Full House Poker brings a fast paced and action packed version of Texas Hold‘em to Xbox LIVE Arcade. Strong poker players can spend countless hours challenging other players in online tournaments, but a lack of training mode and some unforgiving AI forces beginning players to hone their poker skills by trial and error.
Full House Poker review
The popularity of poker is undeniable. There are not many experiences like the rush of winning a huge jackpot by bluffing out a whole table full of opponents. While there have been dozens of poker games released in the past across a multitude of platforms, most of the games feel a bit sterile and lifeless. Developed in-house by Microsoft Game Studios, Full House Poker brings a sense of fun and character to the game of Texas Hold’em.
After customizing your deck of cards and choosing the color of your table and chairs, your Xbox Avatar buys into a table with one, five, or nine other players. An optional timer keeps things moving along at a swift pace and actions can be queued in advance to maintain the flow of a game. Against the computer, hands can last as little as a minute so players who prefer a slower pace my feel a bit rushed. Tournaments against other players on Xbox Live are easy to join and there are even challenges against some truly tough AI for those who prefer a solitary experience.
At first glance, Full House Poker may seem like a simple and straightforward experience, but there is a more subtle and ultimately deeper experience available to players who are willing to dig into it. With the press of a button, a player can pull up statistics on all of their opponents, including win/loss records and the amount of money in their bankroll. In-game, a player can show excitement or fear by pulling the left or right controller triggers to set up bluffs and pull opponents deeper into ever rising pots. For a bit of added flair, players can even perform tricks with their poker chips by inputting commands on the directional pad. New tricks, card decks, and poker tables can be unlocked by earning XP in single-player and multiplayer modes.
I’ve never been a strong poker player and very quickly after starting up the game, the AI let me know it. Players are given an initial bankroll of 2500 poker chips and can add to their bankroll by winning jackpots and tournaments. Buy-ins begin at 250 poker chips per table and blinds start at one and two poker chips per hand. The AI plays pretty tight, so it’s not unusual to see five or six opponents fold before the flop. AI opponents who continue to play the hand play pretty aggressively and throughout my playtime I found myself folding more often than I usually do when I play with friends. When I would actually play a hand to the river, the AI would punish me harshly for making rookie mistakes. One hand where I was dealt an Ace and Queen, I decided to simply check instead of raising to try and draw in a few of the AI players. One of my opponents went all in and eventually won the hand on the river. I’m still learning the intricacies of the game and a training mode would have been very helpful with this.
Players who choose not to play against the AI can start an online tournament for up to 30 players. Much like in typical poker, everyone buys in for a certain amount and play continues until there is only one player left standing. Chip winnings and XP bonuses are significant in this mode. Earning XP does nothing to advance any skills for a player, but with over 100 different items to unlock there is plenty of room for players to make their poker rooms unique.
Ultimately, Full House Poker is a straightforward and enjoyable addition to Xbox LIVE Arcade. Players who take the time to hone their poker skills will find hours of enjoyment, but those looking for a forgiving gateway into the world of poker will be disappointed.
Full House Poker trailer :
(see here on YouTube)
Thanks to Microsoft Game Studios for making this review possible!