Anyone looking for a poker game on the App Store doesn’t have to look far: Shut your eyes and tap the screen and you’ll probably download one. Our previous pick for the best of the bunch was World Series of Poker Hold’em Legend, a Glu game that’s been re-branded as Poker: Hold’em Championship now that EA has the World Series of Poker license. So how does EA’s attempt stack up?
The most obvious thing to note is that WSOP is all about online multiplayer. Rather than replicating the “everything and the kitchen sink” design idea behind Glu’s Hold’em Championship, EA has chosen to shamelessly copy Poker by Zynga. This doesn’t make for an awful game by any means, but we wish they had brought more new ideas to the table.
Everyone has a Facebook account, right?
Right when you boot up the app, you’ll come face to face with a rather sizable drawback: you can’t play the game unless you sign in through Facebook. Unlike in Poker by Zynga, there’s no option to play as a guest, although EA promises that’s coming in an update. When you join a match, your Facebook profile picture and your real first name are displayed to everyone at the table. The only way to change your name and picture is to change your actual Facebook profile. This is a gutsy move on EA’s part, and we suspect a lot of people will feel uncomfortable playing online with their real persona, when just about every other online game lets you create an avatar and screen name.
Another potential downside is that the game doesn’t do much to accommodate inexperienced poker players. A handful of non-interactive tutorials are included, along with a hand-strength meter, but these won’t go far towards turning a fresh-faced tyro into a grizzled vet. Unlike in Poker: Hold’em Championship, there’s no offline or single-player mode to hone your skills. If you want to play this game, you have to do it with other real-life players, with your virtual chips on the line. Newbies will want to look elsewhere until they brush up their skills.
Chart your progress, or your downfall.
That said, anyone familiar with poker won’t have trouble finding their way through the game, as all the mechanics are fairly well-implemented and user-friendly. Two game types are included, Texas Hold’em and a variation called Omaha. You can join the next available standard game by tapping “Play Now,” or set up your own custom match, choosing, say, five players instead of nine, speeding up each player’s turn, or upping the stakes and buy-in. If create your own match, however, you might have trouble filling a table, depending on how many gamblers are online at the time.
WSOP is a freemium game, so of course EA provides several ways for you to spend money inside the app. You start off with a healthy number of chips, but they’re easy to lose if you’re bold with your bets and/or bad at e-bluffing. Naturally, you can purchase all the chips you want. Or if you’re really serious about iOS poker, you can buy a VIP subscription for $5 per month, with slight discounts for buying up to three months at a time. Going VIP is kind of like going Elite in Call of Duty: it gives you deeper access to your stats as well as information about the other players at your table. It also lets you access VIP-only tables and displays a VIP indicator on your picture.
Nearly everything about World Series of Poker feels similar to Poker by Zynga, but more refined. The game is nicer to look at, and it’s a little easier to tell what’s going on at a glance. It could use to be more beginner-friendly, and we wish there were some single player content, and it didn’t require a Facebook account. But it’s free to play, so if those things don’t bother you it’s worth trying out. If they do, give Poker: Hold’em Championship a shot, or just search for “poker” on the App Store and brace yourself for a tsunami of choices.