PokerStars Introduces Swap Hold’em Cash Game

  • Players can exchange one or both hole cards for new ones once per hand
  • Only available on .NET and .UK clients at launch
  • Swap can take place during any betting round
  • Icon shows how many cards opponents swapped and when 
PokerStars Swap Hold'em logo
In PokerStars’ new game, Swap Hold’em, players can swap out one or both hole cards once per hand. [Image: PokerStars]

Get rid of bad hole cards

On Tuesday, PokerStars introduced a new title called Swap Hold’em to the cash game lobby.

Swap Hold’em is a six-handed game that plays almost exactly the same as regular Texas Hold’em, with two hole cards, flop, turn, river, etc. The one sizable difference is that players can swap one or both hole cards out for new ones.

players can swap one or both hole cards out for new ones

The poker variant is currently only available on the .UK and .NET clients, though it will roll out to other PokerStars jurisdictions “in due course.” PokerStars did not say if this is a permanent addition to the lobby or if it is a temporary game, like many of its novelty cash games.

Swap Hold’em is another in a long line of novelty cash games launched by the online poker room over the last couple of years. The most recent one before this latest release was Pot-Limit 6 Card Omaha, which went live a month ago.

Click a card, click a button

In Swap Hold’em, players can jettison one or both of their hole cards if they so choose when it is their turn to act. They can do this at any point in the hand, even after the river card is dealt. Hole card swapping can only be done once per hand.

selected cards hit the muck and the new cards appear

To swap a hole card, players must click on the card or cards they want to throw away. When the cards are selected, a “Swap” button lights up next to the regular betting buttons. Once that button is pushed, the selected cards hit the muck and the new cards appear. It was not made clear in the game’s announcement, but one would assume that swapped cards are not recycled back into the deck.

Everyone at the table can see if a player swapped cards by an animation and an icon that appears next to their seat. The icon has two arrows pointing in opposite directions, indicating a swap, and a number one or two to denote how many cards were exchanged. Players can hover their mouse over their own swap icon to see their old hole cards; opponents cannot see this. Hovering over an opponent’s swap icon reveals during which betting round that person swapped.

The all-in cashout feature is not available in Swap Hold’em games.

One feature could confuse players

After playing Swap Hold’em for a while on the play money .NET PokerStars client, this writer found one mechanic to the game that some may find annoying.

During a betting round in which a player has yet to act and is facing a bet or raise that necessitates committing more chips in order to continue, the software requires that player to swap a card. In a normal Hold’em game, one could just fold right away, but here, a card must be swapped first and then the hand can be folded.

likely that PokerStars is giving players the opportunity to improve their hole cards before making a decision

It is similar to how check is the option instead of fold if one is in the big blind and nobody raises pre-flop. It is likely that PokerStars is giving players the opportunity to improve their hole cards before making a decision, a sort of “freeroll” for new hole cards, but it can be annoying to the player. Sometimes, one just wants to fold and be done with the hand.