1. Pre-Flop Equities Run Closer TogetherAlthough PokerStars FUSION starts off looking identical to Holdem, let me assure you, it's a wolf in sheep's clothing. The implied third and fourth hole cards change pre-flop strategy in very significant way due to one simple truth:
In PokerStars FUSION, any starting hand is less far ahead of, or less far behind, every other starting hand than it would be in Holdem.
Let's say that Player 1 is dealt – a top tier Holdem starting hand and player 2 is dealt , a mediocre and in this case dominated hand. In Holdem we are looking at an equity advantage of 72% to 28% in favour of Player 1. In PokerStars FUSION, however, the hands are not actually and , but AcQdXX and QhJsXX. The impending third and fourth hole cards mean that these Holdem hands are only a small part of what will be each player's eventual hand. If we compare these equities in Omaha, we find that Player 1's advantage has been slashed from 72% to 56%. Player 2 now has 44% equity, with a dominated hand! This is a huge swing and greatly affects the EV of this pre-flop situation in PokerStars FUSION.
If being dominated does not equate to more than a slight disadvantage in equity, then in PokerStars FUSION, it is correct to defend your blinds very wide indeed, call 3-bets much wider than normal, and to expect to show a profit in position even with a worse starting hand than your opponent for your hand can never truly be much worse. Even AA(xx) has a modest 62% equity vs. QJ(xx).
One disclaimer here is that it takes time and money to realise this equity. If pot odds are very poor then these pre-flop investments may not be as sensible as they look. Equity is not a true representation of how well each hand will perform in the heat of post-flop battle, but it's a reasonable rough guide. Where pot odds are favourable in PokerStars FUSION, get involved!
2. Protection is KingProtection is all about charging your opponent so that he does not get a free look at the next card with hands that are behind, but have the potential to catch up and win the pot. In Holdem, this potential to catch up is usually somewhat limited. An opponent may only have one overcard or just two outs to hit a set with a dominated pocket pair. Sometimes, however, our opponent has a range containing many combinations of two live overcards to our hand and it is important that we bet that A9o on 963r to prevent him from hitting them. We bet, he folds JTo and we are happy.
In PokerStars FUSION, protection is even more crucial. Our opponent is not just drawing to the Jack and the Ten in this hypothetical case, but maybe also a Queen, a King, or a straight making card like a 7 or 8. It all depends what his third hole card was. When Villain can easily hold three overcards to your pair, but where that pair is still often the best hand, it is correct to bet and to bet big. We must size our protection bets larger in PokerStars FUSION to counteract Villain's increased outs by reducing his pot odds. Of course he cannot profitably call a very large bet just to hit an overcard. One pair is a weaker hand in PokerStars FUSION than in Holdem and he might be drawing dead already. In PokerStars FUSION, we are very happy when we bet our A92 on 963r and Villain folds his QJT.
3. Connected Starting Hands Increase in ValueConnected cards in PokerStars FUSION are like vermin. At first there are only two of them, but they soon multiply. The flop brings three potential chances to get closer to that straight; the third hole card brings another and if that happens to connect to the two starting cards, and the board offers some connectivity also, we now have a huge abundance of outs, if not a made straight already. 98o is a rather modest hand in Holdem, but this is just the sort of hand that goes way up in value in PokerStars FUSION. As we already noted, making one pair is nowhere near as big a deal as it was in Holdem. Hands with higher nut potential are very attractive and connected cards can only get better as the hand progresses.
4. Suited Starting Hands Decrease in ValueThe reason connected cards were so appealing is that they offered a plethora of different ways of making a straight. Each new hole card or board card that was remotely connected to the starting hand increased our outs and backdoor outs exponentially. Suited cards do no such thing because of the old Omaha rule: you have to use two and only two hole cards.
Let's say we are dealt , an attractive little Holdem hand. Sadly, in PokerStars FUSION, the chances of making a flush post-flop are no better than in Holdem. Picking up a third or fourth heart in the hole, not only fails to improve your hand, it makes it worse by blocking your outs that you so desperately need to land on the board instead. Flushes are still great hands on non-paired boards, but suited hole cards are less essential to making them. The reason that there are more flushes in PokerStars FUSION than in Holdem is due to the ones that are suddenly made by catching an extra club to go with that offsuit starting hand. A suited starting hand is not assisted by this format, and since offsuit hands can easily make flushes in PokerStars FUSION, suited cards are less of a commodity and more of an irrelevance.
5. Beware Wet Turn CardsIn PokerStars FUSION, the turn brings an explosion of possibility. We now have eight total cards from which to construct a monstrous hand. If the turn card looks scary in PokerStars FUSION, is very often is. Hands that chose to continue on the flop were usually related to the board in some way. They very often had multiple ways of improving. A turn card that brings potential straights will devalue a hand like two pair a lot, on average. Take this run-out for example: . In Holdem, having on this turn is a little unnerving, but at least we still hold the best hand a large amount of the time in a heads-up pot. In a heads-up PokerStars FUSION pot, having is like a 4-out draw. We almost never hold the best hand now and we have very few ways of improving. If Villain shows strength at this juncture our hand is almost certainly a fold. If things get worse for your hand in PokerStars FUSION, they get a lot worse.
If you'd like to see PokerStars FUSION in action then watch this Twitch stream below with Jamie Staples, he makes a nice profit at it too!
We are currently just scratching the surface of PokerStars FUSION strategy. Hopefully these recommendations help get you started in your quest to master a game that is exactly halfway between two of the most popular formats in the history of poker.