PokerStars released a statement at the end of September announcing certain changes to the client, one of which was the removal of the Beat The Clock style tournament. The game was introduced back in November 2016 and has been taken down after being available less than just twelve months. The game is no longer available on PokerStars.
Before players despair, PokerStars, who also run PokerStars Casino on their client, have insisted that the shelving of the Beat The Clock poker game is not without good reason. They say that the removal is to “make way for new products that we wish to feature more prominently.”
The Beat The Clock poker variation was originally marketed as a fast-paced alternative to tournament poker, targeted to those who are looking for the same thrills and action of regular poker, but in a matter of minutes. The games end after a set amount of time — five minutes to be precise — and at the end of the game every player who still has chips gets paid. The amount they receive depends directly on how many chips they have remaining.
‘Beat The Clock’ adopted a ‘Zoom’ format. When players folded, they were taken to another table, with new opponents and a new hand. This sped up the pace of poker greatly, with players able to see more hands per minute; this lends itself particularly well to the timed format of Beat The Clock.
The games were available at various buy-in levels and had a 4-person per table SNG structure. Players started with 5000 chips, but blinds were high enough to make stack sizes relatively shallow, with the starting stack translating to around 12.5bb. The fast structure and imposing blinds meant that players quickly came under pressure. This forced a kind of tournament-style aggression based on staying ahead of the blinds, with little opportunity for serious and profitable pre-flop action.
It’s not a bad concept, but not an entirely original one. PokerStars have been running similar ‘Timed Tournaments’ on their servers for much longer. These timed games ran for 15-45 minutes in a standard tournament format and perhaps offered a better balance to begin with. Couple this with the low potential prizes offered by Beat The Clock, and it seemed the game was never going to gain the traction it needed to stick around in the long run.
The good news is it sounds like new poker variations are in the pipeline, confirmed in PokerStars’ statement and their allusion to the “new products” that would replace ‘Beat The Clock’. Indeed, this would match up to recent news about the development of ‘Power Up’, a new variation of poker that combines the rules of the original game with some outrageous special powers that have lead some people to describe it as ‘E-Sports’.
‘Power Up’ gives players the option of using 9 powers, and players can hold three power cards at once. Each power costs a different amount of ‘energy’, which the player also rejuvenates after each hand is played.
The game has been under development by PokerStars, in collaboration with video game developers, since March 2014. It was originally released to the public in February 2017 for initial testing, and then again in August for a second alpha-phase. Could this be the product that PokerStars referred to as they dropped the ‘Beat The Clock’ games? It seems so…