Poker and video gaming have gone hand in hand all the way from 1988’s Card Sharks on the Commodore 64 (where one could play, somewhat bizarrely as Reagan, Thatcher or Gorbachev) to 2021’s virtual stakes apps like Zynga Poker and live money games that we can now play from anywhere on a phone or a tablet.
With the boom in televised poker in the early 2000s, video game companies looked to get in on the action, with titles such as Golden Nugget 64 and High Rollers Casino featuring on the XBox, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo 64. With the massive increases in domestic computing power since that generation, a game that was solely poker wouldn’t feature highly on any PC or console AAA schedule. However poker still plays a hand in many blue-chip titles.
DEAD RISING 2
If poker can be a stressful game, it’s perhaps still less stressful than being surrounded by hordes of zombies – in Capcom’s Dead Rising 2 up to 7,000 undead can be seen onscreen at any one time. In the setting of the fictional Fortune City, Nevada, you’d expect gambling to be a theme in this 2011 action-adventure and without giving away too many spoilers, the game’s climactic finale is set atop a casino roof. Gamers get the chance to play poker – specifically Texas Hold’em – in the Ante Up and High Rollers missions. The latter is particularly useful, as with a prize of $1m, it’s the most lucrative mission in the game to harvest in-game currency.
FAR CRY 3
In Ubisoft Montreal’s 2012 first person shooter, poker can also provide some light(ish) relief from the main game. Again, it’s Texas Hold’em and once the feature is unlocked, there are five locations on the game’s two island settings where Jason Brody can gamble. While the virtual money on offer is less than the million bucks of Dead Rising 2 it’s worth getting a handle on your flushes and straights as poker plays a pretty important role in the latter stages of the game. Those who are beginners to poker will find that the game provides clear instructions on how to play. If gaming technology has come a long way in the past 25 years, Far Cry was one of the key titles in demonstrating how massive gaming had become also, selling somewhere round 10m copies in its first two years of release.
GTA V ONLINE
The GTA V Online Diamond Casino offers players a wealth of ways to wager their in-game money, with roulette, blackjack and poker all on offer. Surprisingly, although perhaps with Rockstar Games’ liking for curveballs, maybe not, it’s three card poker that’s on offer rather than Texas Hold’em. Three card poker’s rules are much simpler and betting convention is less flexible than its more famous cousin, but it’s a pleasant enough mini-game before returning to the chaos of Los Santos. It also provides a useful way of keeping your currency – other players are unable to steal casino chips when you (inevitably) get nerfed.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
In RDR2 Rockstar really upped the ante of bringing poker into their open worlds. It’s a shockingly faithful adaption of the live game, with sophisticated AI and random number generation ensuring all outcomes are random, rather than being able to be spammed as a way of progressing in a mission or side quest. The upshot is that while it may perhaps be more difficult to fatten your wallet quickly than in GTA V Online it’s a pretty in-depth introduction to playing real poker. Success at the tables also leads to an increase in your stats, and you’ll need all the help you can get if you’re chasing legendary animals as well as legendary poker hands.