A promotional image for PokerStars' PowerPath qualification system. PokerStars to Launch PowerPath, its New Online Qualification System A promotional image for PokerStars' PowerPath qualification system. PokerStars to Launch PowerPath, its New Online Qualification System

Online poker giant PokerStars will introduce a new qualification system dubbed Power Path that will allow players an “exciting” way to qualify for major tournaments, particularly live events, pokerfuse understands.

While the operator has yet to officially announce the new format, Power Path was subtly mentioned in a recent press release announcing the return of the EUREKA festival in September. PokerStars is billing the new game as the operator’s “exciting new way for players of all skill levels and experience to qualify for big events.”

No other information has been released. Based on graphics spotted by pokerfuse in the PokerStars dot-com client, the PowerPath branding and lightning bolt is reminiscent of the operator’s defunct Power Up game. However, it is unlikely to be associated with this product beyond the iconography.

It is likely that the new qualification system will involve either a step-based progression system — potentially inspired by the operator’s existing Kick-Off (previously Grand Tour) game — or a new satellite format where players qualify for a bigger event if they accumulate a certain number of chips.

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PowerPath: Inspired by Mega Path and FastTrack?

The operator has experimented with various innovative qualification methods to help players qualify for the PokerStars LIVE tour.

Mega Path qualifiers ran in the lead-up to the iconic PSPC event, which had multiple steps, starting with a Spin & Go, progressing to an on-demand Sit & Go, then moving through to a weekly MTT and finally a PSPC qualifier tournament.

The Mega Path qualification system proved very popular among recreational players, helping many win a $25,000 Platinum Pass for as little as a few cents through this route.

Another step-based qualification system the operator runs during a major tournament series is Fast Track. The system comprises four different buy-in levels, allowing players to win their way to the higher event for as little as $1.

pokerstars powerpath online poker qualification system

The single-table step sit & go’s that were in vogue a decade ago inspired both systems. In steps, players could enter any level — often there were six or so tiers — to progress to the last level for a big payout.

While the multi-tier steps system has fallen out of fashion, PokerStars brought it back with great fanfare in 2020 with its Grand Tour game (now called Kick-Off), which is still live in the client today. In Kick-Off, there are six levels, or “sprints,” for players to progress through; when one four-handed game is won, the player moves to the next sprint up the ladder and wins a randomized bounty.

The new Power Path could very well be a blend of the mechanics used in Kick-Off and the qualification system used in formats like Fast Track or Mega Path.

There is also a possibility the new game could use the Hit & Run or Target Stack format. In this format, instead of paying out tournament tickets to the last players standing, players qualify for the target event if they accumulate a certain number of chips, usually representing a figure of 10x the starting stack.

Winamax was among the first online poker rooms to introduce it. The format has also been tried out in the live sphere by PokerStars during its recent European Poker Tour (EPT) series.

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Return of New Formats?

Whatever the mechanics, PowerPath will be PokerStars’ newest format in quite a while. From 2018 to 2020, the operator spent most of its resources introducing temporary novelty cash game formats and new in-game formats; there has been much less product innovation in the last three years.

During those three years, PokerStars deployed over half a dozen titles, from Split Hold’em to Fusion, Unfold to Deepwater. Most of these ran for a limited time, though two — 6+ Hold 'em and Tempest — remained permanent.

Are we done doing new variants? Absolutely not. There were innovations beyond cash games, too. In April 2020, the operator unveiled Grand Tour, a new cycling-themed, steps-based, progressive knockout sit &go game with a jackpot element. It marked one of its most ambitious and complex new poker products since Power Up. The game was later rebranded to Kick-Off, keeping the same mechanics but with a new football theme.

However, since then, innovation has been comparatively lacking. In a pokerfuse podcast, Chris Straghalis, Director of Online Poker Experience at PokerStars, discussed challenges the company faced with the new variants. “Every variant has to go through a compliance check or a regulatory check, and “every single regulator has a different way of approving game types,” he stated.

“It’s very frustrating to a player when they hear or see about a great new game, and they don’t get to play it. We want to have games that are as broad into our liquidity as we can get. That’s not always the case these days, and it’s actually getting harder to do that. That’s one of the challenges,” Straghalis added.

But that does not mean the operator has stopped considering building new novelties. “Are we done doing new variants? Absolutely not. We’re continuing to discuss them internally and think about whether it makes sense to do so,” Straghalis further said.

It will be interesting to see how Power Path plays out and into which markets it is deployed. More information on the game is expected soon.

PokerStars Novelty Variants

Variant Table size Game Limit Launch Date Withdrawn Date Lifetime (days)
Split Hold’em 6-max Hold’em NL Mar 28, 2018 May 14, 2018 48
Showtime Hold’em 6-max Hold’em NL May 23, 2018 Jul 23, 2018 62
Unfold Hold’em 8-max Hold’em NL Aug 2, 2018 Sep 27, 2018 57
Fusion 6-max Hold’em PL Nov 7, 2018 Jan 9, 2019 64
6+ Hold’em 6-max Hold’em NL Jan 16, 2019 -
Deep Water Hold’em 6-max Hold’em NL Nov 20, 2019 Jan 8, 2020 50
Tempest Hold’em 6-max Hold’em NL Nov 20, 2019 -
Fusion (second run) 6-max Hold’em PL January 28, 2020 March 13, 2020 46
6 Card Omaha 6-max Omaha PL Feb 14, 2020 -
Swap Hold’em 6-max Hold’em NL March 17, 2020 May 6, 2020 51
Showtime Omaha (Italian market) 6-max Omaha PL Feb 21, 2021 ? ?