Gambling is now hip thanks to TV shows like Celebrity Poker and Black Jack. Of course seeing people wager big bets has some appeal. If you really look at who is making the bets, the money is not theirs and even if it was, they can afford to lose big. While poker and black jack have always been popular, trying to find a decent video game for a console can be hard. Bicycle Casino is loaded with games and variations; almost 500+ are included as well as craps, slots, and video poker. It offers plenty of game play without the risk of losing the money for real.

I have always enjoyed a good poker night with some friends. I even used to play online years ago on the Hoyle server in a poker league. Of course there was no mic and the graphics left a lot to be desired. However, it was enjoyable. Casino captures some of that. The games are dead on and you have plenty to choose from. You can even play online with up to 6 of your friends or other gamers on Xbox live depending on the game and the room. Many games like this give the gamer a bankroll to start off with and then if you blow it, you need to restart all over again. Thankfully they added a nice feature that will allow you to start again with another grand to build up your bank. The easiest way to build that up fast is black jack if you understand the game. In less than an hour I had around 250 thousand. Now if you don't know how to play the games, they even have help in the single player mode. So anyone can learn the rules and some tricks if they want to take the time.

While there are plenty of good things about the game, they did not nail it. The major complaint right off the bat is making your character. It has several options yet; it's so touchy and tedious that getting that right look is a chore. Once you hit save, that's it. If you want to change anything about your looks, you will need to start all over again. So the create- a-player needed some work. The games are not fast-paced and the AI players can get annoying. They also can be read like a book if you watch them closely. Bluffing in poker is an art form. The AI players will attempt to bluff and with some time you will be able to know who is bluffing. On the graphics, let's face it; if you're expecting fantastic graphics and sound effects, this game is not for you. Gamers will hear the dealer shuffle and some speech. The realism element greatly improves by taking the game online. This is where the real fun is for this game! The lobbies are made well and easy to find friends or find a game to hop into right away.

At times it's nice to stop the shooting and racing and just try and beat the house using only your skills of the game. Again, this one takes time to build up a bankroll and learn the games even for those who know the games. Taking the time to learn each game makes the online mode great. If you just jump right in, you will get clean out fast!

I was looking forward to this game myself and it did not disappoint me. It has some nice features and it is realistic. That is what is important here. For fans of poker or gambling games this one is great to buy. For those who are not huge fans of sitting around and playing a slower pace game that requires concentration, you may want to pass on this one. It's a nice change of pace to be able to play with friends and shoot the breeze while trying to clean out your friend's virtual money. Not graphically sharp but a solid gambling game that is certainly worth the price for gambling fans.

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System: Xbox
Dev: Leaping Lizard
Pub: Activision
Release: Oct 2004
Players: 1
Review By Chris