Poker fans have been waiting for Texas Hold 'em on Xbox Live Arcade for months... and this is what we get? As long as you're chatting and betting with other human beings, Texas Hold 'em works, at least until someone loses. If you play a tournament, there's no "railbird" option - once you're out of chips, you're kicked out of the room, so you can't watch to see who wins. So much for social conversation. Even when playing with other people, the computer takes its time moving the action around the table, so games take longer than they should. It's even slower when playing against the computer, where ditzy opponents go all-in on any two face cards (or worse) and a grating faux southwestern soundtrack drones on a short loop.
And yet... once you hook up with friends, a weekly game will be hard to resist. Your fake chips have value; if you burn through your virtual bankroll, you can't just make a new stack of chips appear - you'll need to slum it at the cheaper tables to earn it back, which will hopefully encourage rational, smart play online. It's just puzzling that, with so many internet poker rooms to use for inspiration, many of Texas Hold 'em's elements - play speed, AI, graphics - feel cobbled together and bargain bin. It's tough to complain about a free game (this was free for the first 48 hours), but for 800 Microsoft points - ten bucks in the real world - Texas Hold 'em should have been slicker and smarter.