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  Stacked:

Stacked, or (if you would like its complete name, Stacked with Daniel Negreanu), is not a video poker game but a poker video game. In other words, it is basically tournament-style Texas Hold ‘Em, but in the form of a video game where you can choose to take on the characters or avatars of various poker champions.

Rules

As we stated in the Main Description part of this review, Stacked is a video game based on Texas Hold ‘Em. Users can play either against each other or against the game itself, in which case they will be “facing” a virtual character based on certain real live poker champions.

Basically, the rules for Texas Hold ‘Em allow for five community cards to be dealt, plus two cards for each player to keep a secret. Players can use any of the seven cards (the community cards plus their own two personal cards) to compose the best five-card hand according to the usual poker hand rankings. Now for the exciting part: the betting. At the center of the table is a pot. While the hand is in play, rounds of betting continue. Each time it is a certain player’s turn, he/she must decide to either fold (step out of the game for that particular hand and forfeit the money he/she has bet thus far) or raise (keep playing, but add more money to the pot). The last remaining player wins the pot. However, it can also happen that a standoff occurs, meaning that two players will not give up. Instead of encouraging a tie, game rules allow for a showdown, in which case players must show their cards. Whoever has the best hand wins. This is often where deceptions are unmasked, and bluffing players can no longer hide the fact that their cards were not as good as they pretended.

Stacked


Of course, bluffing is allowed, and even encouraged. Players are not really penalized at all for misleading others or even telling outright lies concerning their cards. Thus, people who like drama and theatricality tend to be powerfully attracted to this particular poker variant.

Types of Bets

This being a home-based video game, you are probably playing for fun instead of money. People who enjoy the thrill of hazarding real cash may be disappointed at this, but the lack of a gambling element might also be considered an advantage. People who are not of gambling age or live in places where online gambling is prohibited can still have the full gaming experience. In addition, people who plan to join the playing circuit might use this game to sharpen their skills without having to seriously risk their bank accounts. Furthermore, assuming that no real money is at stake, you might expect players to be more aggressive than they would otherwise. After all, what will they really lose if they happen to play badly? At first glance, these sorts of factors might seem trivial, but Texas Hold ‘Em is a very psychological game, and the mindset that players bring to the (virtual) table can change game play significantly.

Strategies

This game is designed to closely follow “live” Texas Hold ‘Em games, so there is nothing wrong with taking the strategy for a regular live game as your starting point. However, the very fact that you are using video game equipment has several interesting implications for poker tells. For example, a player who is very skilled at hiding his/her tells during regular live games may be unable to have the same success when confronted with the video game milieu. If you play this game alone (i.e. against the program itself), be prepared to be faced with software that “gets to know you” over time. It may not be watching you for poker tells, but it is compiling a database of your decisions, and will adjust its own game-play accordingly.

Experience

People whose experience of electronically-based poker games is limited to video poker may have a hard time adjusting to this game. The format is extremely different from what one sees in most video poker games. The elaborate graphics can actually become a distraction. Then again, the more adventurous video poker veterans might relish the new experience, finding it rich and exciting. It really depends on how adaptable you are, and how you view the prospect of stepping into a different setting.

Fans of both video games and tournament poker, however, may be very excited at the prospect of seeing both passions combined in a single pastime. It is to the credit of the game’s designers and developers that the interface is quite easy to figure out and use, so you need not be a top-level video gamer in order to play a decent game of poker on this platform. The game’s very high level of artificial intelligence certainly helps in this regard.

Poker fans may also relish the idea of being able to (sort of) sit at a poker table with their favorite players. Several of the most popular recent champions and up-and-comers are represented in the game. Then again, there are always going to be some people disappointed by the absence of a particular player, in particular the old-school greats who had their heyday in the 80’s and 90’s. Perhaps the makers of the game were unable to secure the permission of these masters. Still, there is hope. If the game becomes successful enough, the game developers might try to get more all-time greats to give their permission to be used as bases for characters.

Still, you ought to be warned about a couple of technical details, especially if you play this game on Xbox Live format. Your player information will reset, even if you do not want it to, which will of course cause the loss of important data. Make sure to download and add the patch that has been made available to fix this problem. Otherwise, your long-term game play will be compromised, and you may miss out on many of the game’s good points.

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