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On Monday, the Aria Poker Room in Las Vegas began their soft launch of a new variant of Texas Hold’em called Protection Poker. From now through the end of November, players can try out this new variant that takes the sting out of a bad beat.

Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton announced the soft launch on Twitter and since then, Aria has been able to run 1-3 and 2-5 Protection Poker games. What is this new game? Will it be successful or will it be the latest in poker fads that have fallen to the wayside like Bubble Protection.

What is Protection Poker?

Protection Poker is simply NL Texas Hold’em with insurance. After the flop or turn is dealt, if a player a player has a 65% advantage and is all-in or has called an all-in player’s bet, then 20% of the pot is protected.

For example, someone shoves pre-flop with pocket nines and you make the call with pocket aces. In this spot, you are roughly 80-20 (percentages not exact) to win the hand. Should your opponent spike a nine and hold, you then you get back 20% of the pot.

There are a few rules that must be met in order for the hand to qualify for protection:

  • At least one player must be all-in
  • At least one community card is still to come
  • All betting action has been completed
  • One player must have a 65% or greater statistical advantage over another player in the hand.

The statistical advantage is determined by a poker calculator at the table. In the game currently running at Aria, an iPad is embedded into the poker table and an active poker calculator is used to determine odds when a potential protection situation arises.

Should the hand with the statistical advantage hold, they get the pot as normal. If the hand does not hold, then they receive 20% of pot returned to them.

David Williams is Not a Fan

Not long after Sexton’s announcement on Monday, David Williams took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the game. You can read the tweet below:

Williams point is that this not only highlights how bad the amateurs are playing (likely embarrassing them), but also that they will lose at the game quicker because they are not receiving a full pot when they get their money in bad.

Personally, I see things the exact opposite of Williams. Imagine you’re an amateur that is playing a solid game and you get your money in with the best of it and then proceed to be sucked out on. With Protection Poker, the sting of that bad beat isn’t nearly as great.

If you’re all-in for $100 total with a 75% advantage and lose, the loss is just $60. (The pot would be at $200 including their call and 20% protection would be $40.) Over the course of 5 bad beats of a similar nature, you would get back $200.

The reality is that you’re going to suffer a bad beat from time to time when you’re a huge favorite. Protection Poker helps you protect at least a small portion of your buy-in when the beats happen.

Protection Poker Tournaments Are Coming

Protection Poker will soon be offered in a tournament format. The first ever Protection Poker tournament will be held at the Aria on December 11 and Mike Sexton will host the event. While details on that event haven’t been posted, we can assume things will run much the same way as the cash game.

The big question now is whether this new variant of Texas Hold’em will catch on or be a short-term experiment that will crash and burn in the same vane as Bubble Protection or 50-50 events.

Time will tell, but regardless of what happens, I applaud Aria for trying something different. Every poker player is different and you never know when a new “gimmick” will catch fire and become the next big thing in poker. Just a few short years ago, late entry and re-entry tournaments were gimmick events that some felt would never take off. Now, it is hard to imagine tournaments without either.

What do you think of Protection Poker? Is it s a fad that will fade like the Epic Poker League or will it be the next big thing in poker? Leave a comment below and tell us!

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.