style, it made them seriously consider it.

But now Showtime Hold’em is gone, as scheduled. And taking its place is…something. PokerStars has hinted that it will be something called “Unfold” or the like.

Earlier this week, PokerStars tweeted, “The eagle-eyed among you have noticed something new. We don’t comment on potential, unannounced future game features. However, we reserve the right to reverse this statement — or unfold it, if you will — in the near future.”

In a similar vein, in a blog post announcing the removal of Showtime Hold’em, PokerStars said, “But, as one game steps down, the crew of poker remixologists at PokerStars finish cooking up something new to add to the rotation. No comment for now, but we reserve the right to reverse that statement – or Unfold it, if you will – very soon.”

We could speculate all day on what Unfold is going to be, but it certainly sounds like a game in which players will get the opportunity to retrieve their hole cards from the muck and get back into the hand. That would be, to put it lightly, interesting. If players are allowed to “unfold” their hands, there would have to be a cost, and probably a high one. After all, if someone decided to re-enter the hand, they are telling everybody, “I’ve got it.”

Prior to Showtime Hold’em, PokerStars ran a game called Split Hold’em, again for a limited time. This was a version of hold’em commonly found in home game in which two sets of community cards were dealt. The betting rounds work exactly the same – pre-flop, flop, turn, river – but players need to take into account both boards. To win the entire pot, a player must win both boards. Most of the time, barring everyone folding but one player, there was a split pot, with one player winning one board and one player winning the other. It’s similar in concept to high-low games, as far as split pots go.

Split Hold’em was well-received, as players had a lot of fun with how difficult it was to keep track of two boards and employ proper strategies.

Last year, PokerStars ended the run of Beat the Clock tournaments, though this was not part of the series of limited-time games like the above games were. Beat the Clock tournaments were launched in November 2016 and it sounds like they were cancelled due to lack of popularity, rather than a planned end.

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