Texas Cheat 'Em Hands-On

If you like poker and being a total jerk, here's your game.

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The phrase "don't mess with Texas" must not apply to the Texas Hold 'Em variant of poker, because developer Wideload has taken the popular card game and thrown it into a blender. The result is an upcoming game called Texas Cheat 'Em, an experience that maintains the same overall structure as Hold 'Em, but allows you to take hold of your own fortune with the ability to quite simply cheat at will. The problem is, everyone else can cheat too, so the game becomes a chaotic mix of rapidly changing fortunes and unpredictability. We recently spent a bit of hands-on time with Texas Cheat 'Em at a D3 Publisher press event to see just how this wild formula works.

This game is about to get messy.
This game is about to get messy.

Texas Cheat 'Em isn't aimed at poker experts or purists, and that's visible right from the get-go. The heads-up display features a prominent "hand strength" meter on the left side, which ranks every possible hand and gives you a thermometer-like visual of how good yours is. So if you're not a poker expert, have no fear: Texas Cheat 'Em would very much like to make sure you feel comfortable at this green felt table. But the hand strength meter is not just there in case you don't know which hands beat which; it's also an aid designed to keep you focused on the dizzying back-and-forth of backstabbing going down at any moment.

That's because the other feature on the screen is your collection of available cheats. Every round, you're given 15 cheat points to spend on messing with the game in some fashion. There are 15 cheats available, organized in three rows: offensive, defensive, and a third group that messes with the entire table equally. Here are a few examples: Mind Meld lets you change one of your opponent's hole cards, Chip Steal lets you pick your opponent's pocket, Free Fold lets you fold without losing any of the chips you bet during that round, Electromagnetic Pulse removes cheat points from an opponent, and Precognition lets you see the community cards before they're dealt.

While all of these cheats mean that matches can get a little hectic, there's still a layer of strategy to be considered: The rub is that each cheat requires you to pass a quick, gambling-themed minigame such as blackjack or slots, and the more a cheat impacts the game, the more cheat points it'll cost you to use. But that being said, it's still relatively hectic if you're a real poker player. You'll see fortunes changing fast and often over the course of each game--it's just a matter of being able to predict those randomly changing fortunes a few hands in advance.

You'll find Texas Cheat 'Em available on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC. The game will support online matches of up to eight players, and if you decide to go with the XBLA version of the game, you'll find support for your avatar in there as well. No release date has yet been given, but we'll keep you updated.

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