Game Reviews

Texas Hold'em

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| Texas Hold'em
Texas Hold'em
| Texas Hold'em

It seems everyone's a card shark nowadays, such is the popularity of poker – and in particular the Texas Hold'em variant of the game. If we're not watching it on TV or playing online, we're piling round to friends' houses to see who loses their shirt quickest.

On mobile phones, poker games have been enormously popular, and the same may prove to be true on iPod, judging from this slick launch title.

After a brief tutorial, Texas Hold'em plunges you into a series of poker tournaments, starting with a simple one-table affair, and graduating on to larger tournaments where the stakes are higher.

You can choose between two game views. First-person sees the action from your viewpoint, complete with photo-realistic opponents, while top-down offers a more traditional table viewpoint. There are pros and cons to each, but we tended to stick to the first-person view.

Each tournament is set in a different global location, with graphics to match, and each player has their own tics, which you can read to judge whether they've got a storming hand or if they're just bluffing. However, it's fair to say that this can become a bit repetitive, in that once you learn a particular players' tic you'll know what they're doing.

Still, the players themselves are satisfyingly varied, both in looks – we quite fancy Jane, actually – and in playing style. You'll come up against wild players who constantly bet big, whatever their hand, and more cautious types, who only bet when they have a super hand. And, of course, everything in between, which is where your skills come into play.

You can also choose the speed at which your opponents play, plumping for Slow, Normal, Fast or Fastest. Be warned, although Fastest makes the game zoom by, it also gives you less time to study the other players to try and work out if they're bluffing. A related neat feature is that once you've folded, the rest of the hand is fast forwarded, so you never get bored.

We'll be honest, if you're a real poker buff this game will be more interesting for its novelty value on iPod than to provide a real challenge. But for those of us who are more casual poker players, Texas Hold'em is great fun, getting progressively more difficult as you move from tournament to tournament.

The controls do the job, being simple. You use the scroll-wheel to move left and right when presented with options (usually Bet/Raise, Check/Call and Fold), and whenever you're choosing how much to bet or raise, you scroll to increase or decrease the amount. It works well, and doesn't get in the way of the game, which is as it should be.

It's worth playing the game just once without your own songs playing in the background, so you can hear the cheesy country theme, complete with twanging guitars. The actual in-game music is dreadful, so only do it once.

Finally, there's a statistics option to check things like your biggest win, largest loss, longest winning streak and the best hand you ever held.

Texas Hold'em plays a fine game of poker, with enough graphical bells and whistles to show off your fifth-generation iPod's hi-res colour screen. If you like your cards, we're betting you'll love it.

Texas Hold'em

Apple has shuffled up a treat with this iPod poker title. Now when can we have gin rummy?