World Poker Tour REVIEW

World Poker Tour Review (Xbox)

My friends and I have always had a lot of ongoing sports related debates over the last 20 years. Like with any tight-knit group of buddies, I've won some and lost some. I’ve been personally chastised on more than one occasion for my personal belief that, with one month to train, I could fight and beat the top female boxer in the world in less than 3 rounds. I’ve also argued that, even at 32 and 6’3”, 240lbs, I could make a WNBA roster, lead the league in rebounding and technical fouls, and probably start.

Hey! I never said they were intelligent debates!

Probably the discussion we’ve had the longest and most heated exchanges about is “What is and what isn’t a sport?"
Some contend that you have to sweat playing it to be a sport. Others say you must be able to pull a groin during competition to consider it a sport. George Carlin use to do a fabulous bit about the difference between "sports" and "games" (or "activities"). He said that only football, baseball and basketball were actually sports. Soccer wasn’t a sport because you couldn’t use your hands. Tennis wasn’t a sport because it was simply Ping Pong while standing on the table. And hockey wasn’t a sport; it was three activities taking place at once. Skating, playing with a puck, and beating the… you know what… out of each other.

If you’re part of the roughly 60% of Americans today who subscribe to multi-channel cable or satellite TV service, there is no doubt that you have noticed the emergence of poker. Poker is huge right now, but it’s still looking for its identity in Americana. You’ll find it on The Travel Channel. Is it a leisure activity? You’ll find it on BRAVO. So, is it some type of Hollywood or reality TV event? Some weekends you’ll even catch it on the major networks. Is it mainstream? However, more often than not, if you want your fix of poker on television, you’ll tune in to ESPN or Fox Sports. Hence, the debate: is poker a sport?

Like any sport, there is skill involved. There’s a little bit of luck involved. It takes strategy. It takes mental and some physical endurance. You can sweat while participating. Heck, you can probably even pull a groin! So, why not - let’s call it a sport. I’m an avid Sports Gamer. I love poker. I love sports. A poker video game should be perfect. I’m in.

To the poker novice and newbie, the first question that you make ask yourself is, “what’s the difference between the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker?” I guess the best way to differentiate is to think of the “World Poker Tour” (or WPT) has a season, where the World Series of Poker is an event, with smaller events surrounding it. The “World Poker Tour” is actually 16 high-stakes tournaments played in various casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or places like the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut.
Now that you have "WPT 101" behind you, you can crack the cellophane on this title. Out of the box you’re going to find a great game of poker. ou can play straight up 7-card Stud, Super Hold ‘Em, Limit or No Limit, Texas and Omaha Hold ‘Em. Plenty of variety to give you a little bit more action than just a straight game of No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. However, since that is the "it" game in the tournament poker world, that’s where you’ll probably concentrate most of your playing time in “World Poker Tour” Season Mode and online world.

But, wait, if you’re new to poker and this title is going to be your maiden voyage, World Poker Tour offers a great tutorial with the concept taken straight from their Travel Channel broadcasts. There’s a Poker Boot Camp video as well as the WPT Poker Corner hosted by the very lovely Ms. Shana Hiatt. If you’re a little green to poker, it’s a great place to start. And the eye candy ain’t bad, either!

When you’re ready to jump into the Season Mode, you can start by creating yourself. The character creator was surprisingly deep on this title. I wasn’t able to get an ultra accurate rendition of myself, but there certainly was a ton of flexibility in this generator.

What was more accurate, and those who haven’t made the trip will have to take my word for it, are the poker rooms at the various casinos and some of the real-life pros in the game. While maybe not all of the biggest names in poker, you should be able to pick out the likes of Mike Mizrachi and Phil “Unabomber” Laak. In fact, some of the pros even lent their voices for added realism.

The look of the game is quite solid overall. The character models are fairly detailed and really portray body language quite well. World Poker Tour actually lets you change your facial expressions during gameplay in hopes of selling a bluff. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the humor factor), a lot of the expressions simply make your player look a little constipated. Not that I’m complaining! When I’m short stacked and about to get blinded out, I think I probably make that face!

Most players will start off in smaller “Satellite Tournaments” in hopes of eventually earning enough money and a spot of the tour. These small satellites are not nearly as easy as you would think. You’ll really need to play a smart game of poker, sprinkled with a little luck in the card department, to finish well. The AI players, more often than not, make the right play. Some may argue that AI has to be programmed to “play by Hoyle”, which would take a lot of the personality out of the game. That’s not the case here. The AI bluffs. he AI gets aggressive. The AI bets smart to pull you into a pot. I found that the Single Player modes actually played a truer game of poker than online.

What’s that? Online you say? Oh, yeah - World Poker Tour is online as well. Come on! Like the folks at 2K Sports aren’t going to put one of their titles online!

While, at times, it can be difficult to find a game, the online play on this title is top flight; with one disclaimer. You will have a lot more fun with people you know than with random folks online. It’s the same story that you’ll find on other online poker games. Fake money means going “all in” on a 6-Q off-suited hand can be a common play. If you can find a good group of Xbox Live buddies for a weekly game, you’ll have a blast!

What you see is really what you get with World Poker Tour. If you love poker, you’ll really like this game. To me, it has the smartest AI that I’ve seen to date.

If you’re new to the game of poker, and want to learn the game in the privacy of your own home, this title is a surprisingly deep teaching tool.

If you have great group of online buddies or real-world friends who are on Xbox Live, this game is the next best thing to the Friday night poker-fest in your pal’s basement.

No matter your interest or skill level, it’s worth a look for most gamers.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have something to settle with Leila Ali.

World Poker Tour Score
out of 10