The World Series of Poker is...well, the World Series of poker tournaments. The multiday, multistaged tournament of all comers in the poker world, be they pro or amateur, is the grandest of grand poker events, culminating in a several-days-long main event where thousands of players test their Texas Hold 'em skills with the hope of taking home the bracelet and millions of dollars in cash winnings. But you wouldn't know any of this by playing Activision Value's game take on the World Series. The console versions of World Series of Poker were middling but mostly OK representations of the game, but they didn't necessarily represent the pageantry of the tournament itself. The PC version of the game manages to get neither right. For some reason, World Series on the PC is a completely different game from the console versions, with worse artificial intelligence, a completely different (and in some ways worse) interface, next to no character customization options, and no online play.
Games included in the World Series of Poker package are Omaha, Omaha hi-low split, seven card stud, seven card stud hi-low split, razz (seven stud lowball), and, of course, the Cadillac of poker itself, Texas hold 'em. The bulk of the single-player experience comes from the career mode, where you're given the opportunity to create your own poker persona. Unfortunately, you can only do this via some generic base character models, and you can't customize them at all. After that, you're given $10,000 and sent into the lion's den. With that money, you can begin buying your way into any of the ancillary WSOP tournaments to build your bankroll, or you can just dive headfirst into the main event.
The progression of the career is a bit stagnant but not altogether bad. The main problem with it is that everything you do feels fundamentally the same. Whether you're in a $1,500 razz tournament or the main event, the presentation and feel of the game never really changes. There are a few invitational tournaments you can check out where you'll play against mostly pro players, but even they don't break up the monotony very well. Not to mention that the game boasts only a small number of real-life pro players, such as Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Scotty Nguyen, Men "The Master" Nguyen, John Phan, and Max Pescatori--and none of them display their trademark personalities in the game. Unlike the console versions, at least in the PC game they don't jump up and down while wildly gesticulating when they win. Instead, they'll occasionally toss their arms up in victory.
The console versions of World Series featured reasonably solid AI that made a few boneheaded plays here and there, but mostly it played the game pretty straight. The PC version's AI is much less laudable. For the most part, it doesn't make any boneheaded calls, but it's also entirely too easy to bully the hell out of your opponents by just raising all-in all the time or generally just raising well past what's qualified for your hand, especially before the flop. Even the pro players will rarely bother to check you unless they have a fully made hand, and even then it has to be a monster for them to bother. This sucks a lot of the fun out of the game.
Sadly, World Series of Poker on the PC lacks the PS2 and Xbox versions' online component for some inexplicable reason. Online play isn't exactly the hardest thing in the world to include in a PC game, and the lack of it here seriously hurts the quality of the package. Without it, World Series pretty much just ends up being another generic PC poker game without a multiplayer component, of which there are an awful lot already.
At the very least, the PC version of the game does look somewhat better than the console games, and it looks better than most PC poker games, for that matter. When playing the game, the camera takes a first-person view. From your end of the table you can simply look over the other players. And when your cards are dealt, you click on them, causing your player to cautiously look at the cards with his or her hands covering them up. Unfortunately, the downside of this angle is that the camera never moves. You never get any camera shifts that show the reactions of other players, so basically you're stuck with this one stagnant shot the entire time. It also bears mentioning that the character models and animations are better here than in the console games. More detail has been put into the players, and while they still move a bit jerkily, at least they have some natural movements. The dealer animations, though, are still awful. The general interface of the game is kind of cluttered, and it's often hard to really tell what you're supposed to click on and when--at least in the early goings. You get used to it, but the interface lacks the sleekness of its console counterparts.
Official WSOP commentator Lon McEachern lends his voice to the proceedings, but his usual sidekick, Norman Chad, is nowhere to be found. As grating as Chad is during the TV broadcasts, his brand of painful self-denigrating humor would be vastly more welcome than the schlub who replaces him here. McEachern himself is bad enough; he's only got around a dozen or so canned comments, none of which provide any real insight. The rest of the audio doesn't consist of much more than the flips of cards, clatters of chips, and what have you.
Lacking engaging AI, a particularly good interface, or any online play whatsoever, World Series of Poker is a miserable failure on the PC. If you really want to experience a game that feels at least marginally like the real-life World Series, pick up the Xbox or PS2 version. If you just want a decent game of PC poker that actually has multiplayer, there are a million other, better, and often free options at your disposal.