Developer: Jawfish Games
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Playtime: Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

JawfishPoker-2Jawfish Poker is Texas hold ‘em poker for the mobile generation. A tournament can be played in minutes against dozens and dozens of players. For those wanting a rapid-fire poker experience, this is worth checking out.

Instead of sitting at a table against a multitude of players, all the matchups are heads-up against players in the same tournament. Betting has been simplified: there’s a steadily-increasing big and small blind, and the only options are to fold or to go all-in. This means that for every hand that is called, someone’s getting knocked out. It’s high-intensity poker all the time, all against real players.

While the Texas hold ‘em rules remain the same, new challenges arise. Bluffing becomes a particularly risky strategy just because it’s only really possible to steal the blinds with the all-in-or-fold betting system. Thus, knowing which hands are good to bluff on becomes key because any hand could instantly be a life-or-death situation.

JawfishPoker-3The game is free to play, and actually allows for unlimited free play for those that just want to play poker itself without any stakes in its free-entry mode. The winnings are low here; it’s in the modes with an actual buy-in that the winnings increase. It’s possible to buy additional money and gems as well. I’m actually not opposed to the second currency in this circumstance: the gems regulate big spenders and prevent people from just re-buying ad infinitum whenever they lose. As well, the purchasing as a whole encourages dedicated players to spend money and support a game that they play for a long time, while still allowing free play.

The online mode is fast, making it extremely easy to find a game against a large group of players at any time, even seconds after busting out of a hand. Jawfish have done an incredible job at making it work well even over cellular connections. Also, the King of the Hill mode makes for a great mix-up from the standard buy-in tournaments, serving as a persistent tournament that players can jump in and out of at any time, though there’s never a long wait for any of the standard tournaments.

The problem is that it’s hard to find a good strategy to succeed because of the huge player bases, and because there’s no intermediate betting strategy. Some of the subtlety of poker gets lost, but such is the sacrifice to make this fast-paced game work, I suppose. Also, why does this game not support portrait mode? It would be absolutely perfect for just sitting back and playing casually, or while on transit with a good cellular connection.

Jawfish Poker is a tremendous piece of work. The fast-paced adjustments come with some trade-offs to poker mechanics, but for the game Jawfish clearly was going for, it’s great. Check this out.

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