On Tuesday poker entrepreneur Alex Dreyfus officially unveiled Holdem X.
Holdem X can best be described as an eSport poker game, combining traditional Texas hold’em with turn-based card games such as Magic the Gathering or the incredibly popular Hearthstone, through the addition of a secondary deck of power-up cards.
Holdem X uses standard Texas hold’em rules and game play. However, prior to the match, Holdem X players also receive several “special ability” xCards from what is known as the xDeck. Each of these cards grants a special power, such as increasing the rank of one of your cards or the opportunity to redeal the River. These cards can be played at specific points in a hand.
With the addition of the xDeck, Dreyfus is hoping to add yet another layer of strategy to the game, and at the same time, make poker more appealing to younger players who have increasingly been gravitating towards eSports and other skill-based games.
How Holdem X works
There are three Holdem X variants:
- Normal Game
- Hidden Ban Game
- Face Up Game
At the beginning of this game, each player chooses three xCards to ban, thus denying them to their opponent. Each xCard has a point value, and the banned cards cannot tally more than the allotted point value, which is set at 45 points.
After each player has selected which xCards to ban, each player then selects six xCards (the banned cards are highlighted red and cannot be selected), and as is the case with the banned cards, each player has an allotted point tally they cannot exceed when they choose their xCards, this is set at 90 points this time around.
Hidden Ban Game
In this more cutthroat format the cards your opponent has banned remain unknown, which means you may select one of the banned cards, and therefore it will not work when you try to use it during the game.
Face up game
In this format, each of a players’ six selected xCards are known by their opponent, as they are face-up on the table.
For a better explanation of the basics of the game, here’s a tutorial video created by the Global Poker Index (another Alex Dreyfus property):
A look inside the xDeck
There are currently a total of 15 xCards:
- Board +1 and Board -1 cards (point value 19): These cards decrease or increase the rank of a single board card by one.
- Hole Card +1 and Hole Card -1 (point value 25): These cards decrease or increase the rank of a single Hole Card by one.
- Heart to Diamond or vice versa and Spade to Club or vice versa (point value 5): With these cards you can change the suit of a single board card (the card must be played on the street the card is dealt) from a heart to a diamond or a diamond to a heart, or a spade to a club or a club to a spade.
- Redeal Flop; Redeal Turn; Redeal River (point value 19, 8, and 12 respectively): Playing one of these cards allows you to muck the current community card(s) and deal a new one.
- Pot Block (point value 10): This card allows you to remove your opponent’s last betting action, and prevent any more bets on the current street.
- 3rd Hole Card (point value 21): This card allows you to receive a third hole card that you keep facedown throughout the hand — however, you can only choose two of your three cards to play at showdown, not all three.
- Card Switch (point value 8): This card allows you to switch a hole card with a burn card on the flop, turn, or river.
- 6th Street (point value 12): Using this card grants you the capability of dealing a 6th community card complete with another round of betting and xCard play.
- Pair Bottom Card (point value 27): Playing this card allows you to turn your hole cards into a pair equal to the lowest ranked card in your hand (Q9 becomes 99).
- Pair Top Card (point value 33): Using this card allows you to turn your hole cards into a pair equal to the highest ranked card in your hand (Q9 becomes QQ).
Upshot #1: Strategic scenarios abound
When you play an xCard there is the potential to not only impact the strength of your hand or harm your opponent’s hand, but to give off the perception that your hand is stronger than it actually is, and thus increase the complexity of bluffs.
For instance, if you miss a straight draw, you could play your change a Diamond to a Heart card if it will put a third or fourth Heart on the board in an effort to make your opponent believe you now have a flush.
Upshot #2: Expect more tweaks
Even though Holdem X is into Alpha testing, I expect the product to continue to evolve as Dreyfus receives more and more feedback, and the game’s complexities are thoroughly flushed out by high-level players.
Upshot #3: It’s fun
Most importantly, Holdem X is pretty fun. The game has all of the core components of traditional poker, but the addition of xCards makes it new and exciting, and the new layer of complexity forces players to experiment and think through different scenarios — much like you had to do when you first started playing traditional poker.