The best measure of a poker game isn't if it has nice graphics, a customisable deck of cards, or a variety of table backgrounds, but how sweaty it makes your palms while playing.

While the game may be mainly luck based, there's nothing quite like the feeling of going into a hand with a weak pair of cards, out-bluffing your opponents and coming away with the pot.

Downtown Texas Hold 'em doesn't appear to have the right ingredients for such emotions. Cartoon characters? A scantily-clad advisor? Anime-style cutaways for going all-in? This isn't the poker I know.

Yet, somehow, I'm sat here after winning a tournament with sweaty palms and the familiar adrenaline rush of a pot well won.

Raking in the chips

Part of the reason for the rush is in how Downtown handles progression through the game.

Everything from tournament entries to unlocking locations is tied into your chip count. If you take a nasty defeat in a later, more expensive tournament then you won't be able to afford the entry fee to try again, instead having to rely on lesser locations or personal challenges to restore your lost stack.

It's frustrating when it happens, but at the same time it gives the game a decent sense of risk - something that isn't that usual when fictional currency is in play.

World Series

The five locations on offer vary from a beachside bar to a full-blown fictional casino, with each location coming with its own stake, blind levels, and opponents.

These opponents noticeably vary in skill level, with the starting four being easy to bully and string along to a showdown, while latter characters can bluff and counter to a high standard.

For instance, when I entered the second table of one tournament, one of the winners from another table announced his entrance with an aggressive (not to mention risky) all-in from the left of the big blind that completely suckered us all into folding.

On another occasion a player successfully strung me along to a showdown with a three of a kind on the flop.


If those terms are making your mind boggle, Downtown is probably not the poker game you're after.

While the aforementioned scantily clad advisor, Amy, is on hand to give tips on every hand you draw, she does tend to be slightly erratic. She's wont to offer a few too many bluff call suggestions one moment and massively cautious folds the next.

There’s also no way of really getting to the meat of the game without at least winning the first event. Because Downtown exclusively uses tournament rules and a winner-takes-all prize money system on single table tournaments, it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut on the very first competition.

Pair of bullets

You’ll want to get back into another game, though, if not for the AI then for the presentation and speed of gameplay.

Despite being incredibly impatient when it comes to ‘people that aren’t me’ taking their turns in a video game, I never once felt the need to skip past hands in Downtown.

It helps that the game cuts away to show your opponent's face when a big decision is being made, or that it vibrates and goes all Dragonball when they decide to go all-in, keeping things watchable and interesting even when you’re not directly involved in a pot.

And when it’s a devious bluff you’ve made that brings up their faces, uncertain of how to read your bet, a seat at the last table at stake it’s enough to give anyone some seriously sweaty palms.