Game Review

Texas Hold'em Poker Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

Can't read my, can't read my poker face, p-p-poker face!

Apologies to Lady Gaga (well, actually to everyone reading this who may have heard that song and will now have it stuck in their heads), but you will be wondering exactly that after playing any amount of the latest Texas Hold 'em game from Gameloft.

Before going further it's important to emphasise that Texas Hold'em Poker is a one trick pony: it plays the Texas Hold 'em poker variant and that's it. If you're not familiar with Texas Hold 'em, it's a version of poker born and bred in casinos as will be quickly apparent once a game starts. Players are dealt two cards each with the two players to the left of the "dealer" (not the actual dealer, but the person used to determine the order of play) putting in the ante. After an initial round of betting (or folding) based upon the strength of the two hole cards, five communal cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table in three groups: the first three are referred to as "the flop," the fourth card is "the turn," and the fifth and final card is "the river." After each additional round of dealing follows another round of betting, though each player may choose to "check" rather than bet -- assuming no one else bets. Each player is trying to make the best 5-card poker hand possible from the combination of the initial two cards they've been dealt and the cards available to everyone. You cannot exchange cards -- thereby removing the hand-building strategy of games like draw and stud poker -- which makes for a much faster game that is more appealing to casual gamblers and casinos.

Launching the game you'll find that Texas Hold'em Poker is definitely a Gameloft game with a pleasing menu design and visuals that are top quality throughout. You can criticise Gameloft for content, but their games definitely look good. The Gameloft touch can also be seen in the type and variety of avatars used in the game (there are loads included -- though only a few are unlocked to start), which look much like they're modeled on the popular Bratz dolls all the sassy pre-teens want these days. Avatars are caricatures of "celebrities" (Steve Ballmer is a celebrity?) and make audio comments when folding, betting, winning and losing. This could get really annoying, but Gameloft has thankfully not mandated the comments be made every single time a given event occurs. Gameloft has also nicely included the option to stick one of your Mii heads on a body as well -- though only for your own character.

There are three game modes on offer (Quick Match, Career and Multiplayer) and options for adjusting the volume of character speech, background music and sound effects. There's no tutorial but you can review the rules of the game, standard poker hands and play tips (mostly concerning the odds of getting different hands depending on the initial pair of cards dealt) by selecting different options in the in-game pause menu. Control is Remote-only with the pointer moving your cursor over prompts and pressing (A) selecting them. You can either move the cursor over your cards (presented in fancy perspective as if you were really at a casino gaming table!) or click (B) to take a peek at them. Your cash pile is shown in the upper left corner and current pot in the upper right.

The name Quick Match is a bit deceiving in that the game played isn't really any quicker than Career mode, though there's no profile created and you're randomly assigned an avatar rather than given the option to use your Mii. You can choose to play a "cash game" that continues until you get tired of playing (or die -- whichever comes first) or a single tournament against 8 computer-controlled players. You can select the difficulty level (referring to the aggressiveness of the betting style of the CPU players) and choose a casino from the selection of ones you've unlocked (initially only Caribbean is available).

Career is the game mode you're mostly likely to partake of. You choose an avatar (or Mii) and enter your name which creates a save profile. Starting out with a seed of $1500, you play through a series of tournaments in casinos, which are unlocked for use in future Quick Match or Career games -- assuming you win. Rather than having the player choose the difficulty as in Quick Match, the CPU players gradually increase in their betting aggressiveness with two of them being designated "Celebrity Players" and given specific play styles. As in Quick Mode games you can press (A) to skip bits that aren't as important -- like dealing sequences or other players making their betting/folding decisions -- to get to the good parts. This is especially nice if you end up folding early and don't want to just be a spectator. After a game ends you're presented with stats showing your best/worst hands and other vital statistics before moving on to the next tournament (or more likely, back to the menu to start again!).

In this day-and-age of connected consoles you may well be drawn to the online Multiplayer mode, but this ends up being the weakest mode in the game. Unlike the local Quick Match and Career games which are played against 8 CPU-controlled players, multiplayer is features up to 5 human opponents with no CPU players involved. In addition to volume levels, you also have the option of whether or not to view other player's Miis. Whilst this might initially seem like an option you'd like to have enabled, the lack of "witty banter" ends up making multiplayer matches with Miis more Poker of the Living Dead than Texas Hold 'em, with the only sound being background music and sound effects (though in fairness to Gameloft, this could be a limitation of Nintendo's Mii code). With the hand-building aspects of other poker games removed, the principal strategy in Texas Hold 'em (aside from knowing "when to hold 'em" and "when to fold 'em") is bluffing and would normally be where the flesh-and-blood players are separated from the ones residing in silicon. Unfortunately poker skills based around reading your opponent's intentions are non-existent in this game.

The presentation in multiplayer is the same as all the other game modes: fixed camera with a top-down view as if from a security camera above the casino dealer's head. You do get a zoom in on your character when winning a hand or getting knocked out of the tournament (cue happy/frowny face and waving hands), but that's just for effect and has no bearing on gameplay; players to the sides of the table are only visible in profile (in single player you cannot even see the faces on some of them). There's no Wii Speak support, so even the social aspect of playing online with friends is removed; instead you have a few pages of canned "dialogue" which largely consists of trash-talking and emoticons -- and most of the latter are Japanese! There's maybe two lines that could be loosely interpreted as relating to bluffing ("About those two aces I'm holding..." would hardly seem to qualify), but given bringing up dialogue choices contributes nothing to gameplay except making other players wait, the reality is that you're unlikely to bother with anything other than an initial "hi" once the game starts.

Bluffing is the same online or offline and ultimately multiplayer just ends up being a slower -- and if using Miis, more boring -- game with no change in strategy whatsoever. The presence of online leaderboards and the added jeopardy of having a cash allowance that only goes up $200 a day simply aren't enough to offset the slower and more lacklustre experience provided, so you're really better off just playing against the CPU.


As a single player experience, Gameloft's Texas Hold 'em Poker will provide about as much diversion as a good game of Freecell. The visuals are excellent and the game plays well, but the useless online experience and one-note gameplay prevents us from recommending this game to anyone but die hard fans of this poker variant.

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User Comments (33)



Klapaucius said:

Videogames of cardgames will never really be fun unless you like to play it in the real world, I think. If so, why bother getting a videogame of it?



Djungelurban said:

So what was the thinking behind not having the person that reviewed THT review THP... I'm just saying...



Sean_Aaron said:

For the record I did not play the OTHER Texas Hold 'em game. I really don't see the need for one game based solely around that "poker" game let alone two.

Shame the Wii wasn't out 10 years ago; we could be playing Caribbean Stud Poker instead!



thewiirocks said:

You did NOT just quote Lady Gaga. [pause] I think I'm going to have to run screaming out of NintendoLife.



KnucklesSonic8 said:

I have a hard time believing the online is "useless" and I have a very mixed feeling about the review in general. It was well-written but I have a hard time believing that someone would do so much worse if they got this instead of Texas Hold'em Tournament. Personal opinion of the concept itself seems to have had a factor here. Still, it was pretty informative (save for the paragraph dealing with online play, that could've been improved) and all in all, it was a good review.



Luigi-la-bouncy said:

I loved the heading to the review, it cracked me up. And thanks for warning me off the game. To be honest I don't see the point in poker games on Wii. You can find loads of good free ones on the Internet if you are so inclined.



Sean_Aaron said:

The online really is that rubbish and a complete waste of time, seriously. You sit there watching people's Miis and elipses waiting for them to decide to fold and then wait for the next one. Someone chooses to say "hi" and by the time you've looked through the list of rubbish one-liners it's your play, so you can either "check" or fold or display something lame like "d^_^b" -- I do find it interesting that the Digital Leisure game has a more rubbish appearance, yet actually tries to do something with bluffing involving facial expressions with the characters, plus the whole t-shirt buying thing, whereas Gameloft went for better overall visuals and then puts the camera in a place where you cannot really appreciate them...

And yes I did quote Lady Gaga despite hating that song; I regard it as penance for hours wasted playing a virtual casino game, god help me.



Metang said:

The tagline for the review made me lol. Anyway, why the hell is it a popular title? Because so many people waste their "lives" playing poker on the Wii when they could just play it with actual cards? Jeez.



Philip_J_Reed said:

According to the big header pic, Sean Aaron makes a cameo in this game. Check the guy on the far right.



Tails said:

the only card based game i ever owned was on my old PC it was Hoyle Casino slots and poker i bought it for $20 and enjoyed every minute of it but this no thanks x.x; doesn't look that appealing



HEMIII said:

"You cannot exchange cards -- thereby removing the hand-building strategy of games like draw and stud poker -- which makes for a much faster game that is more appealing to casual gamblers and casinos."
@SeanAaron You build your hand off the community cards. I don't think you should of reviewed this game if you haven't even played the other one let alone not even having an interest in this type of "poker" game, WTH man? Anyway, how long are the blinds in the multiplayer?
@gamedevelopers When will someone make a Hold'em poker game that uses the Wii Speak?!?
@Nintendolife Next time have someone review a game that has some knowledge of this kind of game. Like who ever plays poker over there (on his time off or ever) should be reviewing this "poker" game.
@SeanAaron again, this "poker" game Texas Hold'em btw just so you know, It's real popular here in the US. We have a World Series of Poker with the final game being Texas Hold'em which players from all over the world come and play. They show it on ESPN every Tuesday too. ESPN being a popular sports tv network. They actually sold out of the $10000 seats this year in it's 40 year history. Your review you can tell you don't know or just don't like Hold'em, maybe you should of passed on giving this game a review.



Luigi-la-bouncy said:

Texas hold'em is very popular in Euope too, but it's much more fun when you are playing for real money (even if it's small amounts). It's a very popular social activity for guys as an alternative to going to the pub.

I don't think the comments sectioned should be used for bashing the reviewer. Especially when it's a good review like in this case. It tells you what you need to know and approached it from neutral point of view. That's much more interesting to your average reader than getting a huge poker fan to do the review.



Sean_Aaron said:

@HEMIII: Did you actually read the review? I do indicate the hand is built using a combination of community cards and your hand; that doesn't make my comment about the hand-building aspect of poker being nearly absent from the game untrue. What, do you think the game asks you to click on the cards or something?

I'm also well aware of how popular Texas Hold 'em is in the States. It makes me weep, but sadly it's not something in my power to control. I'm not sure what your point is though -- are you suggesting that all games based upon popular pasttimes get an automatic pass? Whether or not Texas Hold 'em is popular in casinos or on television has no bearing on whether a video game based upon it is any good.

With regard to my being a fan or not, that's also pretty much irrelevant. I may think the casino game is a giant waste of time/money, but that doesn't mean the video game version of it cannot be enjoyable. In fact I'd wager that someone who greatly enjoys playing the real thing in a casino will like this game even less than I did because of the crippled bluffing aspect.

Poker is a social game with strategy built around building the best hand you can and faking out other players; if you're going to have a video game built around a version of the game that pretty much eliminates the former strategy then you'd damn well better have the bluffing aspect covered and this game doesn't do the job.



thebigM said:

@HEMIII: the US has a World Series for every crap. Probably because most doesn't know that there is life out there. Poor stupid us

@Sean: I tried the other Texas Hold Em. Didn't enjoy it very much. If someone likes online Poker, go to according web sites. All WiiWare versions are pretty useless so far. Nice review



HEMIII said:

@Aaron Yes thats what you said I quoted your words. and here is another quote from your review "With the hand-building aspects of other poker games removed, " and No I was just asking for a more detailed review. You left out little details that fans of the game would be interested in like the blind levels how long are they, and how much, how much money do you start out with in cash and multiplayer $1500 is that for all or each of them. Is cash just a sub game in the career or multiplayer menu? You did say something about a $200 allowance a day what is that for just cash play or do you have a bank account that gets $200 a day period unlike the other where you can get $1000 anytime you run out of money?

I realize that the person that reviewed the other Hold'em game didn't get that detailed either but he would be able to compare the two. Which is what made me question your review score it's the same as the other one which is no help. Your review was well written but doesn't make it sound better or worst than the last one.

About bluffing, ha baaduh, it's a video game man you can't get reads through your monitor that goes for any online poker game (I got your headline) that's why I asked game developers when they are goin' to start using the Wii Speak? Most reads online though are read by how much they bet and how they bet through out the streets.

You say and I quote "I'm also well aware of how popular Texas Hold 'em is in the States. It makes me weep, but sadly it's not something in my power to control." Yet you may be trying to in your review with some kind of hidden agenda. Ha I'm getting way off base now.

But anyway man sorry if I hurt your feelings I just didn't like the review it could of been alot more informed and reviewed by someone that has played the other Hold'em game atleast.

@BigM ? You lost me at your avatar.

@Luigi who said I was bashing him, constructive criticism.



Sean_Aaron said:

My feelings aren't hurt, you just seemed to be missing the point, but I'm happy to see that's not the case. I didn't go as much into technical details because:

a. They haven't been made terribly relevant in this game (unlike the other game there's no opening determination of dealer or manual bidding -- that's all automatic and the table dealer just starts throwing the cards out)
b. I'm not familiar enough with the real game to reference them intelligently -- again, if you really like Texas Hold 'em it's already far enough from the real thing that those details aren't going to matter very much. If I have an agenda it would be to warn people about games that aren't terribly worthwhile and this is definitely one of them.

With regard to whether or not this is very different from the other Texas Hold 'em game, well the main difference seems to be that Gameloft's game is prettier; Digital Leisure's has a more fleshed out bluffing aspect.

And yes, computers are definitely going to limit bluffing unless someday a Poker game is made that uses cameras, however that's why it would be nice to have alternate poker rules included which have more hand-building strategies or Wii Speak support -- hell even Digital Leisure's use of face changing on the Mii stand-ins was at least an attempt!



Opa-Opa said:

Just registered after read this highly questionable analysis. I can only say that I think the person you have commissioned the review was not the most suited for this. Incomprehensible critical issues about online, and the most important: a person not familiar with poker.

I have long read Nintendo Life, and I must say that this was your first major blunder. I'm not saying the game is 10, but the justifications for granting a measly 4 leaves much to be desired. But after a stumble, you have to put up again. I am still reading you!



Sneaker13 said:

"Players are dealt two cards each with the two players to the left of the "dealer" (not the actual dealer, but the person used to determine the order of play) putting in the ante."

This have to be blinds. The two players you mentioned put in blinds, not ante. Only higher blind levels include antes, but that's for all the players.



Adamant said:

I have to agree it was a mistake not having Shortay review this. The two Texas Hold'em games are so similiar people will want to know which is the one to spring money for, and when neither review references the other game and offers a comparison, it's impossible to read anything into the more or less identical scores. What people first and foremost want to know about this game is how it stacks up to it's competition, which can only be properly addressed by having both games reviewed by the same person.



Chungii_V said:

Okay so we've determined it's another average (or below) poker game. Is there a chance we are ever going to get a decent poker game?



Khellendros said:

Sorry to disagree with the reviewer but I think this is a great game for what it costs. The online works flawlessly and is much more enjoyable than the single player mode (i can´t understand how can someone prefer the single player AI to playing with human counterparts). The online leaderboards, the possibility of inviting a friend to your table at any time or making custom tournaments or cash games (for all people or if you prefer, only for friends) makes this a game that you can enjoy everyday for a very long time.

This is the first review of Nintendo Life I completely disagree with. Maybe it has to do with poker itself, maybe some people just don´t enjoy it.

Sorry for the bad English.

EDIT: By the way, the strategy in this game remains, you can´t say there isn´t any. Maybe using a webcam could have made it better (in the other poker game you can change your Mii´s face expression and in this one you can choose a sentence that implies you have a good or a bad hand, both things are exactly the same in practical terms), but the way yo bet and how you change your betting methods depending on what cards you have (and of course, trying to fins out how your opponents play and make those decisions) is the where the real strategy is.

EDIT 2: Completely agree with the fact that the best option of course is to spend a night at your house or at a mate´s house playing the game (for money or not), but you know, that is not always possible, i thought we all knew this was the great thing about onlne play xD.



Gabbo said:

What's so hard to understand about the score? Gameloft released Sexy Poker and we gave it a 2. Then Gameloft released this upgraded Texas Hold 'Em game and we gave it a 4. It sounds like it's substantially better and it has the higher score to show it.

I would have happily reviewed this version of the game as well, for the sake of consistency in reviewers. However it didn't come out in the U.S. first so that's just impossible.



KnucklesSonic8 said:

@Gabbo: On the same side of the token, it also sounds like it's substantially worse than Texas Hold'em Tournament.

Sorry, but you walked right into that one.



plankton88 said:

This is the review for the first Poker wiiware game not the new one. This needs to be fixed.

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