Review: Full House Poker (XBLA)

Growing up in the small town of Guttenberg, NJ, I never experienced Poker until I was in my late teens. I was thrown into a couple of games with my friends without any explanation as to what I should be doing. Now that I think about it, I think I was invited to their Poker games because I didn’t know how to play. Those jerks.

Regardless of that, I was excited to hear Microsoft was going to publish a Poker game that allowed players to not only take on their friends, but players online via Xbox LIVE in Player Matches, Ranked Matches, and even holding special Texas Heat events. Finally, I would learn how to play Poker well enough so my 16 year old self wouldn’t feel so depressed for losing all of that money to his so called “friends.”

Full House Poker at its core is a Poker game using the Texas Hold ‘Em rules that have become so popular for the past 10 or so years. You can play with your Xbox 360 avatar against computer controlled players in single player mode, or jump into an Xbox LIVE game and take on players online.

For someone like me who had very little experience with Poker, I decided to jump into the single player to get my feet wet before I even attempt to play anyone online. In the single player mode, by default you’re pitted against 9 other computer controlled players, but you can change the number of players before you begin a game. The reactions the other players will have towards your actions can be hit or miss depending on how you play. If you decide to raise the amount of chips by even a little bit when you’re first dealt cards, the computer AI will often fold if they don’t have a good hand since they feel you have a good one due to your bet. You’ll also experience AI that can be overly aggressive during games, betting all of their chips when they have a terrible hand or a really great hand. It’s definitely a challenge to read the AI’s “Poker Face,” and that’s exactly how a Poker game should be. Full House Poker does a very good job of delivering AI that react just like real players would.

After a couple of hours getting accustomed to the rules and the flow of a Poker game, I decided to take my chips to the online Poker arena. Getting into a multiplayer game was easy and took very little effort. Within seconds I was pitted against a number of other players along with computer controlled AI since the game always fills in seats of games with AI players if the game isn’t full of real players. Online chat during these games were just like how a Poker game in real life would be: Full of chatter about non-Poker related things, then an uproar when a player would make an amazing hand they dealt, then back to non-Poker chatter. I’m hoping this kind of interaction with players online continues as it was a delight to finally have a relaxing game over Xbox LIVE without someone’s racial or sexual preference coming into question.

The last mode I enjoyed the most was Texas Heat. Texas Heat is an online Poker game show that holds special events that boosts players experience points on a number of things such as playing with a male or female avatar. Texas Heat lasts for only 30 minutes and you’re given a number of chips to play with. From time to time, the game will announce the player with the highest chip total will move up to another table where higher stakes are being wagered. On the other side of the spectrum, if you completely lose all of your chips, you’ll be downgraded to a table that has lower stakes. You continue to bounce back and forth between better or worse tables until the time limit is reached.

Full House Poker gives players experience points throughout all of its modes and vary depending on your actions during the game. You’ll gain 250XP for being dealt in, 100XP for winning a showdown against a player, and so on even going as far as rewarding you with 500XP if you make a smart fold. Experience points can be racked up rather quickly as the time tends to fly when you’re playing. As you gain XP, you’ll level up and receive rewards such as new themes for your table, chairs, chip tricks, and other unlockables. Unlocking rewards to be used in-game certainly kept me playing for longer than I would, and I suspect it’ll also keep other players playing.

FINAL THOUGHT: Full House Poker is certainly a game that fans of Poker should purchase. It has everything you could want in an Xbox LIVE Poker title, and then some. If you’ve never played Poker in you’re life, the game’s single player mode does a great job of holding your hand until you feel confident enough to take on real players. Thanks to Full House Poker, I went from a noob to a Poker Champion in just a couple of hours.

8/10

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