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Review

Review: Full House Poker

Going all in.

Poker is a game that has gained a lot of ground over the past decade or so and that may have a lot to do with the rising popularity of video games and how accessible it can be because of them. There already is a poker game on XBLA appropriately titled, Texas Hold Em’, but its bland style was a major turn-off for a lot of gamers so another option was certainly welcome.

Full House Poker gets right what a lot of other poker games get wrong. It has style, flash and doesn’t become dull and boring to listen to and look at after only a few hours. In the single player mode, you can chose from several different scenarios, such as simple short man poker or much larger multi-table elimination tournaments. While those games take a little longer, they definitely up the intensity level. You also have several different options when it comes to the scoring rules that you want to use, as well as wager limits and buy-in options.

The interface and ease of use are probably the most enjoyable things about Full House Poker. It uses your Xbox Live avatar as your in-game persona and previously purchased marketplace content comes in with you. The addition of the avatars and the colorful theme make this a game that not only poker players can enjoy to get in to, but casual fans as well.

If you’re a big fan of the ‘sport’, just playing the game is likely more than enough to keep you going for months at a time, but for the more casual fans something a little extra is needed to keep the carrot in front of your face. Full House Poker has that with a fully realized leveling system. As you rank up and complete specific objectives, you unlock new decks, tables, nicknames, chip tricks and even avatar outfits that are exclusively used in-game.

The ranking system is particularly noteworthy because it tells you why you’re gaining XP as you complete each task. Small notifications pop up in the lower corners of your screen mid-hand letting you know what you’ve accomplished and how much the feat is worth. There’s a lot of them too, so even if you’re having a rough night, you’re still very likely to be progressing forward and unlocking new stuff.

When you decide you’re ready to start bluffing human opponents, you can take your game online in tournaments that support up to 30 players, around the clock. There is also a unique mode called ‘Texas Heat’ that plays out like a live show, with players trying to gain as many chips as they can over a set time period. Unfortunately, due to the time constraints of these shows, we were unable to participate in one before writing this review.

The online portion works very well. It’s easy to get in to games and the streamlined interface and leveling system from single player properly carries over to multiplayer games. You can specify rule sets and the number of players when jumping in to a game, and you can even set up private matches for even more customization. The only issue with the online portion is that sometimes the game doesn’t repopulate rooms very quickly when players leave and if you’re looking for packed tables, this can be an issue. You can get around it by quitting and specifically looking through game listings to find full games, but as incompetent players quickly rage quit after losing 1,000 chips when going all in with a 10-high hand, it would be nice if the rooms just refilled without delay.

When thinking about Full House Poker’s weaknesses, it’s actually less about what the game doesn’t do right and more about what it doesn’t do at all. For instance, the name ‘Full House Poker’ would lead you to believe that there might be several different kinds of poker you can play but it’s actually only Texas Hold Em’ and Texas Hold Em’; there are no other game variations to choose from, online or offline. Granted, these are far and away the most popular forms of poker out there but the enthusiasts will likely be disappointed by the lack of options.

It would also be nice to see some clarification when it comes to why one hand wins over another. If you’ve played a lot of poker, you’ll likely know what all the technicalities mean but it can be a little overwhelming for newer players. This is especially a problem when two players get a similar hand. Rather then telling you why one player won over another with the exact same hand, it simply announces a winner and moves on. Even a small notification to go along with the winning hand would’ve done wonders here. To be fair, there is a help section that might provide insight for some, but hands on training is much better than reading a wall of text and it doesn’t seem like it would’ve taken much more effort to make scoring education more accessible to new players.

Pros

  • XP system keeps you moving forward
  • Large tournaments are a blast
  • Interface and theme are both top notch

Cons

  • Texas Hold Em’ is the only game you can play
  • Scoring tutorials could have been better

After all the chips have fallen, Full House Poker stands as a good poker game and it’s the best we’ve seen on consoles so far. However, with just a tiny bit more work on scoring clarification and game mode customization, it could have really gone over the top. Regardless, 800 Microsoft points is fairly cheap by today’s standards and if you’re a fan of hold em’ or are looking to get in to it, this is definitely your best option.

Score: 7/10

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8 Comments
  1. cam the man
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    I’ve never been interested in poker but I know there are quite a few variations so I would have thought there should be more than Texas Hold Em’ in the game.

    Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 11:54.
  2. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    personally i’ve played poker a bit so i’m pretty clear on the rules and card rankings and that so the lack of tutorials isn’t such an issue for me, and i only really like playing texas hold em anyway so only playing that doesn’t bother me either.
    the only thing stopping me from getting a points card and buying this is needing a gold account.

    i played the trial and thought it was actually a pretty damn good poker game.

    i just wish we had something comparable on ps3, a poker game in home could be a killer app for the service, but sadly there’s nothing, the one we did have, ea closed down.
    why nobody has thought to make a proper poker space with the ability to set up proper tournaments is something i can’t understand.
    even if they did it like some of the other games in home where you need to buy an item of clothing to gain access to the full version i think it could still be a huge success.
    or if sony actually let developers use our home avatars outside home for a poker game, one that actually offers a decent game, unlike that high stake on the vegas strip game, that thing was dire.

    Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 12:52.
    • tonycawley
      Pint! Pint!
      Since: Feb 2009

      Psn has a poker game, I can’t remember its name but I own it. got a trophy patch fairly recently and its not a bad game.

      Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 13:58.
      • Matt W [Echo]
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        It’s called ‘High Stakes on the Vegas Strip’ and while it’s not terrible, it’s not good either.

        What I like about it is that you can play so many different kinds of poker, but the game as a whole is terribly bland. And with a game as passive as poker, you need more than just the ability to play poker.

        Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 14:45.
      • minerwilly
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        yea ive got that , its pretty good and you can use the PS Eye whilst playing against your mates or randoms , but beware of that as someone will probably flash their rock at you if your a woman .

        Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 17:53.
    • kivi95
      Member
      Since: Oct 2009

      I thought their was a Poker game in the ea space or is it gone?

      Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 14:52.
  3. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    I don’t like playing poker when its not for money though, totally changed the game and makes it totally pointless. People always make calls they’d never make if it was for real money, make massive bets they’d never make and just generally play completely differently.

    Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 14:08.
    • Matt W [Echo]
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      I was surprised how realistically people were betting when I went online. My previous experiences with online poker haven’t been good, as a couple of people will always go all-in right off the bat, but so far with FHP it has been pretty good.

      Comment posted on 26/03/2011 at 14:41.

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