previews\ Aug 24, 2005 at 8:00 pm

World Series of Poker - PS2 - Preview

You can almost hear Kenny Rogers singing: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em …”

Texas Hold ‘em Poker is the hot card game right now, luring people in with television shows dedicated to tournaments as well as having a host of regional and national tourneys springing up. People are betting on the luck of the draw, as well as trying to calculate the odds, reason what their opponents have and come out the big winners.

Of course, anything this big that can have videogame implications is bound to spawn a few titles, and Texas Hold ‘Em is no exception.

Activision and Left Field Productions will be entering the competition later this summer with the PlayStation 2 release of World Series of Poker. If you think the title bears a striking resemblance to the television program, there is good reason. Some of the poker-playing stars you see on that show make an appearance in this game (the names cannot be released until the game ships), but while you can unlock them as avatars, this is really about you taking to the tables to see if you have the right stuff.

Ok, so what is Texas Hold ‘Em, for those living in complete seclusion with no clue about card games? Essentially, the game is broken down like this – you pay a certain fee to enter the tournament and those are your table stakes. There are people sitting around the table (you and eight others), along with the dealer. Two cards are dealt, and then the betting opens.

After the bets are called, remaining players get The Flop – the dealer deals out three cards face up that each player can use with their two hole cards to create a poker hand. Another round of betting, then The Turn (a single face-up card), more betting, The River (the last face-up card) and the last round of betting. The best hand at the end of it all wins the pot. There are three things that can happen during the betting sequence, players can call (match the bet) or if no one bets, they can check, or they can raise the bet.

The game features quick play, career and multiplayer options. In quick play, you create an avatar and head into a tourney with table stakes and once all but one is eliminated, the game ends. That is essentially how all the other forms of this play out, except that in career you advance career winnings and more along. In career, there are WSOP (World Series of Poker) events, and invitational events.

As a rookie, you begin with $10,000 and have to parlay that up to continue to play. That means winning, which is much easier said than done. If you lose it all, don't worry, there are events you can participate in to re-stake yourself.

The AI of the game is solid, and some will jump to “all in” (meaning they bet their entire stake) right at the beginning on a competition. You have to decide what to bet, when to bet and when it is worth continuing. And no, even if you are not the world’s biggest gambler, you can’t get up $10 grand or so and cash out. The game continues until only one is left standing. As a rookie, you have to work your way up, and that means only one event is open to you, The Texas Hold ‘Em World Championship.

The games controls and sound are simple enough. Most of the real effort here comes in the form of trying to think, analyze and outright guess if your cards stand up. The graphics also do a good job of giving you the information you need. While the game does move through the tourney and tries to give a sense of pacing, for those less patient, you can fast forward through the deal and betting rounds.

It did not appear as though this game, at the stage of the preview build received, had a tutorial, so you do have to have some poker fundamentals down.

Addicting? You bet it is. The hours float past when you play this game, and that is just fine. After all, it is cyber money, so the wallet is not being beaten on. World Series of Poker is enjoyable and it will be interesting to see how this plays out down the line. From all indications, this is a decent program that capitalizes on a current hot trend.


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