Over the last couple of decades there has been a real explosion in the numbers of people playing poker. A lot of this has to do with rapid growth of the online version of the game which has helped to introduce a whole new generation. So, where the game previously had something of a reputation as being played in smoky back rooms by people of dubious character today it’s image has been transformed.
Much of the programming tech that has gone to make online poker games for money such a success has also been developed by Xbox game creators to give a great range of opportunities for players to sharpen their skills. Some of them are all about poker, in others they’re part of a bigger game and are used as a way to earn in-play cash – and here’s a rundown of some of the very best of them.
One of the very best poker games for Xbox is also one of the very earliest. Stacked with Daniel Negreanu came out back in 2006 which makes its features all the more remarkable. For the uninitiated, Negreanu is one of the world’s leading poker pros with lifetime earnings reckoned to be in the region of $42 million. This game allows you to play like him in a virtual world where you progress your poker career by playing in a series of tournaments.
Where the game really stands out is in its use of AI, particularly for the time when it was developed. It uses this intelligence to get to know how you play and adapts your opponents’ tactics accordingly. What it may lack in the quality of the graphics, it more than makes up for in the game play.
The World Series of Poker is like the Olympic Games and the soccer World Cup all rolled into one for dedicated poker players and the most coveted rewards for playing are the highly sought-after bracelets. Building on the success of Stacked, this game appeared three years later in 2009 and featured not just Negreanu but around 20 more real life poker pros too. The challenge is to take them on in the hope of winning a bracelet.
On the way you’ll have to be victorious by grinding away in a number of tournaments. But things are livened up with the addition of occasional cash games as well as a “Beat the Brat” feature that puts you up against the legendary Phil Hellmuth - at one time the youngest ever player to win the biggest poker prize of all, the WSOP Main Event, and the record holder for the most bracelets won ever, a total of 15.
This gem from 505 Games has gone through a series of permutations to become a pure poker game in its current manifestation. Get hold of an older version and you’ll be able to enjoy an RPG experience in which you have to beat ever more challenging groups of opponents until you reach a final showdown with a shadowy “Mr Big” character. But now it’s a pretty standard sit and go tournament that’s a fast-moving way to develop your Texas Hold’em skills. Yes, the opponents you’re up against in the six-person games are still a little shady, but all you have to do is beat them fair and square, aided by some pretty sophisticated AI programming.
Equally polished in its execution is Pure Hold’em from VooFoo. That’s because it goes beyond the standard casino poker game to take you into different scenarios including all the way up to the high roller’s suite in a Las Vegas-style VIP penthouse. The actual gameplay is superb, and this is supported by the sort of pin-sharp and realistic 3D table graphics to make you feel like you’re actually round the table. There’s also a great range of add-ons you can buy if you want to play with a bespoke set of cards of personalize the stack of chips. There’s even a Poker Mega Pack available from the Microsoft Store if you really want to play in style.
For five years fans of GTA 5 were eagerly awaiting the moment when the Diamond Casino and Resort would eventually open its doors. That moment came back in July 2019 and players were at last allowed to try their luck. As well as table games like roulette and a wide range of slots, poker is also on offer here. However, reviewers have been less than kind about the fact that it’s three card poker, a pale imitation of the more sophisticated forms of the game.
This criticism was further strengthened that the other monster from Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption 2, also includes poker. But in the wild west story you’re playing the five-card version of Texas Hold’em in a number of locations. It’s all made even more entertaining as you need to unlock the game by successfully completing various missions. There’s also the chance to play every one of the games to achieve 100% completion and win a “Hobby Horse” trophy. Many are hoping that, having achieved this level of sophistication with RDR 2, Rockstar might transfer the poker to GTA 5 next time there’s an update.
Until then, it’s a matter of sticking to the admittedly wide choice of Xbox poker games already available out there to play, and hopefully win!