Move Over Hearthstone, Power Up by PokerStars is Here

PokerStars’ newest game innovation was recently launched. Power Up is poker like you’ve never seen it before.

PokerStars Power Up lobby

I read through the guide on PokerStars’ website, fired up the play-money version of the game, and lost several games in a row trying to figure out how to play.

Power Up combines the sit-and-go format, three-player, no-limit hold’em with strategy card games like Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering. Several of PokerStars’ own Team Pros are big fans of Hearthstone, and Power Up tries to hack their appeal.

PokerStars Power Up table

The game design is beautiful. When you get into Power Up, it barely resembles PokerStars as it carries a futuristic theme in its graphics that are more akin to video games than online poker.

PokerStars Power Up Disintegrate
PokerStars Power Up play Disintegrate

Before you can play your first game, you have to run through three quick tutorials so you learn how the powers work. Then you can pay 10,000 or 100,000 play money to start a match.

You sit down to a three-handed table and you get a randomly assigned avatar that made me think I was logged in to Unibet Poker for a second.

The play of the hand is the same as a regular sit-and-go, except you start with two powers in addition to the two cards. Different powers cost different amounts of energy to use, and each player starts with 10 energy, replenishing by two each hand. You also get a new power each hand to a maximum of three.

You'll never receive two of the same power at the same time, unless you use the Clone power to receive a copy of a power, in which case it's possible to have two of the same power at once.

There are nine powers that you can draw:

  • Clone: “Receive a copy of the last power played this hand.”
  • Disintegrate: “Destroy a targeted board card dealt this street.”
  • EMP: “Prevent powers on this street.”
  • Engineer: “Choose the deck’s next card from three options.”
  • Intel: “View the deck’s top card for the rest of the hand.”
  • Reload: “Redraw selected hole cards.”
  • Scanner: “View the top two cards in the deck; choose whether to discard them.”
  • Upgrade: “Draw a third hole card, then discard one.”
  • X-Ray: “Force all opponents to expose one hole card.”
PokerStars Poker Up powers

You can only play powers when it’s your turn to act, before checking, calling, raising, or folding. You can, however, play more than one power during your turn. One additional rule is that once a player is all in, the board cards are locked in and can’t be affected by powers for the remainder of the hand.

I have no doubt that poker regulars are going to be critical of the game. This is nothing like traditional hold’em, and game strategy has to be significantly adapted to take into account the use of powers.

Power Up is a fun game that players of Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering, or other strategy card games and video games would find attractive and appealing where regular poker falls short. Of course, many existing poker fans are going to have a lot of fun with it — I did — but many more will see it as a bastardization of the pure game.

The game will be available to play for real money soon, which is what gives Power Up a significant advantage over games like Hearthstone. Power Up will allow players to test their skills against others for real money.

Give it a shot. And do me a favour: Don’t compare it to poker as you know it. Evaluate it as its own game. Let us know what you think.

Edit: Power Up is now available for real money starting October 18, 2017.

What do you think?

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