In the beginning, you could only get your poker playing done by stepping into the limited number of casinos in the United States or other locations around the world. Sure, you could get your home game together once a month, but it wasn't the same as sitting amid the lights and sounds that an actual card room brings to you. Then came online poker, which opened the sport of poker to a voracious worldwide audience that hasn't become sated yet. Now that their technology has reached the point where it is possible, cell phones have become the next big poker battleground.
In an interview that I conducted with legendary World Champion Phil Hellmuth a couple of months ago, he noted to me that "it will be the future of poker...with cell phones, you can play from anywhere and for any length of time." We were discussing, of course, his own cell phone poker game, Texas Hold 'Em by Phil Hellmuth. Since that time, there have been other cell phone poker games that have come out, and the most notable of those has been from the World Poker Tour. So as two giants square off on the screen of your cell phone, let's see who has the goods!
Both are available for a relatively inexpensive $5.99 a month, charged to your phone bill. They are both available through any of the major carriers, including Cingular, Nextel and others. Once you actually get into the play of each, however, do some vast differentials come up.
The World Poker Tour's Texas Hold 'Em is brought by Mforma, a company that has been notable for its video game creations, both normal and on cell phones. In bringing the game of poker to the cell phone, Mforma has captured the visual allure of the World Poker Tour by making the play look as if you were sitting at an actual table on the Tour. It is the only edge that they have over the Phil Hellmuth game, however.
While the visual effect is great, you cannot see the entirety of the table while you are playing. Once the action ends on your end of the table (you can see your seat and the other two with you on that end), it then pans down to the other end of the table to see what action will go on there. Now, I know it isn't that big of a deal (what tell can you pick up on the cell phone?), but it is always good to know how many players you are going against and where the button is in relation to your position. Unless that type of action is on your end of the table, you do not see it and you don't see either if someone leaves the game. In a short handed game (six seated), it would be information worthwhile to be able to judge your play.
A second drawback to the WPT cell phone game is the lack of variety. While there is a ring game option and a tournament option, both are limit Hold 'Em. In the case of the tournament action, the blinds escalate every hand! This makes for very little working room and normally results in quick games, as you start with 500 chips. You will more than likely find yourself in a tournament and going all in with less than the best and depending on luck and the cards, rather than picking a time to make a stand.
Players on the WPT Texas Hold 'Em seem like they are there to waste some time, not to play a serious game. I have seen, on many occasions, some iffy plays being made by people with hole cards that, in a normal game anywhere else, should be finding the muck in rapid fashion. It is not uncommon to have all six players stay in to see the flop during the play of a hand.
Texas Hold 'Em by Phil Hellmuth, in comparison, seems to be driven towards someone who is a serious player and wants to work on their game. Brought to the cell phone by Summus, Inc., the game brings pretty much the works of poker for your enjoyment. One of the big differences between this and the WPT game is an online (live) option and a offline (practice) option. The offline option allows you to play a limit game versus seven computerized players (all tables are eight player), fittingly using the first name of professionals to give a sense of realism. This can be a great thing to have if you don't have the full time to commit to a serious game online.
Once online, the richness of Texas Hold 'Em by Phil Hellmuth opens up. There are three different options to play under, limit, pot limit and no limit Texas Hold 'Em, and turbo options of the three as well. There are also a ring game option and a tournament option, if you feel up to the task of taking on other cell phone players. The table view may not be as rich as that of the WPT Texas Hold 'Em, but you can see every seat at the table and you know immediately where such things as the button are and if someone has left the game.
Players on Texas Hold 'Em by Phil Hellmuth seem to be more serious as well. There are actually hands folded pre-flop and, in some cases, the hands don't get called down to the river and a showdown. The players seem to be actually competing against each other and seem to have an idea of how to play the game of poker. This could be because of the "bragging rights" that exist on the website (hellmuthholdem.com) where the daily, weekly and monthly leaders are listed! Sometimes, even the legendary Hellmuth himself will show up to play at his own special table on his game, which leads to a stampede when it happens!
Unfortunately, due to the various (and sometimes complex) laws in the United States, there isn't a money option to be won here. Texas Hold 'Em by Phil Hellmuth, however, does offer some interesting contests that can be seen at the website.
It does depend on what you are looking for when it comes to deciding which is the best game. Both can be a nice "time waster" if you are sitting and waiting on your wife or girlfriend to finish her shopping (or if your boyfriend is watching a football game)! What will be interesting to see is which groups, online poker rooms or other organizations will decide to enter the cell phone poker arena with the World Poker Tour and Phil Hellmuth.
Ed note: Why play on a cell phone, when you can play at Ultimate Bet