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PokerStars first revealed their revolutionary new game back in February when they released it to a select audience for the first stage of alpha testing. Since then, the hype has been building and the forums buzzing in eager anticipation of the real-money debut expected at the close of 2017.

PokerStars Power Up header

Source: Flickr

For those who haven’t heard, PokerStars Power Up is a cutting-edge new game based on the rules of Texas Hold ‘Em. Players still have two hole cards, with five more cards laid down over three streets of betting. Both hand strengths and the game’s structures remain the same, but players will be given special powers to play with, which will completely change the dynamics of the game. 

The first stage of testing lead to feedback and insights, and the second stage of testing began in August when UK players were once again given short, but sweet, access to the play-money version for a limited time. After further tweaking, PokerStars will be ready to release the game to the public. 

But what does Power Up look like so far? How does it play, and how does it compare to the usual poker tournament games? Let’s take a look at the fundamental changes. 

First of all, there’s the powers, of which there are currently 9. Players can hold three power cards in their hand and use them before they make a bet on their turn. More than one card can be used in one turn, and with each hand, one new power-up card is dealt to any players having less than three remaining. 

PokerStars Power Up Banner

The powers are as follows: 

  • Disintegrate: Destroy one of the board cards dealt on the current street (4 energy)
  • Engineer: Choose the next card in the deck from a selection of three (5 energy)
  • Intel: View the top card on the deck for the rest of the hand (3 energy)
  • Scanner: View the top two cards in the deck and decide whether to discard them (4 energy)
  • Upgrade: Draw a third hole card and then discard one (5 energy)
  • X-Ray: Force all opponents to expose one of their hole cards (2 energy)
  • Reload: Redraw your hole cards (5 energy)
  • EMP: Prevent any more powers from being used on the current street (3 energy)
  • Clone: Receive a copy of the last power played (2 energy)

 All players start with a set amount of energy, currently 10, and gain a little energy with each hand, up to a maximum. Each power requires a different amount of energy to use, meaning that players have to manage their reserves wisely in order to utilize powers in profitable situations. There is also a rule that whenever a player goes all in, powers cannot be used to tamper with the board cards. 

Those who have already played Power Up agree that new strategies abound, and the game is giving rise to situations that even the pros are not accustomed to. Nobody has yet written the book on this game, so players will have to work out the best moves and power-up combinations as they go along. Though forums have shown mixed thoughts and reviews from players, Power Up is sure to appeal to more recreational crowds, and builds directly on the impact of earlier variations, such as the many forms of Spin n Go. 

PokerStars Power Up gameplay

Power Up can pretty much be considered an entirely new game in its own right. Though it has Texas Hold ‘Em at its core, and stays true to the original, it also has its own strategic elements, as well as the fresh look and feel that comes from a new game engine. Flashy animations and sounds bring to life a futuristic plot — yes, Power Up has a plot! — with unique characters who each have their own backstory. This is where poker meets Esports, and so far it’s looking like a treat! 

The full real-money release of Power Up should arrive before the end of the year, so knuckle down, study your powers and your hand strengths, and get ready for a poker experience that is quite unlike any other!

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