Price: $4.99 (Sale Price 30% off)
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Graphics / Sound [rating:3.5/5]
Game Controls [rating:3.5/5]
iPhone Integration [rating:3/5]
User Interface [rating:3.5/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:4/5]
I started watching the WSOP a few years ago now, way before it was on ESPN pretty much 24/7. My friends all used to laugh at me for watching poker on TV until Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event, and they started to realize that you can play on the internet and win real money. Since then, online poker has exploded and the WSOP has grown bigger every year, with the event seeing upwards of 7000 people playing over the course of a few days.
The Texas Hold'em app by Apple was one of the top 10 selling application on the iTunes store in 2008, so it's only natural that THE Main Event would put out a poker application on the iPhone themselves. They timed the release fairly well with the actual tournament, as it came out just before the final table was played live on TV this year. Regardless of all this preamble, is this game any good? Well for what the game is, it's done very well and the issues I have with the application are not going to be solved in this space.
Before I review the application itself, I am going to say upfront, that the problem I have with poker apps is applicable across all of them, and is not an indication of this as an app per say, but with the entire genre so far. For me, when I play poker, it's for the thrill/feeling of putting your hard earned money on the line. It governs a lot of my decisions, and makes the risk of the whole experience that much more rewarding. When you play poker for fun all those decision making processes in my brain seem not to care, because in the end you are just increasing an arbitrary digital number. This could be solved by allowing me to put some real money down, even its micro play (0.01/0.02). Real gambling apps are probably against the Apple TOS, so this is probably falling on deaf ears.
So what about the application itself? Well, I found that it was very well done overall. The game has three major modes of play. First the career path which allows you to work you way from your local bar with holes in your pockets, to the glitz and glamor of the main event. You will end up playing a lot of poker to make it. The game has implemented some interesting game mechanics in terms of tells. At times during the play you are tipped off to what your opponent has by a "tell" marker over their avatar. This allows you to gauge whether you should get out the hand or push harder. These decrease in accuracy/frequency as you get deeper into the career mode. If tournament style isn't your game, you can earn cash by playing no limit cash games, but beware your bank roll is funded by the same bank, and if you lose all your money playing cash games you'll have to go earn some playing in the low budget freeroll.
The game has a fairly decent of level of polish. The UI is really well done, easy to use, navigate and gets the job done. But there was one part of the UI that I felt need to be reworked, and that is the check/bet/raise portion. This entire process is done through a slider bar that allows you to chose what you want to bet. I didn't like this as I prefer separate buttons for each of my actions, and betting $0 is not the same as checking, or at least psychologically it isn't to me. They also added a nice little touch of folding your cards by swiping them into main pot area. Sometimes, though I found myself accidentally folding even though I probably could have checked for free. A warning system to prevent my accidents would have been nice, as sometimes you are blowing through hands at a fast pace, you're bound to make a mistake or two. Skipping through the hands you are not involved in is easily done by tapping through each hand choice.
At the start of each tournament, the game displays a quick video setting up a stereotype player such as the bar drunk, the Russian, the young pro, etc. These add a bit of personality to an otherwise straightforward concept. It's not revolutionary addition, but it's enough to make things a bit more interesting. I love the addition of achievements in games, even though I don't obsess over getting them all, it at least makes me feel like I did something interesting. They added them in here for different situations such as getting a Full House or taking out multiple people at once. They don't mean anything in the long run, but they are a nice addition.
WSOP also comes with a multiplayer mode that was somewhat lacking, and at times I found it difficult to actually get into a game. I would have liked to see this app get integrated into one of the many available platforms (OpenFeint, Plus+) out there so I could track my stats, gameplay with a login rather then just a simple non-registered user name. This would have made the multiplayer a little compelling, and given me a reason to go back to it. If you like playing poker for digital dollars, then I have to recommend this version. It's solid, provides what you'd expect, and has a few nice little touches that make the experience enjoyable. But if you are like me and really find the enjoyment of poker in playing for actual cash, this app comes up a bit short (as mentioned though this is my issue with the genre and not the app). It's also priced at $4.99, which is a sale price and the standard premium price for apps, so beware of that before you go jump in head first into it.