You can't have it all. When I go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City I love the thrill of gambling but I hate that they keep my money when I lose. Usually, when I play computer gambling games, I'm happy the computer lets me off the money hook but miss the excitement that risking the cash brings. (You'll note winning is not even an option.) Finally there's a computer gamethe World Series of Pokerthat maintains some of the thrilling feel of a trip to Vegas but leaves my wallet only cyberthreatened.
Most computer gambling games simply have you choose a game, play it, andwin or loseit's just another gaming session. But this series of popular casino games is based around a challenging premise. You've come to Binion's Casino with $5,000 in your pocket, stars in your eyes, and a mission in your soul: to win the world championship poker game held there each year. It costs $10,000 to enter the championship, though, so it's off to play the other casino games to make your stake for The Big One. Complete with an adventure-game-like interface where you click to move your character around the casino and talk to pit bosses and others, this game just seems "real."
The games themselves are programmed with panache and a real understanding of how gamblers work the tables. In most of the games the mouse is used to give hand signals with a hand-shaped cursor. In Blackjack, for example, the mouse is dragged down the screen to signify a hit (getting a card) and pushed upward toward the dealer to signify standing (refusing a card).
Although many of the graphics are real eye-catchers, like the brightly colored, spinning wheel in the game of Big 6 Wheel, I did occasionally feel that the graphics could have been even better. For example, Keno play revolves around clicking on a boring sheet and watching a small, crudely animated board.
The real excitement of this game is the artificial intelligence level of many of the players in games like Poker and Hold 'Em. It's the kind of AI where you actually begin to personify the other players and to think of them as "he" or "she" instead of "the computer." Bluffing, betting, it's all there, and at a very challenging level. There are few table fish who will play this game and be able to raise the ten grand needed for the final challenge; at the same time, there are few table fish who won't improve after a few sessions of play!
The on-line help and tips are excellent. The only drawback to the documentation is that the manual itself must be printed out and contains no more than the on-line help all collected together. A separate, colorful, and indexed reference manual would have improved the game.
Overall, World Series of Poker is one of those games that doesn't come along too often it covers old territory but in a new and interesting way. With this package you can have the thrill of gambling without the financial misery of defeat. (But you can't have Keno Girls.)