PokerStars Introduces Split Hold’em with Two Full Community Boards

Split Hold'em
The latest by PokerStars, Split Hold’em introduces two full boards of community cards, keeping all the other rules of traditional No Limit Hold’em

Over the recent period, PokerStars has been rather imaginative with their ideas for new games. Not so long ago, the room introduced Power Up Hold’em, an interesting mix of traditional Hold’em and games such as Hearthstone.  Now, they have taken things up a notch with the most recent invention that is Split Hold’em.

In short, Split Hold’em plays just like the traditional game, but instead of one full set of community cards, there are two separate ones. So, there are two flops of three cards, two turns, and two rivers.

Split Hold’em rules

Players familiar with No Limit Hold’em, which is probably 99% of those playing online poker, will have no problems with Split Hold’em as far as the rules are concerned. Hand strengths are the same, from the high card all the way up to the royal flush, so there is no confusion there.

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The only real difference is that the pot is now split between two boards, like in hi-lo games (Omaha, Stud, etc.). The player who has the best hand on one board wins the half of the pot, while the player with the best hand on the second board wins the other half.

Split Hold'em
In Split Hold’em, one half of the pot is awarded to the winner of each of the two boards. In this example, ‘philip961’ was chopping the pot all the way to the river, where luck lady gave him a scoop

Of course, it is possible for one player to have the best hand for both boards, in which case they will scoop the pot.

Other important aspects like betting rules have remained unchanged so there is no confusion. You make bets and calls just like in any old No Limit Hold’em game, the difference being you have to consider two community boards instead of just one.

What does poker community think of Split Hold’em?

The game is fresh out of the PokerStars workshop, so there hasn’t been much time for the players to share their views as of yet. There is an ongoing thread on 2+2 forum, which will likely grow as the time goes by and Split Hold’em gains more traction.

However, one concern that most players seem to have so far is the rake in these games. With the likelihood of many pots being split two (or more) ways, Split Hold’em could be very difficult to beat when rake is taken into account.

Split Hold’em strategy

Although rake is certainly a very important concern, we’ll leave those things aside for a moment as it is a discussion that’s been going on for years now. This post isn’t likely to change that particular situation one bit, so let’s instead focus on the actual game for a bit.

There is no denying this new format looks very interesting and it could be loaded with action on the lowest stakes where the word “fold” isn’t in most players’ vocabularies. With two boards, there are so many options to make some sort of a hand on at least one of the rundowns, so Split Hold’em could be very loose in the beginning.

Split Hold'em
Having a big pocket pair in a situation such as this is pretty much your dream scenario as players will often stack off with weaker hands and there is almost no chance you’re beat on both boards

Of course, if played by experienced players, it could also be very slow and boring, because a good player will know not to chase a possible winner on just one board.

Making money with Split Hold’em

I’ll not pretend to be a math wizard able to offer an extensive and detailed breakdown of how to beat this new format. If the game picks up, there will probably be plenty of those who’ll gladly break down the numbers and come up with more informed answers.

From the top of my head, though, here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • Small pairs go way down in value – you play these for sets, and you’re highly unlikely to flop two sets
  • High card combos & big pockets go way up – hands like AK and pocket Aces have a good chance to scoop the pot
  • Suite connectors can be okay to play in position when you have control, but you have to be very careful with these hands

Additionally, there is probably not much sense in trying to bluff the fish. Thinking players might let go of the no hand and second pair combo, but the fish might look you up because you might be bluffing. During this initial stage, I’d say a tight and straightforward approach should do wonders, especially at the lowest stakes.

If you feel like giving Split Hold’em a try, there are already games running on PokerStars all the way up to NL200 as well as play money tables where you can get the feel for the format. If you do decide to play, let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on this latest gimmick.

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