The buzz has begun.

All you’ve got to do is search #PowerUp or follow the Twitter timelines of your favorite poker media outlets and personalities and you’ll see people talking about their first experiences with the game. After many months of testing, which in turn had followed many months of development, PokerStars Power Up has finally launched for real-money play. As ought to be expected, PokerStars is engaged in an all-out PR push with their new game. From official blog posts to ringing endorsements from their sponsored pros, the world’s largest online poker room is in the midst of pulling out all the stops to make poker players – and game players in general – aware of their new product.

The company has been building up to this moment for quite some time. As mentioned, Power Up underwent a lot of testing prior to today’s real-money launch. The game’s creators seemed to have learned a great deal from the Alpha launch. Select media members were invited to test the Beta version of the game at the PokerStars Championship Barcelona back in August. Our contributor Bradley Chalupski had plenty to say about Power Up in his review. Moreover, Bradley had the opportunity to interview PokerStars Director of Poker Mr. Severin Rasset and gain additional insight into the tremendous amount of effort that had gone into developing the game in the first place.

I can only imagine the tremendous amount of pride that so many PokerStars employees must be feeling today. Finally, after all the hard work, the fruits of their labor get to be shared with the world. Among the company’s top brass, there must surely also be a feeling of “finally, after all the resources we’ve invested in Power Up, it’s time for us to hopefully start making some money from the new product.” I have no idea how much money PokerStars invested in the creation of Power Up, but surely it must be a high seven- or even low eight-figure sum. For a company that already generates its income from offering “proven” games to begin offering a totally new product represents a big gamble, and that’s specifically what brought me to write this op-ed piece.

Passionate Opinions Rule Social Media

This op-ed will not venture an opinion on the Power Up game itself. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to play it nor will I be able to try it for real money, as I live in Israel. What’s certain, however, is that getting people’s opinions on the game isn’t too difficult. Power Up has its advocates and its detractors. Each camp seems to feel pretty passionately about the game one way or another; its proponents saying that it’s a great, new poker innovation while its opponents (mostly poker purists) opine to the contrary. As mentioned at the outset, a brief glance at social media makes it quite clear as to who is in which camp.

Connect the Dots: Maybe “More Rake” IS “Good for Poker” After All?

What I instead wanted to highlight here is the initiative itself. A cynical view would be to say that “PokerStars needs to grow its bottom line; after all it’s a public company… so it created a game via which to generate more rake.” A more positive view would be to say that “PokerStars’ data indicated a shrinking pool of poker players and felt that something had to be done to combat that tide. In an attempt to tap into the vast e-gaming fan base, PokerStars decided to think outside the box and gamble big on creating a new product that could hopefully attract some of those e-gamers, thus growing overall online poker liquidity.”

Regardless of where you stand on the game of Power Up, if you’re “pro poker” there’s literally no reason I can think of nor any benefit to taking the cynical view on the initiative itself. So much fuss has been made for far too long about “more rake,” so there’s no need to expand upon that. Sure, a company, especially a public one, needs to make money. But take a step back and look for a minute at what said company DOES with their revenues.

Again, a cynic might say “line the pockets of world-renown sports stars and celebrities in order to curry favor and endorsement,” but why be so cynical? For decades, a litany of multinational companies have allied themselves with famous personalities. The bottom line is that the Michael Jordans of the world helped get people familiar with Wheaties. Is it a bad thing for the Usain Bolts and Kevin Harts of the world to acquaint people with PokerStars? If you’re “pro poker,” it’s hard to argue against it.

So too, a far more positive view of “what’s all that rake going towards?” would be to connect the dots. The world leader in online poker reinvested its resources into the game itself with its Power Up initiative, something that has a (if not strong then at least a very decent) chance of opening up the game of poker to brand new audiences worldwide. Something of that nature is undoubtedly good for poker.

In closing, then, I just want to publicly applaud what PokerStars has done with their Power Up initiative and wish them much success in hopefully growing the game of poker.

Let the buzz continue.

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