On Thursday, April 2, PokerStars soft-launched Play Along, a new app for iOS and Android that could become a great companion for all those who like to watch poker on the TV screen.
With Play Along, users get the opportunity to interact with the action at the table by having their say on the hands that are played by some of the world's best players right in front of their eyes.
As Stephen Bartley said on the PokerStars Blog, "For the first time you can take part in the decision-making process as it takes place on the screen. No more yelling at the screen insisting that a player you've never seen before in your life should call that obvious bluff. Now you can make that decision for yourself, and earn prizes for it too, regardless of what transpires on screen."
How Does Play Along Work?
If you know what the music discovery app Shazam is, it won't get you more than a couple of seconds to understand the way PokerStars' Play Along app works.
Download the free app, install it on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, launch it, and connect it to your Facebook profile. Although this last step is not a mandatory one, by doing so you will get the chance to play against your friends and finally prove everyone that you know poker better than anyone else — and, well, that's essentially what this app was created for.
Once you are all set, fire your Play Along poker video and let the microphone of your phone do the magic. As the mic records the sound of the video, the app is going to recognize it, process it, and seamlessly sync with the device you are watching your poker game from.
Whether you watch your poker on Channel4.com, PokerStars.tv or YouTube through your desktop or smart TV, the Play Along app has got you covered. Simply start the video with the app open on your phone and get ready to play.
Once the Play Along episode begins and the app recognizes it, keep an eye on the screen - as in some particular moments you will see a special Play Along icon appearing on the upper-right corner of the screen.
A countdown screen on your phone keeps you informed about when the next Play Now hand is set to start. Once the countdown reaches the end, you are given fifteen seconds to choose whether you would fold, call or raise in case you had the opportunity to play as if you were one of the heroes at the table.
Give the wrong answer, and you will lose chips from your (virtual and free) stack. Give the right one, and you will get a ticket to a special Play Along users-only freeroll tournament to be held at PokerStars.
All in all, the Play Along app seems to be an interesting attempt at making poker on the screen more engaging. By adding some interaction to the action at the table and by giving the viewers the opportunity to do something more with their phone than simply relentlessly jump between their Facebook and Twitter apps, PokerStars found a good way to offer a better poker experience and sit on two different screens at the same time.
Some additional features as the opportunity to challenge your Facebook friends, the freeroll tickets given to those who get the answers right and also the strategy tips that explain why a move is to be considered as right or wrong, are also valuable points that make Play Along a good app to keep on your smartphone.