When 1 Vs. 100 was canceled on Xbox Live, I was extremely disappointed. Finally there was a game that both my wife and I could actually sit down and want to make time for, it was ‘Appointment Gaming’ and we enjoyed every second of it. So to see it given the boot and exchanged for Full House Poker was a slight shock, but being a geek who enjoys poker I was pleased with this. Sadly, the appointment gaming is gone because it’s tough to monopolize the living room to engage in a 30 minute poker session.
So what does Full House Poker bring that the other Xbox poker titles (or even games which feature poker in them, such as Red Dead Redemption)? For starters you get to use your avatar within the casino you’re playing in. You can dress up in your normal avatar gear (just last night I was seated at a table with someone in a Bomberman costume) or you can dress up in unlockable costumes from within the FHP game. A feature which borrows from almost any other multiplayer game out there today is a leveling system here, with each level unlocking some new piece of gear like a table top or card design, or even new chip tricks to perform while you’re waiting for your turn, and wait you will but we’ll discuss that later. In a move that is sure to please actual poker players, games can be set up to play a couple different variations of Texas Hold ‘em, those being the standard high hand, a low hand where A-5 is the best hand, and a hi/lo split hand. These game types can be setup in a few different betting methods as well, limit, pot limit, spread limit and of course everyone’s favorite no-limit, and the game style itself can be set to a sit-n-go tournament where once you bust out you’re out, and only top performers share in the pot or a standard game where rebuys are allowed.
The big draw for the game, and the push to have this be the next 1 Vs 100 is the Texas Heat mode. In this scheduled event players from around the world battle it out in quick thirty minute games of poker. The match is split so there are three levels of table, each with a different buy in (which is provided) which breeds different gameplay styles. Bust out on the Triple Diamond table, and you’re automatically bumped down to the Double Diamond, but can fight your way back up to the top table if you are in first place when some table shuffling happens. In this massively multiplayer round of poker it would be completely unfair for the overall winner to be decided by chip stack right? That’s why here it’s the XP that you earn which will ultimately decide on your placement. Smart calls, folds and gutsy moves will earn you more XP, just remember though that others are doing the same thing. In each round a high hand jackpot is also made available which is split amongst the players who achieve the highest ranked poker hand during that round, the prize here being a potentially massive boost to your bankroll. On any given day, different XP bonuses will be offered, for example one of the first weekends of tournaments will offer an XP bonus for anyone who plays that is currently ranked under level 10, other bonuses include ladies or guys night, as well playing consecutive rounds of Texas Heat in a given night will earn you bonus XP for the later rounds.
My only gripe with the game is the pacing of single player games. Playing a single tournament took upwards of one hour to play, which in my opinion is far too long for someone to commit to for what should be a nice pick up and go game. Yes, there’s an option to fast forward through a hand once you fold, but imaging you’re on the button and you have to wait through ten players to call, raise or fold. Also, at the end of each hand the showdown animations are unskippable, so be prepared to watch each hand be either unveiled or mucked; and the best part is that you get to see the winners hand again! Again, this is my only gripe with the game, and I’ve spent well over a week playing it almost daily.
As a multiplayer game, this is sure to bring some friends together for some online poker who might not otherwise be able to play together, and at that point the pacing of the game isn’t really that important. As a single player game, if you can put aside the duration of the tournaments and look at the AI that the game has in the form of the Pros, then this game really succeeds in my opinion. Tight-Aggressive players are very different than Bully style players, and the developers have really nailed the differences in play style. It’s nice to see that level of attention in a poker game rather than some AI which simply relies on crunching numbers rather than play as an actual human would, and that’s what we have in Full House Poker.
Platform reviewed: Xbox 360
– Jeff Paramchuk