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In 2004 the poker game Texas Hold ‘Em exploded into popularity.  Doubtless you’ve been invited to poker tournaments by friends, learned the game, and gotten over the financially frivolous fad.  However, developer Wideload Games has decided that the poker craze doesn’t need death, it needs rejuvenation.  The name of the game here is playing with virtual money and cheating recklessly.  Is it worth gambling your download dollars on?

Texas Cheat ‘Em aims to empower the player by providing them with cheating methods to alter rounds of Texas Hold ‘Em to their liking.  These cheating techniques are open to use should the player have enough “cheat points.”  Cheat points are gained before each round of betting, and can be stolen from other players. Each cheat is activated by completing an extremely simple mini game such as mashing a button to race a horse, or playing the slots.

I’ll avoid laying down the basics of Texas Hold ‘Em, because if you aren’t already familiar with the mechanics of the poker game, you probably won’t be reading this review.  Instead, I’ll explain in what ways Texas Cheat ‘Em allows you to cheat.  It’s moderately fun being able to foresee the entire community hand before they are revealed.  It’s an ability every gambler has dreamed of.  You can also steal the competition’s chips, alter their hands, exchange your hand for a fresh one, and shield yourself from others’ cheating interference.

The presentation is gaudy yet in a very generic way

The presentation is gaudy yet in a very generic way

The dodgy cheating action takes place primarily in the game’s single player “career” mode.  In this mode, you progress through several circuits, completing matches that have set criteria for success. These objectives rarely deviate from swelling your chip stack to a certain amount or knocking out other players.  The repetitive gameplay may have you disregarding the game faster than a 7, 2 offsuit.

The onscreen action tends to become garbled and chaotic, as the simple game of poker is over encumbered with gaudy menus and meters.  Imagine a birthday clown dancing on a poker table and throwing cream pies while you try to decide on a bet.  After each hand the game awkwardly flashes to a “game over” scene and lists the standing of each player.  This disruption of continuity kills the pacing of the game, and makes it difficult to concentrate on the overall flow of the game.

Unlike actual poker were success is determined by experience and luck, Texas Cheat ‘Em is based almost entirely on random chance.  Knowing when to tactically fold, raise, or check your bet is replaced with knowing which “cheat” to use and crossing your fingers that other players don’t use their cheats against you.  Skill is so nonexistent early on that you can simply steal other player’s chips each hand in order to win.

This is a pretty low key scene compared to the usual bells and whistles

This is a pretty low key scene compared to the usual bells and whistles

The game also has a multiplayer mode, but good luck finding anyone to play it with.  Between attempting to create my own game and looking for a quick match, I waited a total of fifteen minutes to find a game.  It never happened.  It seems everyone else is about as impressed with this game as I am.  There is also a practice mode which is basically setting up a multiplayer game against AI to your specifications.

Overall, Texas Cheat ‘Em finds itself in entertainment limbo.  It doesn’t offer a good core Texas Hold ‘Em experience that will satisfy long time poker fans, and doesn’t make the cheating mechanic worthwhile and approachable enough to entice non-gamblers.  Additionally, the concept of accumulating and wagering virtual money has no significance.  Perhaps if the money accrued could be used to purchase perks or equipment the gambling would have held more water.

Overall, Texas Cheat ‘Em is a lackluster poker experience that will likely have you calling up some buddies and get an actual poker game started.  You’re better off heading to your nearest casino and slamming your $10 down on a blackjack table.

The XBLA version was played for this review, but the game is also available on the PSN and PC.

Rating Category
5.0 Presentation
The game’s presentation is equal parts generic and flashy. Seeing your 360 avatar is neat, but underutilized.
How does our scoring system work?
5.0 Gameplay
You can do what you wish with the cheating, but cumbersome confirmation menus, meaningless virtual money, and arbitrary timers hold back the fun.
4.0 Sound
Have you been to a casino? Like that, but with uninspired music backing it up.
3.0 Longevity
The game might have been somewhat fun if anyone was online to play it with. The single player is a throw away experience.
4.0 Overall
I can’t think of any demographic to recommend this game to. The one person truly being cheated with this game is you.

  1. I remember back in highschool when Poker was the “in” thing. I guess it’s died down a little now.

  2. Ah well, it’s better then just releasing another Texas hold em’ game.

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