Play Texas Hold 'Em against skillful computer opponents in Governor of Poker by Youda Games, creator of the previously reviewed Youda Camper. Build your reputation and wealth in a dusty western town by winning at poker and buying up property. You start out in the small Texas town of San Saba with money in your pocket and the ambition to climb up in the world. The game directs you to a poker tourney starting at the local saloon. As you win at poker you are able to buy property and increase your reputation. The higher your reputation, the more poker games you get invited to, and so on, until you own the whole town. You even make headlines in the newspaper! And best of all, if you're not in the mood to download, give the free Flash demo a try and see what you think.
The bulk of the game is spent at the poker table displayed in overhead pov, but those ten-gallon hats have a bunch of personality. Hand and body movements mimic real play, which is a nice touch. The most fascinating thing to me was that the characters had verbal and visual "tells." When he twirled his chips, was he strong or weak? Did the crack in her voice just tell me she raised with pocket Aces? Did the guy staring straight ahead when he made a quiet all-in bet mean he had made his flush? Usually. I called a bunch of hands just to see if I could figure out the code. If you show some bluffs, you might make someone start to steam or go on tilt! You can see the steam coming out of their ears, and they start to play badly.
Once you build your wealth and own houses, you'll have keys with you at the table in cash games, and you can bet the worth of those houses. But be careful, because other players have keys too, and when the short stack throws in his key, suddenly you'll be calling a much bigger bet than you expected. If at any point you don't have enough money to join a game, you can sell a house, or click on the "next day" button a ton of times and earn rent on your properties until you have enough to play. You can also win a series of 24 medals for various hands and situations, like "Busted A Player," "Won All-In Against Two Players," "Won 1st Place," etc. You can eventually own the town and are offered to play heads-up against the best player to win a horse. Once you win the horse you can mosey on to the next town and take more players to the cleaners all over again. You'll have thirteen towns and cities to conquer with your poker prowess, buying up all the houses and saloons as you go until you run all of Texas!
Analysis: Simple with few frills, Governor of Poker focuses on gameplay and creates a superb experience as a result. The AI is really pretty satisfying, even at just this first town. There are three skill levels to choose from, and a couple of the opponents are quite challenging. It's up to you to figure out who's the bluffer, who's betting true value, and who's betting their house on the nuts.
If you're new to Texas Hold 'Em, you won't find the instructions very helpful. But you can see a hand ranking chart on what beats what. There are lots of onscreen tips which you can turn on or off, and all the people in the town seem to want to give you poker advice every time you talk to them. You'll also get used to how the "blinds" (forced bets) go around the table and learn plenty of poker lingo as you play.
Governor of Poker has a nice feel for a computer poker game, a bit more like playing against people than other casual AI poker games I've played. The graphics and animation are very appealing, and the added goal of buying up property is a strong incentive for playing well. Too bad there isn't a multiplayer version!