Poker is a game that really depends on the people you play it with, not how ‘lucky’ you get with the cards, the quality of the tablecloth, or if you can do that ‘finger flip’ thing with the chips. It’s also one of the few card games where lying and pretending you have certain cards becomes more important than what cards you get dealt in the first place.
Full House Poker from Microsoft is the Windows Phone 7 version of the recently released Xbox Live Arcade game that attempts to recreate the thrills and spills of a high stakes poker game, without the real-life consequences of losing your house and car on a hand.
Unlike other games that share a connection with their home console brethren, the mobile version of Full House Poker does actually impact on your machine at home, unlocking certain platform exclusive items, adding to your virtual bank balance and Gamerscore points if you complete achievements.
You get the option of playing in three formats of Texas Hold ‘Em matches – cash game, tournament, and heads-up against a ‘Pro’. Practically every action you take during a match adds experience (XP) to your ‘player level’, which in turn unlocks different titles for your player, as well as new sets of cards or backgrounds.
This levelling system is a little strange, awarding more XP for folding after making a stupid call than awarding a decent play on the blinds, although its importance to the game is questionable in the first place.
What’s really important, and what Full House Poker on WP7 doesn’t quite get right, is the quality of your opposition. As with the stationary edition of the title, other players are represented as Xbox Avatars. Unlike the home edition, they’re all exclusively computer controlled, which is a crushing disappointment.
They do a fairly passable impression of a beginner to the game, and no doubt those who don’t know their Flush from their Full House will find this helps to ease them into the game, but for anyone who’s played more than a few hands online or in real life, they pose little threat.
This is because they seem almost completely averse to taking risks. Should they not have a good hand when you raise the pot even by the smallest amount, they fold like an envelope stuffed with money. Should they call, they might as well have ‘I have a good hand’ stamped across their avatar’s forehead.
The problem with this is twofold – games take ages to play because players only go out when two good hands meet, and it’s crushingly predictable, with stacks growing slowly but steadily, thanks to the opposition never calling or raising more than a few chips at a time.
Those determined to get their money’s worth will find a decent amount of unlockables and achievements to aim for, but any semi-regular player of the game is best advised moving to a higher stakes table.