Power Up, PokerStars’ Sit-and-Go with Hearthstone/Magic the Gathering-like strategic card-play elements, has been in Alpha testing for most of this year. It has not been a constant offering, as it does get taken out of the lobby while PokerStars makes improvements, but in its most recent appearance (it was just taken away again, at least on the PokerStars.net client), PokerStars made some minor alterations to try to get things just right.
If you haven’t played Power Up, it’s actually pretty neat, as gimmicky as it seems. It is a three-handed Sit-and-Go in which players have the opportunity to invoke “powers” in order to give themselves an advantage in the hand. We have all wanted to be able to peek at the next card, spy on our opponents’ cards, or change one of our hole cards, and now we can! In addition to their regular hole cards, players are dealt power cards that can be played when it is time to act in the hand. Each power costs a certain amount of energy, as follows:
Clone: receive a copy of the last power played this hand (2 energy)
Disintegrate: destroy a selected card on the current street (4 energy)
EMP: prevent the use of any more powers on this street (3 energy)
Engineer: choose the deck’s next card from three options (5 energy)
Intel: view the deck’s top card for the remainder of the hand (3 energy)
Reload: re-draw one or both hole cards (5 energy)
Scanner: view the top two cards in the deck and choose to keep or discard them (4 energy)
Upgrade: draw a third hole card and then discard one (5 energy)
X-Ray: all opponents must reveal one randomly selected card (2 energy)
Players begin the game with 10 energy and receive 2 energy after each hand, up to a maximum of 15 energy. That’s one of the changes made to Power Up this go-around: previously, the maximum energy was 20. Players also used to begin the match with three powers, but that has been chopped to two. Players are still dealt a power card after every hand, as long as they end the hand with fewer than three powers. Players can use any, all, or none of their powers in a hand, as long as they have the requisite amount of energy.
As to the other tweaks PokerStars has made to Power Up, the starting stacks are down to 2,000 from 2,500 and the blinds increase at a faster rate. Previously, they went up every seven hands. Now it is every five hands when three players are alive and every six hands when the match is down to heads-up.
Also, on the PokerStars.net play-money client (I honestly don’t know if it’s the same on the other clients), there was only one buy-in level in this last Power Up Alpha testing cycle: 1,000 play money chips. In the cycle earlier this month, there was a range of buy-ins, with a minimum of 10,000 chips.