Gambling can be a dangerous addiction.
You could lose all of your money, your house, your car, your family, your shoes, your shirt, your watch, your underpants... You could lose everything! Still, short of running up a huge amount of debt and turning tricks for the Vegas mafia families, there are worse things that could happen. Maybe you could die before it came to that. That's why gambling with fake currency like you do in Full House Poker can be a good thing.
[image1]Avoiding the crushing consequences of gambling addiction isn't the only reason why you'd want to play Full House Poker. It's fun too! As the final component in Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade House Party promotion, the game pits your avatar against others' online over Xbox Live or against computer opponents offline. There's only one card game available with different variants in the downloadable title, but Texas Hold 'Em has this strangely addictive effect on people.
Every hand in Texas Hold 'Em begins with every player getting two cards. A round of betting ensues followed by what's called "The Flop", three community cards face up in the center of the table that everyone gets to share. Further betting and two more cards face-up - "The Turn" and "The River" - come before players finally have to show what they've got to win. You'll need to make the best hand of five cards out of the seven available to you.
This level of simplicity means that everyone at the table at any given time is going to have a pretty strong grasp of the game being played. If you've ever played poker before, you probably already know about games as simple as five-card-draw and as complicated as Black Mariah. Frankly, having knowledge like that will leave you wanting with Full House Poker. The XBLA title tries to mix it up with different modes like Texas Heat and Pro Takedown, but it'll seem pointless when you realize that they're just Texas Hold 'Em all over again apart from the Lo and Hi-Lo variants. It would have been cool to see at least stud or Omaha Hold 'Em.
[image2]Luckily, raking in huge pots against real players from around the world is pretty engaging and just as enticing as winning in real life. Every player's in-game profile shows their lifetime winnings along with various stats for their current stay at the table. Profiles also reveal what experience level each player is at so you know who you're dealing with.
Full House Poker features a leveling system like Call of Duty's and other multiplayer-centric titles'. New levels reward you with increased buy-in abilities, chip tricks, and customizations ranging from tables and chairs to event locations. Taking these perks online will show everyone what a shark you are.
Microsoft's poker simulator brings a ton of personality with it. You might remember the failed Game Room add-on. Your personal arcade collection was filled with lights, sounds, and an atmosphere that immediately brought a tear to the eyes of arcade faithfuls everywhere. Full House Poker does a great job of bringing the sounds and sights of a high-end poker club to your living room. Background casino noises never irritate and the soundtrack is just catchy enough to avoid grating players who like to sit at tables for hours on end.
[image3]Full House Poker marks a return to the 1 vs. 100 programming Microsoft experimented with. Texas Heat mode is actually a scheduled event where winnings can grow exponentially based on the number of live players at any given time. You're not ranked by your chips in Texas Heat. Instead, players are rewarded for the amount of XP they gain during the 30-minute show. The highest earners will get huge payouts of chips and XP while lower performers still gain a little something for their efforts. Texas Heat also offers players a chance at the Hot Hand pot which rewards the player with the best hand across all active players.
Full House Poker is a full-featured Texas Hold 'Em simulator full of personality and depth. I'd personally like to see other card games featured, but I'm most likely in the minority. Full House Poker isn't exactly at steal at 800 Microsoft Points ($10), but you'll definitely want to pick the title up when it hits a sale. Just don't get in debt with the mob before then.