Review: Pure Hold’em

I like VooFoo Studios. It’s not because of the quite cool name, nor the fact they’re based just a few miles down the road from where I live, but because they do things that other console developers don’t do. They make pool games with incredibly shiny balls, they made Pure Chess which still remains a game which I fire up to lead my brain away from my day job, and they’re not scared to make games which have a slower pace to your average AAA blockbusters. Step forwards Pure Hold’em, their latest title which takes Poker, a game which has spawned several dull and awkward games before now, and makes it interesting, intuitive and very pretty.

One of the obviously key elements of Poker is the ability to figure out your opponents; working out whether they’re bluffing, holding back on a killer hand or just having no idea what they’re doing is a sure fire way of knowing when to keep your chips in your pocket or go all-in on a pair of 5s. That’s something which, traditionally, poker video games have roundly failed to do especially with their offline AI game modes. Robotic opponents with no personality and a random number generator ticking over behind them doesn’t really make for a fun experience, but VooFoo managed to get round that by giving your AI opponents personality, providing an insight into their potential playing styles and dropping some vital clues as to whether they’re likely to be conservative with their risks, take huge gambles on small hands or whatever else. It gives you a reason to try and get to know your fellow players, and in doing so have that all important advantage when weighing up your own moves.

But while the AI works well and trumps pretty much every other poker AI on offer, it’s other humans which make poker what it is, and your choices for doing that in Pure Hold’em are reasonably well varied and enjoyable. Most people will probably start off hopping into one of the ongoing exhibition games, full of folk just wanting to dip in and out of tables and playing a few hands before dropping out again. These tables generally consist of people hoping to win big and increase their pot of coins, certainly when you join a table with a low (or non-existent) buy-in price, and it’s not uncommon for someone to go all-in from the start. Fine if you’ve got more chips or a strong starting hand, but a bit frustrating when you don’t even get the chance to see how the cards progress and then find out that nobody who went all in have got anything other than a high 9. Higher tables carry far more careful players who presumably aren’t keen on the idea of losing all of their hard-earned coinage on a stupid non-gamble, but making the money to get onto those isn’t an easy task at all.

Along those lines, one of the big problems here is when you lose a lot and your coin reserve get very low. While the free buy-in tables let you get your money back on track, the winnings are very small and it’s a long, slow road back to being able to join the slightly more wealthy tables. But in that sense, it’s not far from real life – let’s face it, if you had £5000 which you’d just lost on a poker game, most people wouldn’t be able to magic another £5000 out of thin air. They’d need to join games which cost nothing or very little, and build their balance up from scratch.

One way to win bigger wads of cash is to go the tournament route and join other online players (there are no offline tournaments sadly) with the sole intention of taking every other play out of the game until you’re the last one standing. Well, last one sitting. These tournaments obviously need everyone starting together though, which with a relatively small user base so far means you might be waiting for a little while until the required numbers are brought together to start. That said, once you’re playing the odds of someone going crazy and betting their right nut on a pair of jacks drops considerably, and the threat of having to wait for another tournament seems to do a good job of calming people’s recklessness down a little.

There is, as you might expect, some customisation on offer here with things like the card designs and table cloth patterns changeable to a certain extent, and while the choices aren’t huge the differences are big enough to make it easier to see the values of some of the cads, pretty valuable when you’re using Remote Play on the Vita and the cards on the table are about the size of a baby ant.

As with Pure Chess and Pure Pool before it, Pure Hold’em serves a very specific purpose and will have a very specific audience, but that’s perhaps a little unfortunate. We have a game here which is very relaxing to play while also allowing you to pit your wits against other gamers in a battle of minds, luck and patience. There’s no other poker game quite like it, and anyone intrigued by it should really just stop thinking and grab it.

Reviewed on PS4


  1. Well you’re right about one thing. There’s no other game like it. I mean what other Xbox Live enabled game which supports up to 8 player multiplayer turns around and restricts friends from gameplay? Why Pure Hold’em of course. Coupled with the major dissconnect issue makes Pure Hold’em the single worst poker game on Xbox Live. But thanks for leaving that out of your paid endorsement of a review. I refuse to lie to the gamers when I rate Pure Hold’em a disappointing 1 out of 5 stars.

    • Paid endorsement? I think your understanding of how this site works is as far off as your idea that we should know what the Xbox version is like after reviewing the PS4 version. If you don’t agree then fine, but don’t accuse us of lying when you have no experience of the version we played which, incidentally, we experienced no disconnects from while playing.

  2. I’d also like to point out both Xbox One and PS4 is experiencing the same exact issues. Pure Hold’em sells in game chips at a really good exchange rate. However be prepared to lose your chips, seat, buy in, and any earned chips to the disconnect issue. A problem VooFoo was well aware of 6 months ago during the beta. To date both VooFoo and Ripstone refuses to refund you chips due to disconnect. They obviously do not care about the gaming community or the consumers who have been lied to and ripped off.

  3. Yeh it’s the same lie in both versions. It clearly states in the game description Pure Hold’em supports the creation of tournements with up to 7 friends. Something nether versions do. That’s false advertising. Then to top it off they sell in game chips you’ll lose due to disconnection issue. Pure Hold’em is not only broken, it steals from players, and was falsely advertised on both systems. Yet you don’t mention any of that in a poorly wrote review by someone who clearly hasn’t played the game.

    • Dude, you’re clearly angry about this but ease off a bit, why is it so hard to accept that the reviewer just didn’t see the same problems as you? That doesn’t mean they didn’t play it, fair enough if the game description states something which isn’t available just yet but both consoles did the same at launch, did you bitch about that and insist on a refund then as well? Disconnects are intermittent, that’s their very nature, so not everyone will get them. I’ve had one in the whole time I’ve played, and I’ve put quite a few hours in. Not perfect, but not terrible. Don’t push your bad luck into being so aggressive towards others.

  4. I seriously dought your ablity to properly review any game if you’re willing to call a horribly problematic game like Pure Hold’em ‘very good’ and give it a 8 out of 10 rating. And I don’t care how you spin this. The game is pure rubish.

    • Well you clearly do care otherwise you wouldn’t be sharing your “doughts” so readily. But I’m sure nobody will mind if you decide you don’t like the site and don’t come back.

  5. You’re obviously showing favoritism by not covering any of the cons of this horrible game. In a game where the cons severely outweigh the pros you think you’d mention that. So go ahead, continue to defend the worst poker game any console has ever seen. It’s your reputation on the line, not mine.

  6. My motivation is clear. You wanna help sell a lie? I’m simply here to warn the consumer. Pure Hold’em has been broken since the beta ended on 4/1. All the major problems we had with the game then we still have nearly 7 months later. The developer doesn’t seem to care. Which is obvious when they sell a game that doesn’t do what it’s listed to do. I don’t even think they they intention to add that feature. Tell me this, what other Xbox Live enabled game that supports up to 8 players multiplayer restricts friends? Because I can only think of one. And I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say their servers are a joke. People get disconnected over 50% of the time. When you disconnect from any game you lose your chips and your buy in. And yes they’ve known about this issue the entire time and release the game anyway. They openly lie in the game description and allow people to buy chips they know you will lose to disconnect. They’re not offering refunds on any lost chips due to disconnect. They won’t even address the issues. So go ahead continue to defend a broken game. I will continue to inform people of the truth. Pure Hold’em isn’t worth the space on your hd, let alone any amount of money.

  7. I can be fair. There’s a few good things about the game. My favorite is the card generator. Don’t get me wrong. Besides the major issues of the game I am a gamer and love poker. I’ve been running free to play events and leagues on Xbox Live for nearly 10 years now. Id love nothing more than Pure Hold’em to be successful. But I clearly can’t do any of that in game that falsely advertised said feature. Then there’s the persistent disconnect issue. I just don’t understand how these widely known issues were completely ignored this review.

    • I think you’ve made your point now. You disagree with the review, don’t like the game and get pissed with the disconnects. Do you really need to keep coming back every day to say the same things over and over? The review is this guy’s opinion, I very much doubt it’ll chance because of your ranting. There are a lot of other sites on the web giving positive reviews, so either they’re all lying or you’re just unlucky. I’m not doubting you’ve lost in-game currency bought with your own cash, but why go on about it so much?

      Personally I’ve been on the PS4 version – the same as the one used for the review it seems – and had very few problems. I haven’t tried playing with friends I admit, but I haven’t lost anything either.

  8. Just 2 give my 2 cents. I have been enjoying this game for just over a week. I’ve never had a disconnect even once. It was updated a couple of days ago thus the developers may have fixed bugs. I am really pleased with the purchase and I would highly recommend it. By the way it was an excellent review.

  9. XSL’s review is spot on, very honest and unbiased which is paramount for a review. I played a tournament with four other friends (for real wonga) and it kept folding my hands (before the timer – literally straight away) and would even do it in the final rounds where blinds where 1000 chips and more strangely when I had betted the two previous cards then only had to check ( which I would obviously do after putting so much in, it would then really annoyingly fold my hand straight away without me touching or pressing anything! Really frustrating game, almost as frustrating as Fifa, its about high time these cowboys stop stealing peoples hard earned for a rushed game (probably because there’s a niche) lazy developers psss me off.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.