A good poker game doesn't need gimmicks. It just needs realistic artificial intelligence and a decent career mode - the rest should take care of itself. After all, poker is entertainment enough, otherwise people wouldn't spend hours playing tournaments with £1 blinds.
Admittedly, on a mobile phone you don't get the social interaction or the chance to practise your best bluffing face, but when it's done right you should get a game that's stupidly addictive. Just when you feel like you've had enough of small screen poker for virtual money, you'll get a decent hand, win $20,000, and interest is renewed. Whether it's real or not, starting with a few dollars and turning it into a five figure sum is a compelling challenge.
Million Dollar Poker, which features Gus Hansen, a Danish pro player with earnings of over $5 million, is Gameloft's latest poker game and follows in the same vein as the publisher's previous Midnight Hold 'em Poker. It features the more accessible and popular Texas Hold 'em version of the game and includes three different ways to play - Exhibition, Career and Head-to-Head.
Career mode is the most comprehensive of the three. In it, you play as a character starting out with $1,500 who's making their way around the world map playing public and private tournaments. Each player you're up against has a distinct playing style and these are revealed in short bios at the start of each tournament.
It's one of Million Dollar Poker's greatest strengths that more reckless and aggressive players really do bluff their way through hands, especially on the harder difficulty levels. Hence, raising by a large amount normally results in the rest of the table quickly folding in fear, but you'll sometimes get a player who carries on playing despite having absolutely nothing in their hand.
In terms of functionality, the game does a perfectly good job. A fairly standard top-down view of the table is made more interesting by 3D models of each character sitting around it. Once a player has folded, they turn grey so it's easy to see who's still in the game. The joystick or four numbered keys are used to select your choice when it's your turn and you can skip through everything up to your turn if you don't want to sit and watch what every player wants to do. Pressing '5' lets you have a peek at your cards at any point.
It's all pretty to look at too. Each location has a different background and the Head-to-Head games, in particular, are lent that bit more authenticity and tension by the realistic character sat opposite you checking his cards and throwing down chips.
Beneath the glitz then, Million Dollar Poker is a very solid poker game that feels as real as can be expected on a phone. Exhibition mode lets you alter difficulty settings and stakes for short customised games and the Career mode records stats and hands played for more experienced players. For the less experienced, there aren't many tips that pop up to help you improve your game. Instead you need to read through the instructions and good old Gus is on hand to offer general tips during loading screens.
The final hand boils down to the fact that there are many mobile poker games already out there, so how does Million Dollar Poker stack up?
To be honest, you'd have to be quite a fan of cards to fork out for this if you already own the likes of Midnight Hold 'em Poker or Cafe Hold 'em Poker, but if you're new to the genre or want a new, long-lasting, comprehensive, gimmick-free Texas Hold 'em experience, this is up there with the best.