The landscape of poker video games is a complicated one. It’s a genre littered with less-than-exciting apps, defunct online platforms, and even now some fairly lazy forays into virtual reality. Do some surface-level exploration of poker video games and you’re likely to get frustrated by the plethora of total options and the relative lack of good options at the same time. And even if you do find a game worth experimenting with, you’ll then remember that poker is challenging, and that it takes more than a few minutes to get the hang of it (at least if you haven’t played in a while).
Despite all of this, there are some very good poker video games out there. If you’re able to pick them out of the pile, and if you give some thought to how to approach them, the genre can still be incredibly rewarding (even if there’s no actual financial reward in free-to-play games!). With this in mind, we want to look at some of the best poker games out there, as well as covers some tips on how to get the most out of them when you play.
Best Poker Video Games
PlayWSOP – PlayWSOP is essentially the free online game provided by the World Series Of Poker, and doubling as a browser game and mobile app. After a simple sign-up process the game sets you up with play money with which you can enter multiplayer table games and tournaments, focusing on either no-limit Texas Hold’em or pot-limit Omaha Poker. It’s a smooth, intuitive, well-made game that’s been popular as a free-play option for some time now.
Zynga Poker – This is arguably the best-known of the games we’ll mention, and probably comes closest to imitating real-money online casino play. In fact, reviews of this poker game even suggest specifically that people who are accustomed to real-money gaming will also find Zynga enjoyable (despite the fact that it’s just a game). Via mobile or online, Zynga Poker offers Hold’em games, Sit ’n’ Go tournament play, and “shootout” tournaments, wherein you essentially play one table to place high enough to progress to the next.
PokerStars Play – PokerStars Play is a poker app with a kind of classic quality, revolving around traditional poker aesthetics and, ultimately, tournaments on Vegas. It’s also somewhat different in terms of gameplay in that it more or less puts you through a career. You can gain play-money chips and advance through levels to gain access to bigger and better tournaments before you ultimately wind up in Sin City. This makes for a fun experience you’ll enjoy sticking with.
HD Poker: Texas Hold’em – Unlike the games listed above, which are all browser sites and/or apps, HD Poker: Texas Hold’em is a game primarily played via the Steam online platform. It is arguably the best of many poker simulators on said platform, and offers one of the bigger play-money poker experiences you’ll find. You start off with $1,000,000 in free chips on this site (more than is usually the case), build an avatar for your character with seemingly limitless customization options, and proceed to play against friends and strangers, up your ranking, and “go pro” as you advance.
Red Dead Redemption 2 – Some of the best poker games these days also exist within other video games. Far Cry 3 was a modern trendsetter in this respect (sadly, the new release in the series did not follow suit), and the Grand Theft Auto series has similarly presented us with numerous fun in-game poker experiences. As of now though, the poker in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best. Within the game, you can use your character’s money to partake in Texas Hold’em at a number of different locations, and enjoy the feeling of being an actual roving poker player in the Old West.
Tips for Enjoying Poker Video Games
Know Terms – It’s a simple thing, but the most fundamental way to enjoy a video game in this category is to ensure that you understand poker terms. Most of the games won’t get too advanced on you in this respect, but at the very least you’ll need to know what the “big blind” and “small blind” are, or what the “turn” “river” signify in a game of Hold’em. You’ll pick it all up pretty quickly, but the key terms are worth knowing.
Know Game Varieties – Most good video games in the poker genre revolve primarily around Texas Hold’em. But it is still wise to know a few game varieties before you get into poker gaming, just in case you should come across them. Expanding beyond Hold’em to understand “draw,” “stud,” and “Omaha” poker will be perfectly adequate, and will ultimately give you access to a wider range of entertainment.
Expect To Lose – One of the most important concepts in poker is that of the so-called happy loser — someone who can lose games but learn from them, or lose a given hand and accept that it’s just a hitch en route to net gains. No one wins all the time in poker, and in fact it’s rare to even win most of the time. Accepting this from the outset and going into poker games with the expectation that you’ll do plenty of losing will help you to get more out of the experience. You’ll learn to benefit from losses, and you’ll enjoy the wins all the more.
Accept Your Wins – Alongside expecting to lose some of the time, you should also learn to accept wins! What we mean by this is that there comes a point when you’re ahead that you should pull out, collect your winnings, and either take a break or move on to the next game. It’s a means of not getting too ambitious just because things are going well, and while it’s a more important strategy when real money is on the table, it helps you in these games as well. Running out of play chips is never fun (you often have to wait to accumulate more), and by accepting and cashing in wins you’ll ensure that your stash stays strong.
Hopefully these tips will help you to navigate and enjoy a genre that really doesn’t get enough credit these days. If you know which games to seek out and you know how to prepare for them, poker has a lot to offer.