WORLD POKER TOUR / 2K Games / Sony PSP
 
                                          Poker with Theodore Kaczynski
 
Though it leaves you with some of the minor complaints and unfulfilled wants that seem to be endemic to handheld poker games of this era, World Poker Tour plays a solid base game of poker and is worth looking at if you just want to fire up a quick match while commuting here and there. It's also a little friendlier to newbies than some titles, with some well-made tutorial videos featuring poker pros and in-game explanations of any lingo you don't follow. You do need to know your hand rankings coming in, though, as those aren't marked or explained anywhere.

Most of the competition is generic schlubs with pun-tastic names like Crispin Krunchy and Count N. Cards, but even the schmos bluff enough to keep the basic games interesting. Eight pro players are available either to play as or to play against. I don't know who is big right now let alone back in 2005 when this came out but if the names Evelyn Ng or Antonio Esfandiari mean anything to you, that's two of them. They're also present in a series of optional video tutorials that newbies can watch, which are actually pretty well-produced and helpful (and continually find an excuse to put hostess Shana Hiatt in either a bikini or a low-cut dress).

There's a basic-but-OK career mode that lets you roll up a custom player and go through seasons playing in various tournaments. It's a little limited, as these modes tended to be at this time, basically forcing you to win one particular tournament at a time and reset if you get wiped out. Certain plays during these tournaments earn you special chips, which you need to buy new clothes and accessories for your avvy. These don't appear to carry between avatars, though -- each needs to grind out their own wardrobe apparently. And don't forget to manually save at the main menu after each game, because the game doesn't auto-save!

My biggest complaint is a lack of ability to save and quit mid-tournament. The smaller introductory satellite tournaments with six people are OK for one sitting, but the 100-player main event tournaments can drag on for well over an hour. Blind amounts do multiply faster than they do in real tournament play, but even with that the bigger tournaments still take too long to be expected to complete in one sitting.

The next biggest issue is that you can't speed up the computer opponent's thought process (something you CAN do in main rival World Series of Poker), leading to them sitting there giving you a glassy, creepy stare for far too long sometimes. You also get optional in-game access to a data sheet on all your opponents that basically confirms if they're bluffing or not about 90% of the time -- it's nice to help speed up a tournament that's dragging, but it's effectively an OP cheat and probably should have been something that is gradually unlocked by facing the opponents in question rather than just handed to you wholesale right off the bat.

But let's end on a positive note for a change. The general competence of the computer and the sensible interface are the main draws here, but the commentary and table banter are also very good about staying on point. The eight casino venues are all licensed from actual World Poker Tour locations and apparently have highly accurate interiors (at least to however they were decorated in 2005). You're unlikely to be able to make use of the online play option anymore, but if you're just looking for a portable match against passable AI to keep your skills sharp in a reasonably tournament-authentic environment, this one is not a bad choice at the right price.
 
 
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