When you think of “Duel” and online gaming, a daily fantasy sports site may come to mind. But now PokerStars’ push to engage casual players may be dueling with that name.
The online poker giant’s new mobile app, Duel by PokerStars, hit its beta launch this week, at the same time that the company announced the new product.
Currently available only in Norway only (possibly so any beta snafus will go away quietly into the frozen tundra), the mobile game allows players to compete against their friends, or any other connected player, in a heads-up match, but there’s a twist.
Unlike traditional online games where the action flows back-and-forth until one player decides to give up, Duel is a turn-based game that’s similar to apps such as Words With Friends.
After setting up a game, the action runs as follows: you start with 500 chips, you look at your cards, you make your bet, and then you wait.
In the same way as with Words With Friends, the action then passes to your opponent, who can then act at a time that suits them. This process is then repeated until the allotted number of hands runs out (play money games last 10 hands, while real money games, which are capped at $5, last 20 hands) and the game is completed.
Wait Your Turn
Unlike heads-up poker on PokerStars’ online platform or mobile app, the action is basically frozen until the second player in the game makes a move. This dynamic is something PokerStars has borrowed from the mobile gaming world and a parallel that it hopes will attract a new wave of players to the game.
Since Amaya took control of PokerStars back in June 2014, there has been a definite shift in the site’s target audience. It’s been made clear through a series of major changes to how the company does business that PokerStars is targeting casual gamers who may even be new to the game.
In addition to lottery-style Sit & Go tournaments (Spin & Go), PokerStars has employed the services of well-known sports stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr., over the last 12 months. In fact, when you visit the new Duel by PokerStars page, you’ll see Ronaldo staring intently at the camera as his opponent makes their move.
By following a dynamic that’s common in the social gaming world, PokerStars is creating an accessible way for newbies to test out the game (for free if they sit at a play money table). The theory is then that some of these players move onto PokerStars’ main platform and play for real money.
Pieces of the Puzzle ComeTogether
In fact, the beta launch of Duel in Norway helps to put PokerStars’ recent game changs into perspective.
Earlier this week, it was announced the PokerStars will be removing its regular heads-up cash game tables and replacing them with fast-fold games (Zoom Poker). The reason given for the move was to improve the heads-up cash game ecosystem and reduce the amount of “predatory” behavior on the site.
By placing players into a pool and shifting them from table-to-table, it limits a player’s ability to sit and wait for fish to join the action. This dynamic is something that gels with PokerStars’ overall strategy of making the game more attractive and less intimidating for amateurs.
After testing the new iOS and Android versions in Norway, PokerStars has pledged to roll it out across all of the markets it’s licensed in.
That is, of course, if FanDuel (the DFS company whose CFO recently said there is no skill in poker) doesn’t decide that the name “Duel” infringes on its trademark and gets lawyered up.