Video Poker Pro Review

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Publisher: G3 Studios
Developer: G3 Studios

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: 4 MB HD space, Windows 95 or more recent operating system

Video Poker Pro is, simply, video poker. The game emulates the video poker machines scattered throughout Las Vegas and casinos worldwide.

Kyle Ackerman

Video Poker Pro plays six different versions of video poker, the five-card draw, interactive, slot-machine-like amusement that is favored by casinos and casual gamblers alike. The game itself is brought to us by G3 Studios, and bears many similarities to their recent Black Jack Pro. The full version of the game looks fine. Although clearly conceived for the Pocket PC, the game runs under Windows, full screen, at 640x480 resolution. Because of the disembodied hands that deal out cards, game play even resembles the Odyssey Slot Machine from Silicon Gaming.

Video Poker Pro can be set to play a variety of styles, including Jacks or Better (originally the most common type of draw poker machine), a progressive Jacks or Better machine (with an escalating jackpot but lower small hand payoffs), Deuces Wild, and three other variants. This gives would-be gamblers the opportunity to try their hand at different types of machines, whether they desire specific practice or just favor certain rules or payouts.

The method for setting options or changing games isn't immediately obvious (click on your name), but is clearly explained in the manual. After choosing a name and giving yourself an initial supply of cash, players can quickly jump in and squander their not-so-hard-earned virtual cash in the virtual video poker machine. The game plays smoothly, and the sound effects as well as the voice encouraging you to bet are both pleasant. All the sounds can be turned on or off, so you can choose not to listen to the short loop of background noise intended to give the game the ambience of a casino.

If you're an experienced video poker player, Video Poker Pro will serve you adequately. Unfortunately, Video Poker Pro seeks to distinguish itself from the competition by way of its tutor function. As a game for novices learning the ropes of video poker, Video Poker Pro poses several problems. The first issues are stylistic and may be matters of preference. While the pay-off screen showing rewards for various hands does show up when you have the opportunity to discard, many casino machines will highlight lines if you already have a winning hand (it translates to, "You already have a straight! Don't discard!"). Also, the description of your winning hand disappears quickly, so if you're a novice, you might not immediately see the nature of your winning hand.

More important is the tutor function itself. A loud buzzer sounds alerts you if you've made a wrong move. The fact that this alert only occurs after card selection makes sense for video poker, where you aren't counting cards, and should help you learn from your mistakes. The substantive problems with Video Poker Pro tutor include some serious, show-stopping errors. There are plenty of examples, so this isn't an issue that can be lightly ignored. When playing Jacks or Better, the game will advise you to save Tens. There is benefit in saving single high cards, in the hope of getting a pair of Jacks or better. Saving tens is typically not useful unless part of a straight or better. The tutor will berate you for discarding cards to a straight flush, even if not all cards are of the same suit (e.g. I had 10♠, J♠, K♣, A♠ and when I discarded the K♣ was told I had four cards to a Royal Flush – heck, I was told I had two cards to a Royal Flush when the cards were 2♣, 3♣). In Deuces Wild, where the minimum payoff is for three of a kind, pairs create problems. If you have one pair (any card) and hold it, the tutor agrees. If you have two pair and discard one of the pairs, you are told you had nothing and should have discarded all cards.

Other aspects of the tutorial are open to debate. Given an inside straight with a face card (e.g. 5♠, 6♥, 8♠, 9♣, K♦), the game advises you to hold the inside straight. Many experienced players would hold the face card. Also, in Joker Wild, when dealt a hand with five random, unmatched cards, the Tutor advises you to hold one low card. This is consistent with the strategy guide, which advises holding a single card (4-J), but many players would prefer to discard five cards, hoping to draw the joker or a better hand. That's just the beginning – there are plenty of more subtle issues. The game kindly provides a statistics screen that keeps track of hands played, won, lost and errors made (according to the tutor). I found that playing according to the tutor's advice I had far fewer hands won than if I played my own strategy, and accumulated a large number of "strategic errors."

Video Poker Pro is exactly what the name implies, a game suitable only for those well versed in the ways of casino poker machines. The game is a good effort, but requires more tweaks and fixes before it is suitable for general consumption. An improved tutor would make this game considerably more useful and accessible for the novice player.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 10, 2002 10:56 AM.

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