Full House Poker Review(XBLA)

Game Review: Full House Poker (XBLA)
Release: March 16, 2011
Genre: Card and Board Games
Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7
Players: 1 (30 Online)
MSRP: 800 MS Points ($10 US)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen) – Simulated Gambling
Website: Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade

Take all the excitement of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, blend it into the Xbox 360 world of Avatars, add over 150 in-game unlockable rewards and a TV style game show and you get Full House Poker.  Anyone who has ever played on any of the popular online poker sites or has attended a poker tournament will feel right at home here.  Everything that you would expect to find is here, and so much more.

In Full House Poker you earn experience for each hand played. If you make a smart fold – you get extra experience points for that.  If you go all in and win – extra points.  Win a showdown – more points.  Show an opponent how it’s done (Schooled!) – more points.  These experience points add up to promote your Avatar experience level and unlock tons of in-game items like venues, poker table custom felt tops, custom poker chairs for your venue and decorative card decks to play with.  Also as you level up, in-game pro’s can be challenged and taken down to earn even more experience.  These in-game pros are not licensed versions of the famous poker players that you see on TV; instead they are fictional pros that have preset skill levels.  Once you reach the save experience level as them, you can try to take them down in a one on one shootout.

The wide spectrum of commonly used poker rules are all here and nearly all configurable. Games can be either “normal rules” using fixed blinds and allowing players to come and go as they please and re-buy into the game once busted or “tournament rules” with no re-buy and blinds that increase over time.  Want to split the pot between the high and low hands?  You can do that too.  Other than custom configuring the blinds, I couldn’t find anything that I couldn’t change to my liking.

The basic controls for playing poker are so well implemented that the controller just disappears and it feels like you are at the table playing poker.  The advanced controls that allow you to emote via your avatar (timid bets, fold aggressively, etc.) really make the game come to life.  There are even chip tricks such as chip shuffling that are earned with experience and fill the time while waiting for other players.  Want a specific view of the table?  Complete camera controls let you pan the camera up, down and around the table to get the view you like.  Your avatar can even be made to look at a specific other player to check out their chip count and poker stats – but everyone at the table will know you are looking at them.  All of this allows you to broadcast the actions you want others at the table to see – just like you would when sitting at a real poker table.

As if this isn’t enough for a $10 game (in the age of $15 XBLA games), there is also a regularly scheduled “TV Game Show” called Texas Heat. The game is 30 minutes long and in the spirit of the canceled 1 vs. 100, you compete against thousands of other players to get the most chips and experience, earning in-game rewards along the way.

While very few of the rewards can be used on your avatar outside of Full House Poker, they are mainly used to get your poker style on for the game.  Personally I want the Dog Heads so my friends and I can reproduce the famous painting of “Dogs Playing Poker”.

For the anti-social – everything outside of Texas Heat is available in the single player side of the game. The AI for the “house players” is very acceptable and keeps the game fun, even in the large 30 person tournaments.

Having played a lot of poker, in person and online, I thought I could find much here not to my liking.  Other than not being able to configure the blinds; I am at a loss for complaints.

I’m all in – Full House Poker is the bomb.  This is a must for poker players and fans alike and gets my highest recommendation.

  • Priced Right – Great Value
  • Huge Multiplayer Ability
  • Tons of In-Game Swag
  • Highly Configurable Game Rules

Final Score: 10 out of 10

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