PokerStars’ Side Bets Feature Goes Live to Mixed Reactions

The debate over gambling-based features and their place in online poker has resurfaced following the launch of PokerStars Side Bets.

PokerStars side bets

PokerStars Side Bets is now live, but some players aren’t impressed with the new feature. (Image: PokerStars)

As innovations reshape the online poker industry, players are now asking if PokerStars’ new feature encourages more players to gamble unnecessarily.

Speculating on the dynamics of a hand has been common practice in live poker games for decades. Thanks to a recent update, this option is now available across all Hold’em games on PokerStars.com, dot.eu, dot.ruso, and dot.net.

Adding Another Wrinkle to Online Poker

The launch follows a testing period at the start of 2020, during which players gave their opinions on the feature. Alongside issues with stability, players suggested that hiding the Side Bets option box would be better.

Taking these comments on board, the developers have tweaked the software. As part of the full release, side bets are available automatically, but the option is hidden. Those that want to use it can open the Side Bets window within the chat box, and bet on outcome of the next hand.

In practice, PokerStars Side Bets are made against the house and operate as follows:

  • Side Bets are available on all Hold’em tables, excluding Zoom
  • Players can bet on pre-flop and flop outcomes for the next hand
  • Players can speculate on a variety of outcomes, such as their hole cards being a pair of aces, and what type of hand the flop might bring (e.g., a flush, trips, etc.)
  • Players can make single bets or use the auto function — automatic bets can be based on a set amount of hands, a maximum win, or the total amount wagered

Money for side bets is taken from a player’s main account balance and not funds on the table. Finally, the ability to make side bets will always be available, except under certain conditions:

“If bets are placed on the outcome of a flop, and the next hand ends before a flop is dealt, bets will be canceled and refunded.

If a table is broken before the outcome of the next hand has been determined, bets will be canceled and refunded.

If a player isn’t dealt into a hand they have bet on, as a result of sitting out or disconnection, bets will be canceled and refunded,” reads PokerStars’ official guide.

Side bets have been around for many years. Often an agreement between individuals, these off-the-table wagers are popular in high stakes games.

Side Bets Draw Split Opinions

For the public at large, side bets (aka props) became popular thanks to pros like Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Tom Dwan, and other regulars on shows like High Stakes Poker (see video below).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np9LHJZcLBU

While side bets are entertaining, PokerStars’ update has split opinions among players. On one side, some are praising the site for bringing something fresh to the mix. Other players, however, believe the new feature is nothing more than another attempt to force more casino features into online poker.

They’re literally becoming a casino,” Datesi tweeted. 

“And they will be raked obv, so they will all be -EV, which is not poker. JokerStars. If online poker comes back to Australia, I know which site I won’t be playing on,” Eugene Portland wrote on Twitter. 

The criticism is nothing new for PokerStars. Past innovations, including Split Hold’em, have raised the question of where the line between skill and gambling now sits. As a business, PokerStars needs to make money, and features such as Side Bets are another revenue stream.

Moreover, as all online poker operators have argued in recent years, the industry needs to attract more casual players. The challenge, however, is striking the right balance between satisfying pros and bringing new blood into the game.

PokerStars’ Side Bets is another attempt to find a happy medium and, in turn, make online poker more appealing. It’s now up to players to vote with their dollars and decide whether it’s a positive addition to the site or not.

Daniel Smyth
Written by
Daniel Smyth
Dan Smyth is a poker media journeyman who politely reminds CardsChat readers that poker is played all around the world, not just America.

Comments

FastOne wrote...

After reading this article I opened PokerStars to have a look at it and don’t like it at all (not that I liked the idea of it after reading about it anyway).

I could see it as an advantage maybe (but not likely for the reasons below), because the players that use it, would probably lose some focus on the hand itself and what’s going on, being all hyped about his/her bet, obtaining some kind of edge because of this.

But I feel like it could most probably affect the game in a negative way by making people play more loose and crazy, taking more chances since they are already taking a 100% luck bet with this feature. So it could potentially drive people to go allin often out of this side bet experience, and making the game almost an allin or fold situation, which would make no sense to me to play this way. But it would be the ideal scenario for PokerStars, since they would collect more rake per hand and there would more hands per hour as well, since they’d be faster in average from the added allin hands.

Bozovicdj wrote...

This is the worst thing that could happen in online Poker.
Just think about this:
70-30 percent to win a hand. Player with 30 cashes out, player with 70 doesnt. PS gives the underdog his 30% of the pot, delivers a bad beat, takes the rest for themselves!
There are just way too many implications that this could be a way for PS to legally steal money. Considering that PS is mostly unregulated, this is just a bad bad thing!

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