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Some poker players get bored with the traditional game. Whether they typically play Stud or Hold’em, they enjoy other variations to keep things interesting. It helps them keep their skills sharp to analyze and strategize for different games like Omaha and mixed games, and it helps prevent boredom.

When players pick up on a new game, as happened with Open-Face Chinese Poker several years ago, they take it to extremes, complete with betting per point and even designing online apps with which to compete. That game took over for a time, to the extent that some poker rooms were even forced to spread the game when big tournaments were in action to accommodate the many OFC poker enthusiasts.

Online poker sites are now changing poker in order to attract new players and keep regular customers excited about the poker competition available. Many sites have begun to offer lottery-style SNGs, games that cost little to buy-in, play very quickly, and award big prizes to the winners. However, the downfall of those games is the super-turbo structures that allow for little to no strategy, relegating them to games of chance rather than skill.

Read More: Do New Online Poker Formats Help or Hurt Online Poker?

PokerStars Launches Regular Innovations

The dominant online poker site in the world, PokerStars, has tried to stay at the forefront of the poker business. They have long offered the lottery-style SNGs in the form of Spin & Gos, but they have also tried other new games like Beat the Clock. The timed games lasted only a few minutes and turned out to be another version of the Spin & Go. Such games attracted quite a few recreational players and likely some new players, but well-versed poker players had little interest in them.

Enter Power Up. PokerStars has released this new game on a limited basis to an alpha test group of select players. Instead of taking the skill out of poker, this poker variation injects more skill and tries to add some of the excitement that attracts players to games like Hearthstone. Since eSports and fantasy games are garnering most of the online popularity in today’s gaming world, the move makes sense.

Why Power Up May Be Different for PokerStars

Unlike other poker variations that remove the players’ ability to analyze and strategize, Power Up asks players to engage on a deeper level. Traditional No Limit Hold’em is enhanced with the ability to influence the results of hands and use the board, cards, and chips in new ways. Players have more power to use analysis and strategy to compete, and the results can vary in more ways than with a typical poker game.

PokerStars Director of Poker Innovations & Operations Severin Rasset says the new game is an attempt to reactivate a lapsed player base by tapping into players’ current interests and predicting future trends. “This project introduces a lot of new features to poker that we have built from scratch,” he wrote. “We integrated a new engine within our software, created animations and powers, and put a lot of time and thought into how poker players will have fun with the game.” It seems that one of the goals is to bring those millions of Hearthstone players to the poker tables with a new combination product.


Where Does That Leave Poker?

For some poker traditionalists and old school players who are averse to change, the new poker games and variations are mere fluff.  Poker players love the game because of all of its many qualities, its skill component mixed with an ever-exciting luck factor is enough for many enthusiasts, and the variations of poker like Omaha, Stud, Draw, and Hold’em provide more than enough variety.

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Even for those open to change, however, the new games create a fear that traditional poker will be left behind. While young players are multi-tabling and playing Hearthstone and poker and Power Up and Candy Crush at the same time, the beloved game that has endured for so many decades in one or another state of popularity may lose its excitement. Will traditional poker be able to attract new players if it doesn’t have bells and whistles and animation?

Time will tell, and a fondness for classic games may persevere. As long as entities like the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour stick to their roots of No Limit Hold’em poker, the game has a chance.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.