Sometimes you are just in a place where you can't spread a poker game. Traveling, at the office, or waiting for someone to finish up a doctor's appointment would all fall into this category. Besides the logistics of spreading a multi-player game with cards and chips, sometimes it just isn't practical. One of the things you might come up with are portable poker games.
The problem with portable games is that they usually do not play Texas Hold 'Em. It is easy to get those that play a "video poker" type setting, with five card draw or five card draw with wilds. If you do find one that does Texas Hold 'Em, they usually are not particularly challenging.
The World Poker Tour and Radica Games have teamed up to bring one of the finest portable poker games that I have seen. Radica Games has shrunk down the excitement of the WPT into a handheld device with World Poker Tour No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em (found at many retail stores for around $19.99 and good for ages 8 and up). With this game, you'll be able to take on all comers as if it was the World Poker Tour.
You start out against five other players in the traditional WPT short handed style (a six handed table). As you battle your way through the players at the table and knock them out, they are replaced by players at "other" tables as you use your skills and wits to work your way to the final table. The action is fast paced and there are many surprises to be found in the game.
First off, it is very easy to play. The buttons are well labeled and distinctive in their size and design, which make it nearly impossible to make a move that you don't want to (folding instead of calling or raising, for example). The layout of the screen brings all information to you in a very easy to read manner, showing the size of the pot, current bet, which players are in and so forth. It is also simple to scan your opponents and see what their current stack sizes are (better to make that re-raise to eliminate an opponent!). Finally, the cards are very well rendered and can be easily identified on the screen.
What is most exciting about the game is the quality of the play. One of my heaviest criticisms of portable poker games (and even some computer, PlayStation or Xbox poker games) is the poor artificial intelligence (AI). This is the field that, it seems, every poker game falls short. The opposing players play unlikely cards, make astronomical bets with nothing on the board, and generally do not play poker.
Radica Games has somehow overcome this! The opposing players play styles that range from one of eight different styles, and you will have some styles repeating at your table (even the same style showing up between two players) as you go on through a tournament. You can tell the aggressive from the passive through their betting patterns, and you can actually get a read from your opponents actions. I have noticed that, once an opponent makes a hand, they will lower their betting much of the time to keep the action going, rather than attack with large bets (when I see this happen in a normal game, I get the same read, which works here as well).
Another nice touch that Radica has added is that, once a hand is done, the winner's cards are shown, whether the pot was contested or not (yes, there are walkovers, believe it or not!). For a great deal of the time, you can see that your opponents had a reason to be in the hand. But, do not get placid with that thought; the computer players against you also will have the capability of bluffing! It is a nice accomplishment that Radica has come up with here (and in a portable game, it is a very nice surprise), and it would be great to see it translated to computer and video games!
If you are worried about burning up the batteries when you lay it down (to take an important phone call?), that isn't a problem. The game will automatically shut itself down and, once you are ready, just hit the on button. You'll be able to pick up your game where you left off. Additionally, and in another fine move by Radica, there is a reset button to completely restart a game, but it takes a pointed object, such as a pen, to hit that button, so you won't make the mistake of ruining a game that you are in the middle of by hitting the reset. For many of us who have hit the reset and erased off a good game, this is a godsend!
You can find yourself losing a few hours playing World Poker Tour No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em from Radica. I was amazed that Radica was able to put so much skill and ability into the opponents you face and present the game in a fantastic manner. The World Poker Tour doesn't put its name on just anything, and they have got a winner with their collaboration with Radica Games. It would make a great gift for a child who enjoys the excitement of poker, for the poker fan who wants to work on their game when it is least likely, and for the collector who wants to look at something that may have future collectible value. Just make sure you turn the volume off when you are at the office!
Ed Note: Paradise Poker are gearing up for the Masters III tournament, which will have a prize pool of over $1,000,000