The coronavirus has caused the cancellation of all live poker for the foreseeable future. Nick and Mike bring you the latest and discuss possible alternatives for the World Series of Poker.

With so many people staying at home, online poker is booming. Operators are chipping in to convert some live events to online, and they are raising guarantees for those that now have some unexpected time on their hands.

PokerStars has released yet another poker variant. The guys tell you about the rules and discuss the potential for the game to catch on.


Full Transcript

Mike Gentile: Hello and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse Podcast. It’s March 19th, 2020. This is episode number 46. I am your host Mike Gentile along with my cohost Nick Jones.

Mike: Live poker is quickly becoming a thing of the past. We’ll update you on the factors that may impact the return of live poker events including the World Series of Poker and the PSPC

Mike: In this time of social distancing, online poker is once again becoming all the rage. We’ll update you on the new state of the online poker world and tell you what online poker operators are doing to meet the increased demand.

Mike: Finally, PokerStars has another new game. We’ll get you the details on Swap Hold’em and discuss some of the ways that the game is different from the other novelty variants previously rolled out by PokerStars.

Updates on the Impact of the Coronavirus on Live Poker Events

Mike: Any conversation about poker needs to start with the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. We’ve seen a large number of cancellations, and we expect that to continue into the future. Nick, what do we know about live poker events currently?

Nick Jones: Yes. Any conversation about anything is starting with a discussion about coronavirus, isn’t it?

Mike: Sure.

Nick: We’re at that point now where it’s redundant to just list everything that’s canceled in poker or anything. Everything is at a distance, which people are confident to predict. The only reason some stuff isn’t canceled I imagine is it’s too far out and people are hopeful they’ll be able to run. Obviously, this is a poker podcast, so we’ll talk about online poker, although it feels a little bit trivial to be discussing it. All live events are canceled obviously the next six weeks to two months I think is the horizon that we’re looking at. I would expect things beyond that also to be canceled, just decisions haven’t been made.

We talked about this last week when we were saying that everything is canceled. There’s a few notable ones that have come out only because they were trying to hold out and not be canceled. I think the most notable one was EPT Sochi, which PokerStars was still hoping to run. It was going to be now. I think it was going to start last Friday and run through to the end of this week. They canceled it three days out, which is very short notice.

I think everyone was surprised they were still trying to run it. I’m guessing with Russia, they haven’t been impacted so badly. They haven’t had the restrictions that some of Europe has seen. On the assumption that everyone who was going was going to be, Russia might still be worth hosting. I also wonder, this is my speculation, that it might have been a little bit trickier for operators to cancel it just with the deal that they might have with the resort, with the Sochi resort, just because PokerStars was canceling other events further afield. It just seems odd that one was still going, but that has been canceled to say a couple of days before it was going to start. They’ve rescheduled it I think for October time, I believe.

Mike: Yes. What we did see is we saw some restrictions come down on Moscow, but I didn’t see anything particular to Sochi when it comes to social or live gatherings. I think what we’re seeing now is we’re seeing a lot of operators that are trying to make decisions, but they also have to make those in conjunction with government authorities.

From a PR standpoint, sometimes it could be better to allow the government to step in and close things down rather than the operator coming out and canceling it. Maybe that’s not better, I don’t know, but I think that this particular period can provide some opportunities for the online poker operators and live poker operators to shine from a PR perspective. There’s a lot of opportunities for them to endear themselves to their customers.

Nick: Absolutely. We have seen some of that. One of the first out of the gates was Unibet were going to host their Tallinn stop in Estonia. They decided to move that online. We’ve seen a few others also moving online. The Irish Poker Open, which traditionally runs in Dublin, Ireland, that has been running every year for 40 years, something like that. I think they call themselves Europe’s longest-running poker festival. That’s moved onto the partypoker platform. Partypoker is doing quite a lot actually to pick up some of the cancellations and rehearse some of these events online. We’re definitely seeing a trend there.

Mike: Yes, I think even outside of Poker, a lot of people are saying on social media that this is the time where they’re going to take note of how companies react through their customer service, through their public relations. There’s a great opportunity for poker operators here. One that stands out to me right now is WSOP. They haven’t come out and officially canceled the World Series of Poker, but effectively, it has been because all of the casinos are shut down in Nevada. Now, whether or not that continues on and through the end of May, it’s hard to say for sure, but with travel restrictions only looking to move into a greater area, it’s really hard to imagine that they will be able to operate this year.

Nick: Yes, it’s just over two months away, the start of it. I suppose that’s just outside the horizon that we’re looking at in terms of cancellations. As you say, I saw something put out by the American Gaming Association in the last couple of days. They said that 94% of the country’s casinos had shut their doors. It’s impacted 96% of the casino workforce. The only ones that I think— The reason why it’s not 100% is there are some tribal casinos that have remained open. That’s just across the world. Again, so that’s why it just feels silly to list everything is canceled because just everything is shut. Obviously not just casinos, but everything.

I mean, the WSOP I guess hasn’t announced yet, but even the only the absolutely most optimistic estimates that think that anything will be back to normal in two months’ time. I mean, it just seems blindly hopeful that that’s the case. Even if things did open again in two months’ time, I don’t think everyone’s going to be jumping on a plane to fly to Las Vegas. I guess it’s more a case, I guess, behind the scenes of them trying to put together an alternative route that they want to announce at the same time.

There have been some hints there. There was Rob Yong of partypoker GVC, did a long podcast with Joey Ingram. He suggested throwing their hat in the ring to hosts some WSOP online events for them, and that is apparently being considered. There are potential options there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, when we hear the cancellation plan, it comes with the alternative online version.

Mike: Yes, I don’t know. I’m a bit skeptical about that actually taking place. As you know, they already have an online partner in 888, so there could be significant restrictions there as far as them branding through on one of 888’s competitors. With regard to hold the online bracelet events, the number of events has skyrocketed in recent years, and they were looking to have a record number this year as well, but those are restricted to only players in the US, number one, and even within the US, only in Nevada and New Jersey. It’s hard to see that they’d be able to do something worldwide or internationally at this point.

Nick: I mean, maybe we’ll see something like, as he said, they had 11 bracelet events were to be hosted online this year, 11 out of 101, I think, so we’re looking at just over 10% there. Maybe they’ll just run like another 10 with a global provider. Again, 888 will be the obvious choice because obviously they do have an exclusive partnership with them, but Rob did seem to indicate that there was potentially they might snap that. Maybe they’ll host 10 with 888 and Winamax as well. They work with them in the French-Spanish market, and Winamax has been satelliting people into the main event.

Maybe they’ll run a few events there for French-Spanish plays and then call that day there with only 25 online bracelet events available. But as you say, the weird thing there is that the main people who can’t play are the 48 states in the United States who don’t have access where everyone else does, which is odd for a festival that’s so US-focused. There is no good solution here for them, unfortunately.

Mike: Yes, I think one alternative could be to postpone it. It’s possible that things could be better in the fall, for example, the logistics of doing so are definitely going to be difficult, but given the state of the Rio currently, I’d be surprised if the WSOP doesn’t have the numbers or the potential numbers to come in and get a space that they’re able to hold, at least a scaled-down version in later in the year. That could be an option.

Nick: Yes, that is a good idea. I think the difficulty there is, we’ve seen a few people say like, Okay, this is going to be hosted in October, but it’s just so much guesswork at the moment about whether anything will be back to normal.

I mean, that idea I think in principle is fantastic because when restrictions do start to lift, I think there’s going to be just socially and economically a lot of friction about people moving again and spending again and traveling and that kind of thing. A big event, like the World Series of Poker to get people back to Vegas, back into the hotels, back into the hospitality is a fantastic idea, but I think the difficulty they’ve got is just announcing it and saying, “It’ll be October or it’ll be November.” It is perhaps a bit early to be putting a date on it, but I think it’s a good idea in principle for sure.

Mike: That timeframe is still in question, which then makes us look at what other events have not yet been canceled. There’s a list that are scheduled to take place in July, in August, and most notably, the PSPC that we have not heard yet an official word on.

Nick: That’s the big one. For PokerStars, they only have three European Poker Tour stops this year, Monte Carlo was canceled, Sochi was just canceled three days before, and then the EPT Barcelona in August, which includes the PSPC. They’ve already and continue to give away plan and passes to this event to the tune of $5 million, $6 million worth of tickets. I can’t see. Their official statement is, “I didn’t know they’d be very responsive to our inquiries, as everyone is, honestly, but it’s ultimately, they’re monitoring it. As it stands right now, they hope we can still go ahead, but we will see what happens. There’s nothing else you can say. In my mind, and I think in most people’s minds, it seems highly unlikely that Spain will be opening its doors again come August.

Mike: Yes, that’s almost a certainty not to happen actually just based on some of the news that’s coming out of places in Spain like Madrid, where they’re expecting that 80% of the population is going to be infected. It’s hard to imagine that things will be in the clear that soon. It feels weird in March to say that soon when talking about August.

Nick: Yes, but as you say, we’ve got politicians now saying these lockdowns are going to last six months and you assume they’re giving you an optimistic side of things rather than an overly pessimistic one. I think, guessing here, but behind the scenes to make these announcements, you have deals in place with companies, you make commitments to them to be filling up hotels, to be filling up casinos, these kinds of things. I guess things have to happen in a certain order, announcements need to be made and deadlines set before you can trigger a clause in a contract or trigger a clause in an insurance contract or these kinds of things to make the announcement.

That’s why I think we’re seeing this six-week, two-month horizon because that is the guaranteed, no one’s doing anything over that period. As that horizon moves forward, we’ll see more and more cancellations, which is tough, obviously, because some people have got travel plans, people have won tickets, staff are making plans to get there. Everything’s basically just static until these announcements could be made.

Mike: Well, hopefully, we’ll see things clear up on the virus side and that will then allow some of the poker operators to start making plans. Even if that’s in the fall or in the early winter, I think that will help boost people’s morale, give them something to look forward to.

Online Poker Booms as a Result of the Coronavirus

Mike: On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the online game. And while we’ve seen tons of cancellations on the live scene, online poker has really started to explode since people have been staying home.

Nick: On the podcast last week, I think you suggested that we might see that big spike in traffic online, and I was somewhat cautious about what we might see. I was proven wrong by that. Within about minutes of stopping recording with you, checking the online poker traffic we were already seeing in Italy which was one of the first in Europe to have the nationwide lockdown and traffic surging there and now we’ve seen it globally.

Unprecedented numbers of people are in the online poker tables, cash games, and tournaments. Across almost every market, across almost every operator, we’re seeing, over the last week 20%, 30%, 40% growth in cash game traffic. Markets like Italy is a four-year high for cash game activity. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw that in a lot of the European operators too over the coming days and weeks.

Mike: Yes, it’s definitely something to be optimistic for or definitely gives people an outlet while they’re locked in the house, but I’m a little leery, how long is this sustainable with the economy being in such jeopardy, let’s call it? It’s hard to imagine that there’s going to be that disposable income that people are going to continue to be able to entertain themselves with online gaming.

Nick: Yes. That’s it. A lot of our listeners will be professional, semi-professional players in the industry, and obviously, it’s a fantastic time for them. If games are busier and the games are busy with lots of new players, the reality is 90%, 95% of people that are now coming to the tables looking for entertainment are casual players. As you say, it can absolutely be an entertainment outlet for a lot of people and a fun thing to do. We’re looking at Sundays.

We look back at last Sunday, huge turnout to the MTTs. You can buy into a tournament for $10, euros, 50, 100, and be playing poker for five, six, seven, eight hours. It’s a great thing to do if you’re stuck at home for the foreseeable future. As you say, long-term with economically, personally a lot of people facing some tough times. This is not potentially sustainable for the long-term.

Mike: I saw that you had posted a poll on Twitter asking people that are at the tables, do they find them to be more fishy, more tough, what have been some of the results so far?

Nick: It’s only been up an hour, but there’s been like 60 votes, and of all the people who’ve given an opinion, because the largest one is people wanting to see the results and now I have an opinion—

Mike: That was me. [chuckles]

Nick: Yes [chuckles] , but of the 30 people who have voted, all but one or two have voted that the games are fishier than they were before, which is not surprising I suppose. Again, being that we’ve seen it across the board like even the smaller operators are seeing that kind of traffic. We’re seeing people, casual people who only play in the weekends now play during the week, now play in the evenings on weekdays. Is really it’s quite incredible to see. I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest. The US markets, the US regulated market seeing huge growth. I won’t go through them all, but we’re like 20%, 30% just up in the last week in all the major operators.

Mike: Another thing that we’re seeing is we’re seeing some increases in guarantees. We’re seeing PokerStars advanced or moved up the PACOOP in Pennsylvania, for example, and NJCOOP. They’re making moves to try and accommodate the increase in demand.

Nick: Again, operators have to be careful here. You don’t want the PR of being seeming to like profiteer from these opportunities but on the flip side, ultimately these sites provide a service and they want to be meeting their service. We’ve got a lot of people turning out. You want to be promised a big guarantee, so if you want to play poker this Sunday, we guarantee that the prize pool is going to be this large. We’re seeing that, but it’s somewhat modest.

As you say, partypoker have increased their Powerfest guarantees, but they haven’t gone at least $20 million was the series guarantee, which is fairly modest for them. We didn’t see them go, “Right, it’s going to be $30 million or 40 million,” but they are incrementally increasing them daily to the point that maybe on reflection it will be $30 million. We’ve seen the GGMasters, they met their guarantee for the first time I think last Sunday or the week before. Yes. They’ve upped their guarantee on that now to $400 K event.

This Sunday, in particular, is going to be huge. It was going to be huge anyway. PokerStars have got their anniversary, Sunday million, $12.5 million guaranteed. That’s the largest online poker tournament ever held. No, sorry. It’s the largest PokerStars have ever heard. Of course, the partypoker have done that $20 million guaranteed millions online, but outside of that, it’s the largest guarantee ever put on an online poker tournament, definitely the largest of PokerStars. That plus we’ve got the Powerfest, the GGMasters. 888 have got a $1 million guarantee this coming Sunday as well, their storm. Yes. it’s going to be pretty unprecedented this weekend.

Mike: Yes. With all of the opportunities for good PR, there’s also, as you mentioned earlier, the risks with PR as well. Looking as if they’re taking advantage of a dire situation, but I think upping guarantees, I don’t think it goes there. I think that upping guarantees shows a positive front for poker operators. Expanding schedules, maybe not as much, but still, I don’t get the feeling that it’s a negative from a PR standpoint.

Nick: Yes. The tournament’s guarantees is always safe, isn’t it? Because it’s just saying, “Hey, if we don’t get customer traffic, we’re just going to be paying out more out of our own pocket. We probably won’t see a big deposit bonuses and reload bonuses I would say. I think that’s something that companies would be careful to shy away from, but the tournament is always a good way to do it. PokerStars is also running their birthday celebrations, which is just like extra money, free money in the rewards chests, that kind of thing.

Again, the guarantees is very much like it’s that they’re meeting demand rather than trying to push it or generate it a bit. Something that we’re going to see with all these online poker companies is that the vast majority generate much more money or did generate a lot more money from sports betting. Obviously sports betting has just stopped overnight. That’s a multi-billion dollar industry that literally the light was turned off a week ago, a few days ago. These companies will need to show their investors that they can still generate revenue over the next few months under that situation.

There’s going to be no US sports, European sports all summer. I think that’s pretty fair to say. Some companies are starting offering— Bet365 I think is offering bets on virtual FIFA games and the women’s under 21 somewhere in Iran or something like that. There’s very few sporting events running. Poker is the natural opportunity for customers who’ve got a wallet online to offer them something else if they want to continue to real money game online. They will obviously have clear financial pressures as all industries do, and they’ve got a product that is much better than before to offset their product which now no longer exists anymore. They have to be careful I think to be seemed to push people too much into a product they weren’t using.

Mike: Right. I think that’s where poker really has the opportunity to shine. As you mentioned, sports is a big part of the revenue for a lot of these online gaming companies. The other thing besides poker is casino games. When we’re talking from a PR standpoint, it feels like they can safely push or promote poker, whereas doing so on the casino side might seem a bit more taking advantage of the situation.

Nick: Yes, and this goes back to, I don’t know, Poker Industry PROs, fantastic and still very relevant report written three years ago, the online poker difference, which enumerates all these things which are really going to shine over the next few months, which is poker is the complete package in terms of the gaming experience. You’ve got Twitch streamers, you’ve got strategy, you did have live events, and you’ve got a peer to peer competitive game where the smarter more skillful people win. That’s just a very different picture than casino gaming, and it’s closer even to sports betting. Again, like sports betting can be pitched by some operators, as a skillful endeavor.

Poker is unquestionably that and there are a few examples very much any game can still be based online. I mean, it’s going to be a fascinating time. Just to talk to you about things like twitch streaming. I mean, that’s going to explode over the next couple of months, right? I mean, it’s any kind of at-home entertainment experience. I mean, Netflix must be readying for two, three, four times the regular bandwidth that they have to support. Twitch will be there, poker will be there.

It can be there to provide entertainment with things like the Galfond Challenge, which is back and happening and as exciting as it ever was. Playing online poker, sweating online poker on Twitch, that will all be there. It’s important that operators seize that opportunity whilst providing the service rather than exploiting them for very short term revenue gain.

Mike: What do you think about the potential Achilles heel, if you will, of online poker? You had mentioned Netflix earlier, and I’ve seen reports where governments are stepping in and asking Netflix to dial back some of the quality of their videos for fear that they are going to overwhelm the backbone of the internet with so many people working from home and being confined to their houses. Is that a concern if we’ve seen disruptions in online poker over the last week or so?

Nick: I mean, not from an infrastructure server point of view, although, to be honest, I’m not sure if online poker in general is in a super-strong position in terms of that. I think the Sunday before last, there was downtime across PokerStars and partypoker, I believe. That can always happen, but we’re not- unless traffic goes 10X or something. There really shouldn’t be a reason.

It’s already extremely spiky. That’s the thing. PokerStars has to be confident that it can host a $12.5 million poker tournament. Your average traffic right now is not going to be exceeding that. They should have the backbone to support that. I’m not going to say there’s going to be problems with online poker services in the next couple of weeks, absolutely not, because it’s rare that we go a month without having something going on somewhere. But it should be fine I think from a tech standpoint, in principle, at least,

Mike: Yes, the bigger companies I’m not so worried about. They have built the ability to scale. It’s maybe some of the smaller operators that haven’t experienced such surges in traffic that, who knows how well prepared they are to weather that storm?

Nick: Yes, I mean, they should. It’s not like Run It Once Poker is going to go from 100 concurrent players, 200 concurrent players to 10,000 tomorrow, there’s going to be a ramp, so the only question there is if they— This is the thing whenever we talk about this, and in any industry, you talk about companies is a global entity. But of course, companies are just saying the obvious, they’re made up of people, many of those people who can’t get into work, who might be ill themselves, who might have kids care for and that thing.

I think, right the first section, you’re saying it’s an opportunity for companies to show how good they are for customer support and that thing. You’re absolutely right. There’s also a time where huge arms of their customer support staff are going to struggle doing the job that they were doing a month ago. I think the thing is, let’s say a smaller company needs to scale up and support more customers, their tech team still in the offices, can they still get the backbone ISP on the phone to troubleshoot for them, can they still get the DDoS protection that they were getting before?

These are the big unknowns on anything. We just don’t know how the global system economy is going to handle this thing, because we’re just going to see a massive spike in all these at-home entertainment services, and I don’t think anyone knows whether they’re going to be able to provide under these strange conditions.

Mike: Yes, I mean, you raise a good point. It’s not just the scaleability of the online poker software and the infrastructure, it’s also the scaleability of the customer support, which will have a very big impact on the forward-facing part of the online poker operators and their ability to handle the requests of their customers is really going to be something that’s under a magnifying glass I think over the next couple of months.

Nick: It’ll be interesting also to see if there are many people out there who may be laid off from their work, I think your US term is a furlough, isn’t it? That’s when people furlough [crosstalk] freeze. Yes.

Mike: They are, layoff. It’s more widely used, I think

Nick: An ex-poker pro is thinking, I’ll get back and be a poker professional. I’ll get back to grinding. Maybe a lot behind the surge in traffic. Again, that’s why I started the poll asking people why they’re saying the game is fishier because if you’re seeing a lot of people getting back grinding and playing good poker, that wouldn’t be the case, although maybe if you’re a pro from five years ago, you’re now the fish and your ABC poker doesn’t quite cut it these days. So yes, anyway, it all just comes back to I mean morbidly fascinating time to see what’s going to happen in the online poker industry over the next couple of months.

PokerStars Unveils Swap Hold’em

Nick: How about we finish off the focus with something that is not coronavirus related?

Mike: Okay, what will that be?

Nick: PokerStars launched a new game. Real money game, it’s available in the UK I believe only at the moment but obviously we expect it to roll out globally, and that is Drumroll Swap Hold’em, which I believe is something we would have talked about in this podcast like five months ago, six months ago.

Mike: Yes, we’ve seen hints that it was coming. This is not brand new. We didn’t know a lot of the details at the time that we first saw it, but the details are out, and it looks quite interesting.

Nick: Yes, I’ll be honest, I actually think when we discuss what Swap Hold’em might be, how it might play, I didn’t guess this. It’s clearly the most obvious thing in retrospect. I think we guess maybe you can swap a card with somebody else, or swap a flop or something like that. It’s much more straightforward than that. It’s Hold’em, everything exactly the same except at one point in the hand, before you act, you can decide to swap out one or two of your hole cards, you swap them out, face down, and get tail one or two more cards. You can do that at any point in the hand, but you can only do it once, and that’s it.

Mike: Right. The surprising thing to me is that you can do it all the way to the river.

Nick: Yes. This makes it fascinating. It is, I think most notably, this was one of the skills in Power Up, which it was PokerStars pretty complicated poker hybrid game where you had these different power cards, and you could play them and they would have— They weren’t power cards, were they?

Mike: Yes, I think they were power cards or was that the other game?

Nick: I think that was the other game. You got powers and you could play them, you earn generated these points, and you could play them and they give you a special power at the table. One of them was being able to swap out your hole cards. They’ve taken that one element and made a whole game around it, basically.

Mike: Yes, some of the key points are their players can swap either one of their hole cards or both of their hole cards for free, you’re not charged to do so. You can do it once per hand, and in order for you to fold, another interesting twist, you must swap your cards so you can check or bet arrays, but in order to fold, you have to swap.

Nick: I guess not just to protect people from making a huge mistake, obviously, you’d never want to fold without swapping your code, cards can maybe sort them out and get down to aces or get delta nuts. I’m guessing that’s just kind of a player protection mechanism for people who don’t realize what the game is, you might just like auto fold, but yes, like we’ve seen with PokerStars games, and this is like the eighth or ninth twist on hold’em that we’ve seen over the last two, three years from PokerStars.

The way it’s implemented is pretty slick. It uses the new Aurora graphics engine. In fact, you have to have Aurora enabled to play this game, it’s Aurora only, and they’ve actually removing the ability to turn off this new game engine, but if you’re playing it, the visual effects are very cool, swirling graphics in the background, customized sound effects, that kind of thing.

They customize obviously the bet and fold buttons. You’ve got checkboxes to auto swap out a car when it gets to you, that kind of thing. Very nicely implemented. They will always be waiting five, six months testing this to launch it. They’ve done it pretty quietly. UK first and I think at the time of us recording this, it’s still only in the UK, but I would expect this to go pretty wide. I would say this is one of the most interesting novelty games that they’ve launched.

Mike: You think this one’s got legs and can last?

Nick: I think so. I think what’s good about it is it’s very easy to explain, but I think the strategy is very complicated. I started playing and had literally no idea what I was meant to do, what’s correct to do, and you just have to start thinking from scratch about— If you’ve played Power Up and talk to people who have played Power Up when it was available, obviously that game was removed back in November time, you will be probably instantly familiar with this because it was one of the key powers in the game. They’re going to have a big advantage in the strategy, but even then I imagined the strategy was fairly thin compared with obviously where people are with classic no-limit hold’em, the decision of when you should swap out your card, how late you should leave it, the bluffing opportunities and swapping out a card early and late, all these things are new. It’s one of these classics instantly to explain will take a long time for you to work out how best you want to use this new skill.

Mike: Yes, one of the things that jump out at me that could impact strategy quite a bit is bet sizing and pot sizing. You certainly don’t want to be uber- aggressive early when the player has the opportunity to swap their hole cards later in the hand, that to me jumps out is a particularly poignant part of the strategy that could be very different with a game like this.

Nick: Yes, I think everyone’s ranges a wider I guess because you can obviously manipulate your hand. I guess I’m just thinking out loud, but hands that can work both ways are going to be really good rise. If you’ve got a jack 10 suited or something like that, that is a hand that can play multiple ways because if you don’t hit your connectors and suits, you can swap that out and swap out one or both of those cards. If you swap out like— If you go jack 10 and swap out the 10 and go for a higher top pair type end, it’s the kind of thing that can really improve using that swap ability on the flop going on with it. Anyway, yes, this is me talking absolute fish strategy here thinking off the top of my head.

Mike: All right, I got some fish strategy for you.

Nick: What is it about?

Mike: Blockers become a lot more important?

Nick: Yes.

Mike: Because you know that even if they do swap their hole cards, they have less of a chance of being able to connect with the board.

Nick: I also wonder whether they experimented with an open version of this where if you swap out a card, it’s showing face up?

Mike: Yes, that releases a whole lot of information.

Nick: I would say it would really narrow down the range of what cards somebody would have, and that would be fascinating. Maybe there’s something they can do. Again, I’m probably saying this out loud, and someone’s listening going, “Nick, that’s absolutely stupid. That wouldn’t work.” I know very much that’s the case, but just right now we’re in what is now going to be fish strategy section of the Pokerfuse Podcast. That sounds like a pretty cool twist.

When we look at some of the other ones like Split Hold’em, fine; Showtime Hold’em, fine. I don’t know, this one seems pretty interesting to me. It also just seems, I mean, I can’t believe that this hasn’t been done before. Maybe it has maybe some of the people play at home games, but I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of it. When we even talked about Swap Hold’em, I’m not sure if we even contemplated this exact implementation of card swapping, I don’t know.

Mike: Yes, in my mind, it would be perhaps swapping your hole cards after the flop at the very latest or maybe even just preflop. I didn’t envision that you’d be able to get to the river and still be able to change your hand that dramatically. One of the novelty games from PokerStars that has or I should say the only one that has returned has been Fusion. It strikes me that looking it up and down the list, Tempest, for example, Unfold, those, I didn’t see a lot of buzz around some of those, though I believe that Tempest is still available.

Nick: Well, yes, so this is the thing. I actually liked both Deep Water Hold’em and Tempest Hold’em where they’re the same except Tempest is an all in fold version with short stacks. The game is basically there’s a third blind, right? there’s the giant blind, which is life. I think that’s the one twist, so it’s just like a Deepstack Hold’em, fine. Then they can’t Deep Water in Tempest, which I can only think the little mix so that it was generating the money and generating enough liquidity to make it worthwhile. It’s more like a super quick, pretty high rate game. It was a shame from my perspective that that was the one that stuck around.

Obviously Six Plus Hold’em if you include it in this category of novelty hold’em games, which is debatable, that obviously launched over a year ago and it’s still around. Fusion came back for a second round, but that’s probably short term and now we’ve got that. Be interesting to see if this one sticks around as well alongside 10-piston Six Plus because it’s a pretty busy lobby now for PokerStars in terms of cash games.

Mike: Yes. One of the things that stands out for me for this particular game is I think it will have a larger appeal to recreational players. You were describing Deepwater and Tempest. Those type of betting strategies and pot strategies can be lost on some recreational players and then you have things like Fusion which is incorporating hold’em and Omaha together. Where I think that something like Swap Hold’em, it feels like recreational players will enjoy the opportunity to hit that long ball, that home run on the end to try anything they can to win that big pot.

Nick: Yes, and I think also it’s just a game that with one rule change changes every street and your strategy throughout where something like Deep Water Hold’em was literally just a preflop change. Once you’re at the flop, the pot might be larger, but if you’ve got a normal holding strategy that can handle three bear pots or four-bet pots, you’re just implementing that. I can’t quite remember how Fusion worked. It was started to hold’em but then became PLO or the other way around.

Mike: Yes, one of those. I’m not even sure. There’s that, there’s Split Hold’em with the multiple boards. There’s Unfold, which I think had a little bit of appeal for recreational players, always wanting to get back in the game. I’m not sure. It seems like this one could be appealing, but I guess only time is really going to tell us.

Nick: Yes. That’s Swap Hold’em, only live in the UK, and I think maybe the dotnet client for free play if you wanted to give it a test. I would be very surprised if in the next week it wasn’t alive across the market, and we might even see it in some of the segregated markets as well. Do keep your eyes on that and the PokerStars client.


Mike: Well, that wraps up this episode of the pokerfuse podcast. As a reminder, please give us a like and a subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow us and interact with us on Twitter. Nick is at @pokerprojones. I am @SpookyBugs. Thanks, everyone for tuning in.