CES: Can’t catch a good hand in Full House Poker

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I played poker with Shannon Elisabeth.

Okay, so I played videogame poker on the same local network as Shannon Elisabeth.

Okay, so I probably wasn’t even directly playing with her. But I was in the same room! 

Microsoft had an event here at CES in Las Vegas to promote the upcoming release of Full House Poker on XBLA. This is a streamlined online Texas Hold ‘Em game where your Xbox avatars are actually bellying up to the table and playing. 

It’s not just an online poker game. The appeal here is going up against everyone else in huge tournaments. That’s what we did at this event, which was packed with Xbox 360s running the game, networked, with 30 players. The game is very easy to jump into, with minimal work required from you. Call? Fold? Just hit a button. Raising is a button and a d-pad tap. There’s even a fast-forward button for single player games to get around the table after you’ve folded. I wish they had that button in IRL poker.

Full House Poker is pretty cute, which is kind of weird to say about a poker game. Your avatars are really emotive at the table, making movements that match your plays. The right analog stick gives you full control over the camera so that you can get a full look around the table at your opponents. They do a lot of funny things. You can also control some of the reactions. I’d never show my cards when I won, and then would make a sly face. 

If you don’t have a ton of friends to go online with, there’s plenty of other modes to keep you at the table. The single player kept me down and almost out at times. I couldn’t catch a good hand, even after about 50 minutes of play! Still, the action is fast and the controls are simple enough that you won’t find a good stopping point. Microsoft also plans to host live events at launch, like speed rounds. It’s just like online poker, except that you don’t actually win any cash. 

Good play earns you more than fake money. You’ll also gain experience that you can use to unlock customizations for the game. In the demo I played there was a lot unlocked, and I could change the look of my cards and table before matches. Avatar customizations are also available. It’s nice that it isn’t all about the money and rank in this game. 

Wait, who am I kidding?

Still, this isn’t a serious, intense online poker game. While you can have a serious match, this is more about playing with friends online and having fun. Even with me not being able to catch a good hand, I still had a good time. 

Full House Poker doesn’t have a release date yet, but it’s coming soon to Xbox Live Arcade as party of their House Party series of games.


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