WORLD SERIES OF POKER / Activision / Sony PSP
 
 
Rather than being a robust poker room or casino simulator, this title stays true to the name and the license and focuses on replicating the World Series of Poker, as televised on ESPN 2 when bowling or the hot dog eating contest isn't on. But because this is an early 2006 release for the PSP, it does that in a very basic way. You'll face some pro players once in a while -- or at least, I'll have to take the game's word for it as I have no idea who any of these moops are -- but for the most part you're up against a long train of generic schmos.

WSOP plays a pretty decent game of Texas Hold 'Em, but it isn't particularly newbie-friendly. There's no tutorial whatsoever, for starters. A hierarchy of hand values can be seen at any time by pressing L during a game, but they're not marked in-game in any way, nor does the game have any kind of "helper" mode to suggest correct plays if you're new to all this. The biggest issue, however, is that you're expected to play an entire damn tournament in one sitting with no way to save, a process that can literally take hours.
 


If you don't dig Texas Hold 'Em, you can play a few other popular variants like Omaha in the Quickplay mode. But not in Career mode, you're stuck with Texas Hold 'Em and frittering away money at video poker until you've won a few tournaments. The game forces you to place highly in a WSOP right off the bat -- it starts you with 10k, and entering the annual WSOP is all you can afford with that money (other than wasting it on video poker).

There's a rudimentary character creation mode for your career. They do give you a fair amount of clothes, accessories and voice sets, but the faces are all extremely samey. The stock face is male, and it wasn't really altered for the female models, making for some real rough-lookin' ladies. Get ready for the Rocky Horror Poker Show.

There's actually an OK game of poker here, if you don't mind either skipping Career mode or keeping your PSP locked up until you can complete a long-ass tournament. OK, but not great. For a game that is supposed to be about the highest levels of competition, bluffing really should be implemented, but in my few hours with the game I didn't really see any of it. If other players raise big or go all-in, they inevitably actually have a straight or better to back it up. Maybe the pros do it, but the schmos don't, and that's who you're playing the vast majority of the time.

WSOP didn't get off to an absolutely horrible portable start with this game, but it definitely left a lot of room for improvement.
 
 
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