Of all the things that the current resurgence in poker has brought, one of the things that has had problems catching up is in the world of computer poker. Games that have been released in the past have had pitiful artificial intelligence, leading the computerized players to get involved with pots with unbelievable hands. Players who were looking for a tool that they could use to improve their games were bereft of a solid program that would help to raise their poker abilities. With the release of "World Class Poker with T. J. Cloutier," there is a program that will be of interest to hardcore poker players.
Released to the public by Masque Publishing and available at your local computer software store for $24.99, "World Class Poker with T. J. Cloutier" definitely has some solid background. Masque Publishing was responsible for releasing the World Series of Poker computer programs from 1993-2005 and has been a leader in creating award winning casino tutorial programs and games. There's no need to list the qualifications for the legendary Cloutier; his overall career, not to mention his numerous books, already state his credibility to be able to be a teacher of the game of poker. The two together have created a very realistic and useful tool for poker players to implement to improve their game.
The first thing that is impressive about the game (its more of a training program than a game, actually) is the tremendous depth that Masque has put into its creation. While you can expect to find Texas Hold 'Em as a part of any computer or video game, Masque has also stepped into Omaha, Seven Card and Five Card Stud as well. This allows the player to improve their game dramatically across the board, rather than in just one specialty of poker.
While the multitude of games is a great touch, where "World Class Poker" really steps into its own is when you enter the Texas Hold 'Em arena. There are three different games offered, limit, pot limit and no-limit, and varying levels of play for a ring game from low limit ($10-$20) to high ($200-$400). In addition, there are one table tournaments offered in all three options and a full tournament in both limit and pot limit. There is even a heads up option available! This makes for a wide arrange of games and chances to increase your bankroll to the level that you can play the Main Event of the game, the No-Limit championship (costs $10K to buy in and you only start with a $5K bankroll, so you have to play through the rest of the game to make enough to play).
There was a great deal of attention given to making the AI the best that I have seen. There are over 2000 different players (and their faces as well) which gives a variety of players to go against and a chance to learn their styles. If you notice a player that you have played before and got a read on his style, he will continue to play that way throughout the game. This makes it a challenge to learning the players and keeps you on your toes, especially when you are in ring game mode.
The best touch overall has to be the advice from T. J. Cloutier that comes up in the Texas Hold 'Em section. While in the middle of the game, tip boxes will pop up with advice on the play of the hand, sometimes with the face and words from the legendary champion himself via the video option that the game features. These "scenario tips" add to the game and are an excellent teaching option for those either new to the game or seeking out that leak that keeps them from reaching a higher level. If you don't want to go through the play of the game to see all of T. J.'s advice, then the video clips and other tips from Cloutier are available to go through. Additionally, there is a quiz section where you are presented with scenarios and answers from Cloutier himself.
Another nice touch with these tips is that they will vary relative to your position. It is almost unheard of that a computer simulation takes that into consideration, but "World Class Poker" does an excellent job of this. Cloutier's tips will also vary, dependent on your position, so it really gives a great look into the mind of a top professional when playing the game.
There are a couple of problems, however. To get the best result from the game and make it a true test, you have to set the difficulty level at its highest setting. The AI does become a monkey if you have it any lower! In tournaments, when there is a short stack that makes a raise, many times the computerized players will lay down their hands, rather than making the obvious pot odds move to eliminate a competitor. I would have also liked to have seen T. J.'s tips extended to the other poker games, but it is only a two CD set after all! These downsides are a little nit-picky, however, because the play of the game is otherwise excellent.
For a poker simulator, it seems that Masque has got it right with "World Class Poker with T. J. Cloutier." I have tried other computer poker games that either lacked the right artificial intelligence to realize how poker is played and were playing "any two" or did not have the visual look of a quality game. "World Class Poker", however, has captured the game across the board. The simulator is valuable at the minimum for T. J. Cloutier's tips, if nothing else. This is a very good training tool and it would be a valuable aide in improving your game when you are not playing live or online. Overall, "World Class Poker with T. J. Cloutier" has the goods and should be well worth your time and money investment.