The game is played tournament style, with seven tournaments to play. It starts with a single table of six players (including yourself) and you progress by eliminating all the other players. As you move up through the tournament, the number of tables increases, introducing you to an interesting variety of new competitors.
The interface, though simplistic, works well. The main play screen provides a top-down view of the flop (the first three cards) and each of the six player’s cards. As each player makes their bets, you’ll be provided with a view of that player as they make their bet, check their cards or fold. Each has an associated animation or sound effect but should this no longer appeal you can skip right past it.
Controlling the game is easy enough. You use the scroll wheel to increase or decrease the bet amount, and the Select button to perform most of the actions – confirming a bet or deciding your game action.
The competition varies depending upon the round. Some of the players have very obvious tells that, as in a real Poker game, could leave you losing your money very quickly. That said, in early rounds it’s very easy to progress once you’ve learned what each player does. The lack of any multiplayer option removes the possibility of competing against your friends, and so ultimately removes an element of challenge.
In terms of look and feel, Apple has got it right. Granted that the computer-controlled players get rather annoying after a while, but they do reflect a realistic mixture of players. As you progress through the tables, the game treats you to some music; you can turn this off but as with any other game of this type it tends to suit the game well.
We have mixed feelings about Texas Hold’em. If you’re a poker fan, and don’t mind the challenge elements without the reward you’ll certainly enjoy the game. The lack of a two-player mode, however, does eliminate much of the challenge and excitement when there’s no financial reward at the end.