PokerStars Prepares Aurora Software Upgrade

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PokerStars‘ Aurora software upgrade looks as if it’s almost ready to debut to the broader poker world. PokerStars rolled out its Aurora software upgrade in the Portuguese poker market recently. Aurora is the largest software upgrade PokerStars has launched in years.

Last winter, Pokerfuse announced that PokerStars planned a major redesign for its poker simulations. The early reports noted Aurora’s rich graphical content, new animations and sound effects, and next-gen interactive features.

PokerStars’ upgrade included a major table redesign. The poker site plans novel themes, including a Christmas themed table. Also, the old saloon theme receives an update.

Since news first slipped out, PokerStars stayed silent about its intentions for Aurora. Some software upgrades debuted on the free-play dot-net client, but otherwise players saw little regarding the new content. With the Portugal rollout, it now appears the company is preparing to launch the Aurora software elsewhere.

Severin Rasset on Project Aurora

Severin Rasset, PokerStars’ Director of Poker Innovation and Operations, gave an interview with Poker Industry Pro to discuss the changes. Rasset said the new game engine tweaks every theme, poker variant, and game type.

Some changes are subtle. For instance, themes boast more legible fonts or clearer buttons. These hardly make an impression, but make long sessions more pleasant and make gameplay simpler.

Rasset said he wants the changes to be “nearly invisible” to players. The last thing PokerStars wants is to implement changes that cause a backlash from players, which changes often bring.

“Will Not Create…Disruption”

Of course, those can be famous last words if a site isn’t careful. PokerStars director of poker innovation said, “I really expect that players are just going to get really used to [it] and…that it will not create any disruption in their normal play.”

When asked about the slow rollout in a free-play setting, Rasset said the card room wanted to fix any bugs in the design. Rasset added, “The main goal when we do these kinds of things is that we want to take our time in making sure that it’s working properly.

“We cannot afford to find ourselves with something that would be crashing on a regular basis for real money players.”

PokerStars Prepares Aurora Upgrade

PokerStars changed the older and less popular themes much more dramatically. The “classic” poker table from the earliest days is no longer the mess it was. The saloon theme underwent the boldest change.

The old saloon design was mired in a 90s-style design, but now is more defined and vivid. Also, the table includes beer bottles and cigars in ash trays. The dealer button even looks like a sheriff’s badge.

When Chris Straghalis, PokerStars’ Director of Poker Product, first discussed the redesign earlier this year, he focused on graphics and in-game physics. He said, “While the functional part of this is a bit technical, for our players the improvements will make their experience more interesting with higher resolution, realistic physics, crisp and clean graphics and smoother and more lifelike animations.”

Aurora Features New Game Engine

Players might not care about the look and feel of the animations, but Aurora is more than a cosmetic upgrade. Aurora includes a new game engine, the Cocos2d open source software framework.

PokerStars previously use the game engine on mini-games like “The Deal”, though it now appears it plans to use the framework for all poker tables moving forward.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for more than a decade. He worked for Small World Marketing for years, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. He's covered US and international gambling news on,, and since 2014.


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