This past week Apple rolled out the iPhone 2.0 software allowing support for third-party applications. If you already knew this, keep reading. If not, you probably don't care about today's post.
From here on out, I'm assuming you either have or want an iPhone or iPod Touch. I've found a few gems in Apple's App Store already. Two on which are poker related: Motion X Poker and the new Texas Hold'em game. Both are time wasters and both are the best poker games available on any mobile platform.
First off, Motion X Poker. At first it resembles video draw poker, but as soon as you start playing you'll see how wrong you were. It's a dice game where the six sides of each die are ace, king, queen, jack, ten and nine. The goal is to beat the dealers "hand" after three rolls of the dice. Standard poker hand values apply except that straights trump full-houses. I learned that the hard way. (Note to self, read directions.)
The game uses the iPhone accelerometer—meaning you roll by shaking your hand as if you were actually casting real dice. It will either be a fun gimmick or an annoyance at first, but in time it feels very natural. You chose which dice to keep between rolls via the touchscreen. The game also has some added replay value by rewarding winning streaks and other "accomplishments" with new die, table designs and reward gems. The game is $4.99 and worth it.
I was skeptical of Apple's Texas Hold'em game at first. I have never been one to enjoy playing hold'em against a computer. However, the game has won me over in spades.
Keep in mind, if you buy a poker game branded for any console you'll be paying somewhere between $20 and $50. Most mobile phone games from the cell network go for $4.99 and are close to unplayable. After about a hour of game play, I can say that the iPhone's Texas Hold'em is the most fun hold'em game available for any system, mobile or otherwise.
First off, the graphics way surpass what I thought the platform was capable of. The player models are limited in their actions, but better looking than the poker games on the Xbox. I can even forgive the dealer's resemblance to an ex-NSync singer. No, not him, the other guy.
The game play is easy and intuitive. Tap the screen to check, drag your cards to the center of the table to fold. Turn the screen sideways to change your first-person perspective into an overview of the table (similar to on-line poker sites.) The table views allows for a more speedy game. No need to wait to fold and get on to the next hand. That speed is something missing from nearly all other poker games I've played.
The only thing this game is missing is the ability to play for money. The functionality for wireless multiplayer is there, but the legality isn't. You can still keep track of your imaginary bankroll and use it to play in higher stakes venues with, I'm guessing, smarter AI. There are good in-game statistics so you can track your progress. All-in-all, this is a superior training exercise than playing free poker on-line, but that isn't saying much.
I give Motion X Poker an A and Texas Hold'em an A+, and I promise Apple's not giving me any money to say this...althought they are welcome to. I will be reviewing other poker games that come my way, but the bar is set pretty high. If you have the cash to buy them, do so. If not, win some.