Sometimes I wish I’d never learned to play poker. It’s become more of an obsession than a pastime. The gambling urge has gotten me into trouble with my girlfriend, caused rifts with pals and even had my father confronting me. But the great thing about cards is, none of that shit matters... as long as you’re up. When I slipped Activision’s World Series of Poker into my PS2 I figured I’d finally have something to fill the horrible void of life between poker games. It was only then I realized the sad truth: gambling isn’t any fun unless there’s real money involved.
All the standards are available in WSOP: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, etc. You can choose your favorite and then play quick one-shot games or compete in lengthy tournaments. There’s even a career mode in which you can go against some of the greats like Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and John Phan. If you succeed in winning a tourney and beating a pro, you can then take on their identity in competition. I have no idea what advantages this brings, or if it’s more fun, because I never got that far.
What can I really say about the game play? It’s cards!!! There’s nothing difficult or tricky about pressing one button to bet and another to fold. It’s nice that you can speed up the game by fast forwarding through the computer’s turns but that doesn’t make them any less annoying. They have a certain number of phrases they can say but it seems like they pick one and get stuck on it. And that’s what sucks, not just with WSOP, but with all card-playing simulations. The competition is just a program. You can’t get a read on a bunch of polygons no matter how many cheesy, robotic tells they’ve been given, and you can never be sure bluffing actually works against artificial intelligence. There is an online option so you can play against real people, but that can be done on a computer for free. WSOP is a great game when taken for what it is but gambling with no real stakes equals no real excitement. So my obsession with cards will no doubt continue, just not on my PS2. If only Atlantic City had a reset button...
Best Feature: The ability to customize your player from his eye color down to his sock style.
Worst Feature: Robots suck at gambling.
Weirdest Feature: My customized character, with his Hawaiian shirt, enormous beard and cockney accent.