gotta know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away
and know when to run...and it's one of those times.
by Patrick Evans
30, 2006 - Rounders,
one of my personal favorite movies, described the
tumultuous ups and downs of Holdem to a tee.
Described by Matt Damon as the Cadillac of Poker,
Holdem is the only game that can see your full
house of 9s full of Aces go belly up to Aces
full of 9s in a heartbeat. It is because of
this that, for some, Holdem is nearly addictive.
Daniel Negreanu announced his involvement with Stacked,
people took notice. Expectations were moderate at
least, as promises of a dynamic AI system that could
outplay veterans was to be developed, challenging
even the most seasoned players in their own living
rooms. The jury is now in on this dynamic
AI, and the rest of the package, and it seems that
Daniel should have known to fold before this bomb
hit the market.
and company do their best to introduce new players
to the game of poker. The tutorial, hosted by Daniel,
covers just about every aspect of the game. Topics
as simple as hand strength and betting begin the lesson,
while advanced topics include calling a bluff, bluffing
at a pot against a weaker player, and how to spot
bad acting. Negraneau even manages to take jabs at
fellow card player Phil Hellmuth during the tutorials
to manage a snicker from people familiar with the
game from watching ESPN. All in all, the tutorial
does a fine job of setting people of all experience
levels to succeed against this superior, lifelike
a real shame that the rest of the title is a wreck.
Players wishing to start a single-player career mode
will begin by choosing from a dismal selection of
creation options, giving little opportunity for real
customization. After creating this avatar, you would
begin your career at the open tables, attempting to
place high enough in the open tournaments to advance
to a qualifier tourney. Qualifying tourneys open the
door to the V.I.P tables, which then have a series
of tournaments that you can win to unlock pro players
(most of which I have never heard of) and advance
to even more exclusive tournaments. The career mode,
in essence, is really just a search for a cooler pro
player to replace your pithy custom character. Customization
options are so few that I on two different occasions
saw the exact same option combinations at the same
table, one time sitting directly next to me.
as long as the action on the felt is satisfactory,
the needless unlocking and advancing would be ok,
right? Well, this is where everything that was promised
from developers on this game disappoints. The advanced
AI that they promised is really anything but. While
it does certainly represent humans by slow playing
strong hands, betting over the top after a check,
taking stabs at pots early with strong hands, and
whatnot, it has quirks that severely damage the experience.
Take a couple of these examples as evidence:
one hand, three players went all in. Their hands
were 4-J, J-10, and 4-4.
cash games, players would often bet over 15X the
blinds before the flop
than a couple times, the AI would fall into raising
loops during cash games.
it may have happened and I couldnt tell with
folds, I never witnessed a computer play raise on
a high pair besides an all-in wager.
I continued to play in tourney after tourney, I noticed
that the computer almost never part-bluffs
a hand, looking to coax a player over the top to trap.
In almost every single instance, the computer would
slow-play a hand until someone raised, and then would
only call. This means that when the computer raised
the table minimum after a flop, I could almost always
come over the top with a strong bet and see them fold.
They never held a strong hand with a limp-in bet,
which is disappointing because it gives a huge advantage
to a human player.
advantage would seem negligible when faced with the
fact that this games visuals kill any ability to read
an opponent on body language. Animations are the same
for every model type, preventing a player to try and
predict their hand strength based on movement or gesture.
This completely eliminates the most important aspect
of Texas Holdem- the ability to play the player,
not the cards or the chips. But in a total lapse in
logic, the developers decided give you the ability
to smile or frown at any point in the game, which
in my experience made absolutely no difference in
the outcome of a hand. Besides, why would you give
an opponent any tell; smiling could denote a good
hand, but faking a frown could come off as bad acting.
It is defiantly one option they could have forgotten
poker is available through online and system link.
Playing the game online is fine enough when compared
to the rest of this dreary title, giving a slight
glimmer of hope for the overall package. But when
you think about the abundance of cheap, or free, alternatives
for online poker, either on console or PC, then Stacked
looks like a dead fish. System link play just seems
pointless, since if you have friends and enough money
to buy multiple copies of Stacked you should just
go get a poker set instead. Trust me, you will respect
yourself much more in the morning.
games dedicated to poker are usually a tough sell,
seeing as how dozens of websites offer free games
to play, but Stacked does nothing but sink the hopes
of gamers looking for a way to improve their game
at home. The tutorial sets the stage for a pleasurable
experience, but shoddy game modes, AI, and visuals
kill the moment. I can simply see no reason to drop
any time or money into this title when you can get
have a much better time and be social by playing poker
with friends, coworkers, or with new people online