Game Reviews

Texas Hold'em (iPhone)

Star onStar onStar onStar onStar half
Texas Hold'em (iPhone)

Out of the dozens of card games that launched with the iPhone, one stood out. Texas Hold'em was the only game to be developed in-house at Apple, rather than by a third-party developer.

You'd expect it to push the iPhone hardware – an expectation fuelled by its hefty 128MB file size, despite its relatively cheap £2.99 price tag. The game will be familiar from its iPod version, which we reviewed earlier this year.

The solo mode sees you testing your Hold'em skills in a series of increasingly glamorous locations, starting in a garage, but progressing through a cruise ship, Paris, an ice bar, Roppongi and ending up in Dubai.

Oh, and you get to play in an aquarium too. Insert your own card sharks joke here.

The locations offer increasingly large prizes, but require increasingly large buy-ins too. By the time you get to Dubai, you'll have to cough up $100,000 just to play, with a top price of $1.25 million on offer. The game consists of earning your way to the top, as you can imagine.

The big draw are the photorealistic graphics, with a first-person view that lets you look your opponents in the eyes. It's very neatly done too – more an interactive video than a traditional game.

The AI players all have their own characteristics, including tells to help you spot when they're bluffing. It's by far the best-looking mobile poker game we've ever played, in fact, with audio to match.

This is in portrait mode, mind. If you rotate your iPhone to landscape mode, you see a top-down view that's more akin to what you see on online poker websites.

In either case, the controls are all handled neatly via the touchscreen. Tapping on your stash brings up a slide bar to set your bet, while flicking your cards into the middle of the table folds. It works well.

Texas Hold'em will provide a decent challenge, too, although one understandably weighted towards newer players in the early stages of the game.

All in all, it's highly polished, although it would be nice to have realistic tournaments to compete in – perhaps Glu or Hands On will do this on iPhone with their World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour licences.

Then there's the multiplayer mode. Oh yes, Apple has used this game to show developers what the iPhone's wi-fi connectivity can bring to games, albeit on a local level.

So no, you can't play Texas Hold'em against strangers online, but you can play against iPhone-toting friends within wi-fi range.

You simply tap the Multiplayer menu option, choose which player you want to be and a venue, and then wait while everyone connects to the game.

I've had no problems getting my two iPhones (one 2G, one 3G) to connect for two-player matches, but up to nine can play at once.

Okay, full online play would've been interesting to have – and some other iPhone poker games are offering this, such as Real Dice's Multiplayer Championship Poker.

Even so, Texas Hold'em is a bona-fide treat for iPhone-owning poker fans. Particularly considering its price, it should be considered an essential buy.

Texas Hold'em (iPhone)

Classy poker game that truly showcases iPhone's gaming potential