Most games require a paragraph to explain their story, themes and gameplay. Full House Poker needs a sentence: Texas Hold 'Em, with Xbox Avatars. There are no creative leaps forward here – none were asked for, none are needed, but if you have a spare five pounds and a taste for gambling this is a very attractive package.
Full House Poker supports both single-player matches and online games that can range from two players to full-blown tournaments with up to 30 people. In Texas Heat, a live half-hour poker show, aspiring card sharks compete online to earn virtual cash, experience points, and unlockable items. Gamers can even build their bankroll on the go with a companion game on Windows Phone 7.
Texas Heat is reminiscent of the now defunct Xbox Live trivia game show 1 vs. 100, and it's just as much fun to play. There's no host, but players still compete against live online opponents to claim victory through winning hands and making smart decisions to earn XP.
Heat is well-balanced, with a system that moves you to more difficult and easier tables based on your performance – the better you do, the better your competition and the more XP you earn. Gameplay is quick and effortless, with preset actions – bet, fold, call – and a 15-second timer to keep the game moving.
Aside from Texas Heat and single- and multiplayer offerings, you can also take on "professional players" in Pro Showdown – fun one-on-one matches against fictional poker archetypes. Full House Poker also gives players a chance to mess around with the largely under-used Xbox Avatars, and dressing up your virtual self as ridiculously as possible and using the aggressive/passive emotion buttons at the table is surprisingly engaging.
The biggest issue with Full House Poker is the lack of real prizes and incentives to play. Basically, players are "gambling" in a consequence-free environment, and since there's no risk or reward, you may come up against competitors who are going to disrupt the integrity of the game because of the absence of any real stakes.
Nevertheless, with a hefty single-player mode, ranked and unranked multiplayer, and the enjoyable Pro Takedowns, Hold 'Em fans will get plenty of mileage out of this title. And as long as Microsoft continues to support the Texas Heat online show, gamers will be playing Full House Poker for a long time to come.
If you've been looking for something to fill the void that 1 vs. 100 left behind and you're into Texas Hold 'Em, even on a casual level, Full House Poker is a must buy. Fun card-playing action, plenty of game modes, customizable features, and a chance to give your lonely Xbox Avatar someone to play with make it hard to pass up.
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