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PowerUp officially kicks off: The good, the bad and the real money!

Seems that PokerStars has worked overtime after throwing out PowerUp for players to playtest – because PowerUp has (somewhat by surprise) been launched as a real money product, at least on Stars’ .EU client. The group’s press release and simultaneous blog post also pointed out that the game will be available on .com and .uk clients “very soon”. Play money versions of the game should be around ecosystem-wide already as well.

The available stakes aren’t huge – with buy-ins ranging from $1 to $15, with 8% rake – much like Stars’ initial Spin and Go opening stakes, but hey – gaming is gaming and is sure to turn some heads.

And…that’s basically the jist of the news.

There’s no co-announcement of updates to gameplay mechanics, additional card balancing, or changes to some of the games arguably problematic half-measure dynamics (things which keep its gameplay tilted towards the side of “more poker” versus “more turn-based strategy”).

In fact, the only major new rollout here is the addition 9 additional avatar characters for players to choose from – a big diversification over the alpha’s 3 characters. This does bring a bit more visual depth to the game but doesn’t seem to affect anything apart from this.

 “looking good, but not doing much more than that atm.”

Now, before we rail about how its seemingly pointless to emphasize the introduction of new avatars to a game – especially in a poker client that traditionally lets players customize their own – it is worth noting that the long-term plan for power up is (hopefully) to create game-influencing strengths and weaknesses for each character. This would create a game environment where choosing an avatar means choosing a play style in essence, versus just choosing a wholly irrelevant image.

No new PowerUp cards have been added and no new balance changes have been introduced. Again – not a letdown, per se, as the game IS fairly well balanced for a new-to-market offering – just seems troublesome given some of our own issues with a few of the cards, whether it’s their effects or their value vs. in-game cost. (Check out our individual PowerUp card reviews here to see where we think they’ve gone right – and wrong)

This isn’t to say we’re feeling ‘meh’ on the launch. Far from it. It’s been longer than we can remember since a poker company launched something this different that you could (gulp) actually play for money. The death knell of so many otherwise interesting concepts in poker (Hero Poker, etc.) died because people who want to play poker for free tend to be happy with the conventional game. It’s those that love poker enough to spend a few pennies on it, and play enough to get jaded with it – that represent the sweet spot PowerUp is attempting to hit.

This isn’t an answer to esports and it’s not a game that grinders will flock to outside of the initial gold rush that comes with a game where they can experience 2004 era win-rates in for a few months. This is the younger poker lover’s game.

That’s also why we wish Stars had put in a few more surprise features when they popped it out as a real money experience. But then again – there’s always time. For now, we’ll be grinding. Can’t wait to get a few (hundred) games under our belt and come back with some brand spanking new strategy and advice for the games different buy-ins!

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