Has the poker industry has gone Hearthstone crazy? In the same week that PokerStars announced its sponsorship of pro eSports outfit Team Liquid, Poker Central, the world’s only 24-7 poker TV channel, revealed that it would be jumping on board the eSports craze with a Poker versus Hearthstone crossover match-up.
Finer details are thin on the ground, but the basic premise is that three poker players will take on three Hearthstone players in a tournament that alternates between the two games.
Already signed up to represent “Team Poker Central” are Maria Ho, Doug Polk, and Scott Ball. Meanwhile, representing co-sponsor Amazon Coins will be Hearthstone heroes Jason Chan, Esteban Serrano, and David Caero.
For those of you late to the party (or over the age of 25), Hearthstone is a digital turn-based strategy card game set in the World of Warcraft universe, and broadly similar to Magic: The Gathering, the game on which many current poker stars like David Williams, Justin Bonomo, and Isaac Haxton cut their teeth before the graduated to online poker.
“There are so many intricate decisions that need to be made, much like poker,” Daniel Negreanu, a Hearthstone convert, told ESPN recently. “The software was just so good and they hook you with the different ways you can play the game and the characters you can choose from. It’s one of those games that looks like I’ll never stop enjoying it and learning new things about it.”
Poker operators are anxious to exploit the synergies between the two games. While global online poker traffic has been in decline over the past five years, Hearthstone’s upward trajectory has been remarkable since the game was launched in March 2014.
In this short space of time, Hearthstone has attracted some 40 million registered users; that’s more than half the user-base that has taken PokerStars 15 years to build.
Alex Dreyfus has said that the rise of games like Hearthstone represents a threat to the online poker industry’s very existence, and if poker fails to adapt and appeal to the younger demographic it will be in danger of ending up as the “has-been” game of the noughties, believes.
It’s this need to “reinvent” poker that has led Dreyfus to the creation of HoldemX, a new variant that employs elements of Hearthstone, in the hope of becoming the next killer gaming trend and the “missing link” between poker and Hearthstone.
HoldemX is similar to heads-up NLH but with the addition of special cards which, as in Hearthstone, can inflict various strategic “effects” to hamper your opponent.
Poker Central clearly has its finger on the pulse by embracing the poker / Hearthstone crossover and we wouldn’t be surprised to see more such tournament hybrids appearing at major poker events in the near future.