by Bryan Griffith
In another attempt to tap the ever increasing casual gaming market, Electronic Arts has recently teamed up with the "For Dummies" brand to bring us a number of casual games including Poker for Dummies, Brian Training for Dummies, and Travel Games for Dummies. In Poker for Dummies, the game is setup as a training center to teach poker basics including betting, table etiquette, game play and much more. Each section includes 8-15 slides with very basic instructions. After completing each section you are offered the opportunity to take a quiz to test the knowledge you just acquired. Poker for Dummies features not only Texas Hold-em but also Omaha and 7-Card Stud which are the three most popular poker games today. The menu interface, quick lessons, and short quizzes allow anyone to quickly navigate through and gain a basic, be it limited, knowledge of how to play poker.
Also included in the game is a play mode and a practice mode complete with an odds calculator and poker coach. While this may sound great, this is unfortunately where the game really fell apart. Poker for Dummies is presented as a fun interactive tool to help people learn how to play poker but the problem is that the game never puts the player into real life situations that you will see at a casino and to add insult to injury, the poker coach just flat out gives you bad advice. First and foremost, the practice mode only allows you to play against 3 other people (the play mode only allows you to play against 5 other people) whereas when you play poker in a casino a full table usually has 8 or 9 other players, which drastically changes the game.
One of my major contentions with Poker for Dummies is the "poker coach" feature which in all my play time, never once told me to fold a hand before the flop. As a point of reference, most professional players would agree that when playing at a full table you should play only between 10% – 30% of the hands that you are dealt but the poker coach disagrees and says that you should play 100% of the time. The poker coach also told me to call with starting hands like 7-3 off suit which has a 6.8% chance of winning at a full table and it told me to RAISE with K-6 off suit which has a 10.2% chance of winning on a full table. In summary, if you take the advice of the poker coach and try to translate it to a full table with real players you will quickly lose money.
The other factor that must be taken into account with any poker game is the level of play from the AI characters. Most poker games have one of two problems with their AI. The first is a fairly common issue where the AI characters fall into recognizable betting patterns based on preprogrammed rules. These characters are not able to take advantage of any outside factors that are not already programmed into their system and human players can learn their tendencies. The second problem, which is much more serious, is present when AI characters have no logical betting patterns whatsoever. In a game of poker, attentive players can deduce the relative strength of their hand based on the actions of the other players around the table. When you have AI players that do not react to other player’s actions and have betting patterns that are totally illogical then all you really have is a poker game that is totally broken and unfortunately that is what we have with Poker for Dummies. I think that the following hand best describes exactly how broken Poker for Dummies really is: After the last card was dealt I held a jack of diamonds and a nine of diamonds while the computer had a ten of clubs and a four of spades. The community cards were: ace of clubs, queen of spades, three of diamonds, ten of diamonds, and a king of spades. I was holding the best hand possible which was an ace high straight and the computer was holding a pair of tens. Most human players would know that a pair of tens is most likely a loser but they might be willing to call a single bet just to see what their opponent held but the computer decided that the correct play was to re-raise me 11 straight times until it eventually ran out of money, much like you will, if you learn to play using Poker for Dummies.
Poker for Dummies is rated T for Teen and is available at retail and download at POGO.com for $19.99
Married Gamers Report Card: F