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Introducing Tempest Hold’em

December 31, 2019
by Pete Clarke

Fasten your seatbelts for PokerStars newest and wildest game. Tempest Holdem is about to take the poker world by storm. In this new type of 6-max cash game, each player has just two options pre-flop: fold and all-in. This structure wouldn’t be quite so fun in regular holdem so some modifications have been made to the rules to entice pre-flop action and create an ever-changing dynamic game. Here’s how it works.

The Rules

  • In addition to the usual small and big blind there is a giant blind worth two big blinds, which is posted by the seat to the left of the big blind, much like a straddle.
  • The pot is capped at 10 giant blinds (GBs) per player, meaning that regardless of how much you have won or lost at the table, you can only go all-in for 20BBs or 10GBs each hand.
  • If all players fold, then an ante is introduced for the next hand. This ante increases in value if all players fold again and continues to do so each time all players fold until it reaches its maximum value of 1BB.
  • If one or more players elect to go all-in, there will be a showdown with normal Holdem rules. The ante value then resets for the next hand.
  • The possible ante values are displayed on the table.
  • For heads-up play, the button posts a big blind and his opponent a giant blind.

Fun Aspects

  • Tempest Holdem is exhilarating and fast paced. If you are not involved in a hand, then you are watching an all-in and gathering valuable information on your opponents.
  • As your position on the table changes the correct all-in strategy will differ significantly, creating a wealth of different strategic considerations.
  • Shoving all-in is lots of fun and now you get to do it over and over without ever having to risk more than 10 giant blinds.
  • There is no need to study post-flop play or get bogged down in theory.

Five Strategic Tips

1. Table Position is Everything

The fewer players to act behind you, the smaller your chance of running into a big hand and the wider you should shove. When it is folded to you in the big blind, for example, you will want to shove very wide into the giant blind. Hands like A9o become value-shoves and you can always balance these by shoving some smaller suited and connected cards.

2. Go After the Antes

The antes really generate action and rightly so. When antes start to ramp up and each player is posting an extra small blind, there is effectively an extra 1.5 giant blinds in the middle. This means you will be shoving for 10GB on the button to pick up 3.25GB. Risking 10 to win 3.25 is the normal holdem equivalent of shoving a stack of just 4.6 big blinds. How wide would you put it in with that stack in a tournament? Well, in Tempest Holdem, you might want to tighten up from that slightly – after all, you cannot get blinded out in a cash game – but you’ll still want to shove very wide ranges in late position.

3. Learn Multiway Equities

Three way all-ins are a very rare occurrence in normal cash games but these situations will be relatively common in Tempest Holdem due to the better pot odds from the extra dead money and the capped pot-size. It will therefore be sensible to investigate how certain hands perform in multiway all-in spots. Hands such as T9s for example will benefit since their outs tend to be live against more than one opponent. On the other hand, the value of a dominatable broadway hand like AJo will decrease in value.

4. Look Out for Fun Players

Some opponents will undoubtedly use Tempest Holdem to toss some money around in a less tactical environment. Paying attention to who is shoving with far weaker hands than they ought to be is a great way to increase your edge in the game. Once you see someone shoving a hand that lies comfortably outside of what you consider to be the sensible range, then start calling them wider. Hands containing an ace or a king are more likely to become equity favourites vs. people who jam any two cards.

5. Use Sensible Bankroll Management

Be warned this game plays a lot bigger than you might think. Since there is no post-flop decision-making, it is harder to steadily grind out a profit at Tempest Holdem. Instead, be prepared for a few ups and downs and a game with higher volatility. There are only tiny pots and huge pots in this game and both types of hand are over before you know it. This leads to plenty of all-ins and variance in the short-term. While the stronger players will still prevail in the long-term in Tempest Holdem, it pays to play within your means. Ensure that you have plenty of buy-ins available for your chosen stakes.


If you have an appetite for pre-flop strategy and enjoy the push/fold stage of tournament poker, then Tempest Holdem is a great place to try your hand at cash games. Even if you normally prefer a theoretical post-flop battle, it might be a fun change of pace to partake in some pre-flop shoving. For players who don’t normally feel comfortable playing shorter stacks in tournaments, Tempest Holdem makes a great training ground for testing out your ranges. See you at the tables!


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