Microsoft knew that they were on to something when they created the 1 vs 100 game which gathered players together to participate in a daily quiz show for prizes. While 1 vs 100 may have fizzled out, the concept is back, and this time it’s in the form of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. Full House Poker is a downloadble Xbox Live Arcade title that can be played either at home, on your Xbox 360, or on the Windows 7 Phone.
The game offers a surprisingly wide variety of activities and accomplishments to pursue. It’s certainly a more robust offering than 1 vs. 100, for a number of reasons. There are single player modes, where you can take on AI opponents that vary in poker methodlogies. Or, you can take your skills to the online arena, and play quick match tournaments that pit you against other users looking to gamble. The crown jewel of it all are the tournaments though. There are daily tournaments offered in Full House Poker known as Texas Heat. In these tournaments, the community of players draw random seating to put their entry on the line for a daily prize.
Just like any good poker player, Full House Poker has its ups and downs which I’ll address below.
As all decent multiplayer games these days, Full House Poker has an all encompassing leveling system. From playing any of the game’s modes you’ll be earning experience points. Whether duking it out with real life opponents, or trying to take down the AI Microsoft pros in Pro Takedown Mode, you’re earning XP all the while. Which lead to unlockables, achievements, and avatar awards. The unlockables that are earned throughout the game will open up new venues for your player, decks of cards, chair colors, and other things that make your experience in Full House Poker more personal.
This type of level progression and customization just aren’t prevalent in poker games that we’ve seen in the past. It takes a page from some of your favorite first person shooter games and lets your career as a card shark pan out as it may.
At first glance, the XP system reveals itself as shallow. You may look at the competition and realize that there is little incentive to do anything but shove all-in which is not an uncommon event in Full House Poker. But if you watch some of the actions that you are recieving points for, the game ultimately rewards you for being a smart poker player. Not paying to see cards, folding bad hands, winning showdowns, are all important parts of real money poker, and Full House rewards you accordingly. The cards aren’t always going to fall your way, but if you play smart, the game will still reward you, which is a great feature.
There’s a good amount of avatar flair going on in Full House Poker. You can signal passive and agressive animations to your table mates. By pressing the Right or Left Triggers while indicating whether you want to Bet,Fold, Raise, or Check , your character will display different responses. You can timidly check your hand, throw your cards into the muck with fervor, or slam your chips onto the table in an agressive manner. There are plenty of animations on display depending on the situation. With nine other players all utilizing these features it makes for a real lively looking table.
The game also gives you options to show you cards in the manner you see fit. While this may not be regulation in some states, you can show one card, both cards, or no cards to always keep your opponents guessing. It makes for some fun action over the voice comms after a hand has played out.
Being that this is a game that simulates gambling, play money poker isn’t necessarily as cerebral an affair as the real thing. That being said, you don’t get the same dynamics of the game. It’s not uncommon for players to go all-in with nothing and hope for the best. That’s not to say that there aren’t some really great games to be played on Full House Poker, it’s just that it’s all a matter of who you get matched up with.
With all of Avatar flair in the game as mentioned above, the game can tend to drag out a bit when in multiplayer. When everyone is using the animations, hands can seem to drag out forever when you accompany that fact with a timer for each player. After the hand is finished there’s animation screens for that as well. When you get knocked out of a game there’s a long screen which shows you what you earned and where you stand as far as XP goes. It can get a little long winded at times, especially if you are in a hurry to get to your next game. Single player is a little better in this regard, giving you the opportunity to fast forward through hands that you aren’t playing. Though, you don’t get the same fun in that mode as you do playing against live opponents.
It’s not a game breaker by any means, but this is a warning to the impatient. Turbo poker this is not.
There isn’t much not to like in Full House Poker, but as I mentioned above the game can get a little long winded. Personally, in my review time with the game I had some connection issues with Full House Poker. Unable to join games as I please, I was consistently kicked out of games for a connection error. Fortunately, this wasn’t all the time. It seemed to happen at different times, and with any new release it’s expected until the code gets sorted out with a patch of some nature.
But as it stands it’s likely happening to more than just myself. As you wait for a full room to fill up it can take some time to achieve. Then once the game finally starts half of the players have already been booted. I only experienced this problem in the Ranked Tournaments Lobbies, so I’m not sure if this is persisting to other areas of the game. Did it ruin the experience? No, not at all. Was it frustrating? Yeah, a little.
Full House Poker is certainly worth every penny of the $10 that it will run you on Xbox Live Marketplace. I guess as with everything, it depends on if you like poker or not. Playing with a group of friends is as always, a fun time. But, it’s also the perfect game to meet some new people in the daily tournaments, or even learn the game in the single player modes which can teach you a little something about different poker playing styles. If you have a Windows 7 Phone, there’s exponentially higher value as you can take it with you and play at any time. So there’s certainly a level of replay value here that you get from Full House Poker, that you don’t get in a lot of games. Seeing that I really enjoyed the free Texas Hold’em that was released years back, Full House Poker brought to reality everything I had wished the free version to be and much more.
Full House Poker
- Available On: Xbox 360, Windows Phone
- Published By: Microsoft Game Studios
- Developed By: Microsoft
- Genre: Card game
- US Release Date: Spring 2011
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
- Quote: "Full House Poker is certainly worth every penny of the $10 that it will run you on Xbox Live Marketplace. I guess as with everything, it depends on if you like poker or not. Playing with a group of friends is as always, a fun time. But, it’s also the perfect game to meet some new people in the daily tournaments, or even learn the game in the single player modes which can teach you a little something about different poker playing styles."