ValuSoft's World Poker Championship--not to be confused with the Xbox and PlayStation 2's World Championship Poker, The Travel Channel's World Poker Tour, ESPN's World Series of Poker, Fox Sports' American Poker Championship, or any of the other roughly 800,000 different poker franchises currently flooding the market--is hands down one of the worst ways you can spend $20 for your PC. Poker games exist all over the Internet. Hundreds of Web sites offer some iteration of the game of poker, and nearly all of them feature Texas hold 'em, the most popular poker game out there right now. Texas hold 'em is clearly supposed to be the draw in World Poker Championship's package. However, unlike the umpteen number of different poker games available for free on the Internet, in World Poker Championship, you can't play against other people. Your only option is to go up against 20 of the most dumbfoundingly stupid computer opponents ever programmed in a poker game. Consider also that you'll have to put up with a total lack of play modes, ugly graphics, and audio that roughly equates to needles being shoved in your eardrum. Plus, you'll have to endure the fact that you'll have to pay $20 for the privilege of suffering through all this. The end sum is a game so far beyond not worth it that it almost feels like it ought to pay you $20 to play.
World Poker Championship begins and ends with four available poker games: Texas hold 'em, seven-card stud, five-card draw, and Omaha hold 'em. You begin the game with a single available playing room and relatively low stakes. As you earn money playing these assorted games, you'll unlock new rooms with significantly higher stakes. And that's really all there is to it. There's no career mode, no ability to create any sort of a persona for yourself...nothing. The multiplayer is just as weak, if not weaker. Again, there's no online play in this game, which is completely insane in this day and age. Every free Internet poker game in the world has online play, so how can you possibly release a retail product that's completely devoid of it? And, as if to add insult to injury, the only multiplayer feature in the game at all is LAN play. Right! Because poker LAN parties are all the rage. At that point, why not just buy a deck of cards and actually play poker with your friends? Now there's a thought.
It might be easier to swallow the total lack of online multiplayer if the single-player gameplay weren't so patently awful. The game features 20 different opponents, all with incredibly clever names, like Betsy Lotz and Hans Goodman, and all with their own supposedly unique artificial intelligence. The back of the box bills the CPU players as the world's best and most challenging. These are lies, all horrible lies. In fact, even finding truly notable differences in the play styles of any of these hack-job players is nearly impossible. In Texas hold 'em, the one thing the CPU seems especially adept at is betting strong (too strong, in fact) before the flop and then folding on the puniest of bets if it doesn't make a hand on the flop. You'd think that after dumping $500 pre-flop, the CPU might stick around after a $20 bet. But evidently not. Other times, the CPU will just play superconservatively, even when it's made a hand. We can't tell you how many times we had CPU players check their ways all the way through a hand, only to find out they flopped a nut straight, or three of a kind, or any good hand that beat us soundly. Guess the CPU must have thought we had a hand, what with our $10 bets.
What's even more painful is that hold 'em is obviously the game the developer put the most attention into. The AI for games like five-card draw and seven-card stud is so ridiculously predictable that you should have no trouble just blowing your way through each game totally unscathed. The computer opponents will raise when they have something big, and they'll check when they don't. That's it. If the opponents were capable of bluffing, we never saw it. Furthermore, these games also include multiple, major interface flaws. Five-card draw, for example, doesn't even bother to let you know how many cards your opponents are drawing. Anybody who's ever walked past a poker table in their lives knows that half the strategy to five-card draw is knowing how many cards your opponents take. So in World Poker Championship, you're basically playing the game completely blind. And in all games, your opponents are denied the opportunity to muck their hands at the end. The game always shows your opponents' final hands, which is totally insane, since half the strategy of any poker game is the ability to prevent your opponent from knowing if you were bluffing or had made a hand. So, basically, if the developer was out to break the game of poker, then it succeeded masterfully.
The only conceivable remaining reason someone might be inclined to pick up this train wreck of a poker game would be because of its supposed graphical interface. Maybe you're not interested in the generally simplistic interfaces of online poker games and want to play against colorful CPU characters in seedy poker rooms. Well, despite the fact that the game seems to suggest having both of these things on the back of the box, the reality couldn't be further from these claims. The graphics are very weak, consisting of flat, unmoving opponent characters that literally cycle in and out on a rotating track, like one of those target shooting games at a county fair. Everything has a jaggy, nasty look to it, and the game's interface just looks sloppy and confusing.
Believe it or not, the audio is actually worse. The developer has gone out of its way to find the two most obnoxious people on the face of the planet to "commentate" gameplay. However, their commentary actually consists of roughly three phrases, which are repeated to a painful degree and delivered with such false enthusiasm that you'd think a gun was being placed at their temples during the recording sessions. And, apart from them, there really isn't any other audio at all, save for a couple of bad MIDI soundtracks and the occasional shuffling of cards and chips. Bland hardly describes it.
By now, you should be convinced that the last thing on Earth any poker player should do is pick up a copy of World Poker Championship. But just in case you missed the point altogether, here's a very simple and concise pair of equations you can use in everyday life. Poker on the Internet, complete with online play, usable interfaces, and a wide variety of poker games (all of which are thoroughly unbroken), costs you nothing. World Poker Championship for your PC, which is devoid of online play, a usable interface of any variety whatsoever, and thoroughly functioning poker, costs you $20. Do the math, and the answer should become abundantly clear.