As the first poker game to hit the PlayStation 3, High Stakes on the Vegas Strip: Poker Edition isn't going to wow anyone. This $9.99 download on the PlayStation Network store is a simple, stripped-down offering that lets gamers play a few different variations of hold 'em-style poker, both offline and on. It has 3D visuals, a bit of character customization, and a couple of online bells and whistles, but by and large, its feature set isn't what impresses. What does impress is the simple, easy-to-use interface and the solid poker artificial intelligence.
High Stakes offers five variations of poker, but they're all hold 'em variations: Billabong, Shanghai, Tahoe, super hold 'em, and, of course, Texas hold 'em. The lack of stud and draw games is kind of a bummer, but the game does at least do reasonably well with the modes it contains. The game has a solid interface that maps betting, calling, folding, and pushing all-in to the four face buttons. You can also fast-forward through any of the CPU action by holding down the R2 button.
The AI seems capable of handling all the included games, though it definitely seems more geared toward Texas hold 'em. There's not much difference in the play styles of the AI players, but they usually make solid calls, and even try to throw down the occasional bluff when they sense weakness in your betting. Unfortunately, a problem occurs when you go back over the top of the AI after a bluff bet, in that it often seems incapable of getting out of a hand, especially if the AI player is low on chips. Although it might be mathematically correct to call another $1,000 to go all-in after already committing $3000 to a pot that's worth over $10,000, it's not necessarily smart to put your tournament life at risk on a nine-four offsuit. Apart from these bluffing blunders, you'll find the AI to be mostly solid, if a bit passive at times.
There are a couple of offline modes, though they all tie into the same bankroll. Likewise, all the offline tournaments are for Texas hold 'em, so it's not like there's much variety. Online, things tend to be a bit more interesting. Though there aren't any multitable tournament options, up to six players can play any of the five available games, and the game maintains a persistent bankroll while you play. Leaderboards and voice chat are also available online, though there doesn't appear to be any camera support.
High Stakes' presentation is lackluster at best, though for a $9.99 game, it's not awful, either. The fact that it includes full 3D graphics and mildly customizable characters is nice, though the customizations are extremely limited, and everyone pretty much ends up looking the same regardless. There are only a couple of decent-looking poker rooms to play in, and the audio is practically nonexistent, save for the dealer calling out winning hands and the sound of chips clacking around. There's no music whatsoever.
Still, you can't exactly ask a $10 game to offer up all the same bells and whistles of the standard console poker games that often cost four or five times that. In most ways, High Stakes manages to come close to matching the quality of those more-expensive games. With solid AI and a decent online community to play against, High Stakes on the Vegas Strip is a worthwhile download for PS3-owning poker fans.