Poker Club is the latest poker game to try and hook players with his age-old gameplay. The key differentiator here is that games are played in first-person perspective as you sit at the table. Pretty cool, and especially welcome in 2020 when the days of seeing anyone to play poker in person are a distant memory.
A lengthy tutorial explains how the game works which is helpful for poker newbies. Once you get the gist of it all, it’s time to customise your player. This is where the majority of your hard won stakes can be spent – making yourself look badass!
The initial options are pretty limited as you’d expect, and oddly most of the designs look like they are wearing mascara. Nonetheless, my first game showed what sort of options are available down the line. Each game in Poker Club matches you into a server with real players (or AI to make up the numbers) and cross-play helps flesh these out nicely given any potential wrinkles in player base numbers thanks for the wide variety of poker options out there. My first game had a crazy concoction of opponents sitting in front of me, but thanks to my newly learned poker skills, I was ready phased.
What I wasn’t ready for sadly was the waits between taking turns. Whether my opponents were just taking a long time to decide or in equal awe of the others sitting around the table, between turns I found myself resorting to looking at my phone to pass the time until it came back around for me. When 8 human players are all sat there, turns seem to take a long time. I can only put this down to people rather than the game – whether that’s a typical point of poker I don’t know, but a simple timer would be helpful to try and hurry things up. It is there, it turns out, but it’s set very long by default.
Little things like looking at your cards require your character to literally look at the cards using an action prompt. Whilst helpful in practice, this further adds to the time delay. Setting aside some time to properly play the game and give it a chance, I struggled to keep my interest as my actual actions took minutes between them. The AI does speed things up a bit, but the frequency of them going ‘all in’ (betting all their chips at once – thus raising the stakes drastically) creates some unrealistic moments. These are too severe for most players to gamble on, and whilst high risk/high reward, an entertaining game it does not make.
At least there’s a bit to look at – the environments are cool, although I’m not sure it really is doing much to earn it’s ‘Enhanced for Xbox Series X’ accolade. Better time would have been spent paying attention to the animations on the other players who you’re looking at constantly, who move robotically and sound like drones. There’s limited background noise too.
My other presentation issues are twofold. Firstly, there’s a reasonable amount of text to explain what is happening, and it is immensely small. I’m sitting not that far from the TV, and I struggled to read it constantly. The other his that, whilst the key loop of the game is to earn money to by more customisation items, you never see them as the game is in first-person! Card backs and chips designs aside, it feels a bit pointless.
There are a big variety of modes available, so it does at least cater for most needs in terms of poker, but the frustrations in playing this were simply too great for me to worry too much about hitting objectives in the career mode, or struggle to read the text.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X