Imagine that Donald Trump stole the DeLorean from Back to the Future. He warps to the Wild West, but instead of saving the Doc like in Part III, he creates a form of government in which you rule by simply owning every building in sight. It’s a monopolocracy, if you will, and everyone crams the saloons to play poker for this right. This is the world in Governor of Poker and, just like Trump’s hair, the concept falls flat.
The core of Governor of Poker is classic Texas Hold ‘Em, and the game provides a perfectly playable experience. Rules are followed well, cards and the current pot situation are easily viewed at a glance, and there are three levels of difficulty based on experience. A quick, one-off game can be selected at any time, with options for number of (AI) players and locations, more of which unlock as you play the main game.
The main game, unfortunately, is where things start to become a flop. The goal, once you choose and name a male or female character, is to claim the governorship of Texas by winning enough in poker to literally buy up all the towns in the game. Two types of games are available: tournaments that pay out if you finish in a high enough place, and cash games that you can leave at any time and at which you can even bet a building. Towns are claimed by purchasing or winning all the buildings within, and the rent payments you receive from them will slowly trickle into your overall wealth. You start in one dusty little town, but once you own it can play for a horse to reach the next three towns farther out. Rinse and repeat, expanding your reach across the state.
It’s a lofty, lengthy goal, and a potentially adventurous one were it not for how the game is nearly devoid of personality or sense of story. Towns are filled with dull NPCs who either offer small poker tips or menial fluff, and there’s little to do aside from attend the games that pop up on each map. If you’re going to construct a world with multiple locations, there should be a sense of things actually happening in them apart from poker. Vegas Stakes on the SNES breathed some life into its game just by having NPCs approach the player and offer choices that could affect their fortunes. There don't even have to be any consequences, but having some deeper interactions would have been wonderful.
The blandness also bleeds into the presentation of the poker games themselves. Tables are viewed from a top-down perspective, meaning all you see of every player is his or her hat. Sentient hats with arms awkwardly held out in front of them, hands hovering in a vaguely claw-like fashion that makes everyone look like R.O.B..
The dealer follows the same card-throwing and blind-announcing protocols, sounding largely like an ATM. There are very few voices for these CPU-controlled characters, and only several canned phrases for each mostly relating to what action they have decided to take. The female voices are particularly grating, and hearing several in a row make the same trill of “Cheh-EE-uck!” might make you want to throw your ears into the pot along with your chips. Nothing will be missed if you turn the sound down, though, as only the faint din of the surrounding saloon is heard during a match.
Faceless players means no poker faces, of course. While there may be some possible rhyme or reason to discern from the ways other players’ hands move, there are no real personalities to read or crack. This is a shame, as there are no ways to play other human players in the game, either locally or online. There is an online leaderboard, however, as well as achievements for completing certain goals during games, but these don't adequately stand in for the lack of single player engagement or multiplayer options.
Those looking for straight-up, no-frills Texas Hold ‘Em can find it in Governor of Poker. Those looking for engaging goals and atmosphere, however, likely will not; the constant tug-of-war on the tables to build the funds to buy the next non-interactive building feels more like a chore than a real accomplishment. It’s only worth looking at if you’re heavily invested in the technical play of cards or, you know, like buying non-interactive buildings as a baseless figure of status.