Power Up’s structure has gone through a few changes in the past few days, it appears with the aim of making the game faster to play.
The blinds have been changed as many players, including myself, have commented that Power Up was a very slow game to play. These changes appear to be PokerStars response to those criticisms, and this article will be my opinion on how successful the changes have been.
Firstly, the number of hands in a round of blinds has been reduced once the game goes Heads up. When the first player is eliminated, the number of hands in a round goes up from 5 to 6 hands. It appears that the numbers PokerStars have collected have indicated that 3 handed play is a lot slower than the two-handed, heads-up portion of the game. That ties in with my personal experience of Power Up. The game ran more slowly 3 handed, which isn’t really that surprising. Three players taking actions is obviously going to take more time than if two players are doing so.
The blind structure has also moved a little. The game now starts at 50/100 and moves through 6 other levels until it reaches 400/800 which is the maximum blind level. This puts the average stacks at 20 big blinds when the game starts, and 30 big blinds if the game goes 2 handed in the first level.
The average stack drops quickly as the blinds rise, which is probably designed to get players to play more aggressively and lower the average game time. Level 4 sees the big blind rise to 300, and the average stack size down to just 10 big blinds.
This is where the play is going to get very shove focussed. I also think this is going to see an increase in rounds where players are combining powers and shoving straight after. The later rounds are going to apply a lot of pressure to players to shove or fold and go with more marginal hands.
These changes will probably have an impact on game time. I have manged to play a few games with the new structure so far, and game time seemed to be quicker, but I haven’t played enough to have any accuracy on this.
Is this the right direction to speed up games? I’m not a game designer, or even a poker strategy expert, so I’m not sure how much weight my opinion has here. However, while I do think changing the blind structure will be important to finding the sweet spot for the game, I do think there are other options to help with game speed. I think PokerStars might want to look at these well.
Every moment a player is in a game of Power Up needs to feel worthwhile. The time available for players to make decisions seems to be too long for me. I understand that the game is based on skill, but this needs to be balance against the overall experience of all the players. I think the time available for each action is around 20 seconds. That seems too long. If each action was limited to 10 seconds for each betting round, and this paused for power usage, it would have a much bigger impact on game length. I would also reduce the amount of time players were idle during the game.
The time bank could be increased to allow more time for difficult decisions, but I don’t think that it should engage as a default. Players should have to make an active decision to extend the time available to them before they take an action. The longest downtime is when players are waiting for others to act, and often this is when a player has no decision to make and is only reminded to act by the software.
In all, I think the new structure for Power Up is a good step in the right direction, but there are other options that might offer a solution to the downtime we all encounter while playing.