Unfold Holdem: New Poker Stars Game Format
If you’ve played more than a few hands of Texas Holdem in your life, you probably know all too well that feeling when you fold a junky starting hand before the flop only to watch the dealer lay out what would have been the perfect flop just seconds later. If only you could go back in time and keep that starting hand…
The old adage that “any two can win” is generally frowned upon as advice that lends to poor habits (i.e. playing too many hands), but there is something to it. After all, the perfect flop can turn even the worst of starting hands into winners. The big problem is playing every starting hand is a good way to bleed money when you don’t even know what may come on the flop.
Well, PokerStars has introduced a new online poker format called Unfold Hold’em that’ll let you turn back the clock and bring your now-perfect starting hand back from the muck for a second chance – after seeing what the flop brings.
PokerStars had hinted at a new game-type coming soon, but today confirmed the launch of Unfold Hold’em on Twitter:
In a press release, PokerStars Ambassador Fatima de Melo explained why she’s excited about Unfold:
“I feel way more comfortable folding hands knowing that there’s great potential to hop on to the Unfold pot if I want to. I remember playing a World Series of Poker event about five years ago and I folded 3s pre flop and the other players went all-in with aces against queens, and I would have won the hand with a set of 3s!
“This was for the chip lead and I was like ‘oh my god, why did I fold?’. Well I had to fold because they went all in pre-flop. But the Unfold button would have definitely been nice there!”
How Unfold Hold’em Works
Unfold Hold’em is played at special Unfold tables hosted at PokerStars. At an Unfold table, a small ante is taken at the start of every hand to form a side pot designated as the Unfold pot.
The unfold ante is taken from every player at the start of every hand as long as four or more players are dealt in. If fewer than four players are dealt in, no unfold ante is collected and there is no unfold option.
Players are then dealt their cards as normal for the pre-flop betting round. Stay in or fold as you wish just like you would at any other table. The dealer then deals the flop as normal.
Here’s where the Unfold poker rules branch off from traditional Texas Holdem. After the flop has been dealt, all players who folded are given the chance to pay an Unfold bet to resurrect their starting hands. The Unfold bet is always set equal to the size of the Unfold pot.
The decision to unfold is made at the same time by all players, and then those who decide to unfold are identified once the decision period ends. The unfold wagers are then added to the Unfold pot and no more bets or decisions are made by those players.
After the decision period, the rest of the hand is played out as normal among the players who stayed in originally before the flop. Those players compete for the main pot just like a standard hand and are not impacted by anything going on with the unfold players.
If the hand ends before the turn and river are dealt, the turn and river will still be dealt for the purposes of resolving the Unfold pot.
Winning the Unfold Pot
The players who choose to unfold compete only for the unfold pot that was created by the antes and the unfold wagers. These players make no other decisions after deciding to unfold; they simply wait for the turn and river. The unfold player who has the best five-card hand after all the board cards have been dealt wins the unfold pot.
Unfold antes are refunded to all players under three circumstances: when the pot is decided by pre-flop betting action, when fewer than two players fold before the flop and when no one chooses to unfold.
Is there any unfold strategy?
The strategic implications are not particularly deep in Unfold Hold’em. There is no way to bluff as if you just hit the perfect flop because no one knows who is unfolding until after all players have made their decision.
Adding to that, no further decisions are made after you choose to unfold. Unfolding basically puts you and the other players into an “all-in” type situation in which all you can do is watch as the turn and river are dealt and hope your hand holds up.
The only strategy in this format relates to deciding whether or not to unfold. Observing the game, watching the types of cards other players choose to unfold and getting to know the typical hand-strength needed to have a decent shot at winning the unfold pot will all help you make better decisions when give the option to unfold.
One thing to keep in mind is that if only one player chooses to unfold, that player automatically wins the unfold pot. Depending on how tight the table is playing, you may be able to take a chance that no one else will unfold so you can try to win the side pot with a weak hand.
Wes Burns has more than a decade’s worth of experience as a writer, researcher, and analyst in the legal online betting industry and is co-founder of OnlineBettingSites.com. Wes approaches his work from the viewpoint of players.