Dec 18, 2007
Shrouded in a veil of smoke and darkness, a man stands before a legion of chanting acolytes; a low murmur moves through the throng like a ripple across a pond and the mists part, a figure emerges, and out steps the Master of The Obvious with a declaration so plain and clear to everyone on Earth that it never needed stating in the first place: YOU CAN’T BLUFF A COMPUTER.
Videogame poker against computer opposition is, by default, immediately pointless. No matter how smart the CPU’s game, you’re restricted to playing the cards you have and occasionally scaring off computer opponents with colosso-raises. Psychology is for the mentally ill, and since gambling imaginary money means the stakes are zero, the game falls down like the house of cards you would have had more fun building if only you had bought a deck instead of the digital equivalent.
Even online, your geographical and metaphorical distance from your opponents means the psychological game is rarely a viable tactic, and as anyone who’s ever played Live Arcade’s Texas Hold ‘Em will point out, the imaginary funds lead chumps to go all-in on every hand.
So, both the thrill and reward of poker are absent from the console game equivalent. Still, this second offering of World Series of Poker has a hefty Career mode, the most robust online options imaginable in a card game and a host of different types of poker and other card games.
Never have we seen such a marked improvement in the presentation of a series from one year to the next, too - WSOP ’08 has been given a spectacular graphical overhaul, with a much slicker interface and a split-screen display giving you a thorough overview of the game and your position in the tournament. Your opponents still look like mannequin men but none of them are as disturbing as the last lot and it’s all slick and stylish enough to inject a little atmosphere into the proceedings. If nothing else, that atmosphere is World Series of Poker’s counter to Texas Hold ‘Em’s penny-pinching price. It’s the only card it has to play though, and without question you’re better off with Microsoft’s cheapo.