Review: Texas Hold 'Em Poker


Author: Concrete Software

Version Reviewed: 1.1

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Texas Hold EmPoker is the new Rock and Roll, or so they say, and in the Land of the RIAA, that certinly holds true. Millions of dollars of prize money flows in the Professional Poker Circuit, with the top players regularly playing for stakes that are ten or twenty times my salary (which wouldn't be difficult at the moment, but that's another matter). The game they play is Texas Hold 'Em, and Concrete Software's J2ME version is available for the Series 60 platform.

Poker's Just a Brand, What's Texas Hold 'Em?

Texas Hold EmEveryone is probably familiar with the '5 Card Stud' version of Poker, where you get dealt five cards, can exchange cards as you bet, and finally the winning hand is revealed among the players still involved.
Texas Hold 'Em is slightly different. You still score it with pairs, three of a kinds, full houses, flushes and straights, but the difference is in the deal and the number of cards used. Every player is dealt two 'hole' cards, which only the player can see. At that point everyone starts betting or folding on the strength of just those two cards. After this first round of betting, three cards are dealt into the centre of the table. This is the 'flop' and the three cards are communal cards so every player can now (mentally) use these cards and the two in their hand to make the five cards you use to make up a poker hand.

So if you have an Ace and a King in your hand, and the flop has a two, a five, and a King, then your best hand is a pair of Kings. Of course, your opponent might have two Kings in his hand already, and he can use the communal cards to get Three of a Kind (Three Kings), which would beat your hand.
After the flop, there's a round of betting, and a fourth card (the 'turn') is dealt. Now each player uses only five of the six available cards (two in your hand, four on the table) to make the best hand, and there's some more betting. A final fifth card (the 'river') is dealt face up, there's a last round of betting, and if more than one player is still betting at the end of that, then the hands are compared to find the winner, who takes everything in the betting pot.

It's fast, exciting, and great on TV, because they use little micro-cameras so the TV audience can see what every player's hole cards are. It's also fast moving and different enough to make a great computer game. So how have Concrete Software got on?

Limit or No Limits It's All About How Much To Bet

Texas Hold EmThe Concrete Software web site has two different versions of the game, the Limit and No-Limit versions. In a Limit game of Hold Em, you can only bet in certain multiples of money, and this is always strictly controlled. This makes it easier on the controls (a simple Bet button is all that is needed) whereas in a No-Limit game and you can guess what's coming up here you can bet however much you like at each turn, as long as it equals or is more than the last bet.

From what I can see, the only difference in the two games are the limits, so you're going to have to choose which to buy from the site. I really think this would be best as an option in one Hold Em download, and you could switch between them... and that loses Texas Hold Em a few review points.

A game of Limit Hold Em lasts a lot longer when playing against your computer opponents, while the No Limit version is much more suitable for those of you who like to take more risks in your gameplay. It's also a lot faster. You'll have to judge for yourself which to get. If you've never played Poker before, I'd recommend the Limit version.

Texas Hold EmLots of Computers To Play Against

When you first start (either version of) Hold Em, you'll be faced with five opponents, with classic names like Maverick, Action Al and Big Slick. All of these are editable by you, and you can set the A.I. Skill level on each player to your own tastes. The default gives a nice spread, but if you want to add or remove players, then it's very easy. A massive ten player game, with nine Hold 'Em Experts in the AI against yourself? Not a problem.

This is a strong Java MIDP title, but Concrete Software have not taken the view that one version of the application can run over everything from a Siemens SL55 dinky fashion phone, to the business grunt of a P900, so you'll be downloading a version specific to your phone.

This means that the Series 60 version (reviewed here) takes the full screen during the game, and comes back to a well laid out MIDP Form for the settings and there's a lot of settings. Almost everything is customisable in this game, from the graphics used to the speed of dealing. The amount you can bet and the 'standard' bets that are needed to start a game can be chosen. In fact if it can be changed, it probably will be (apart from choosing between Limit and No-Limit...).

The gameplay itself is smooth and fluid, and it's easy to make your move using the pop up menu. Your opponents are some of the best A.I. I've seen in a Poker game, and you quickly get to know what various players will do in a given situation.

They've Done A Good Job

Concrete Software have covered both areas of a game like this with great skill. The user interface is uncluttered, but it's not difficult to find anything. The computer opponents are as strong (or as weak) as you set them up to be. All in all, there's not much to fault. Concrete Software, this is a solid software title and worth a purchase. It's not quite 'AAS Recommended' material, and two versions could confuse people, but on the whole, it deserves a solid 73.

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