774 Winning and Losing Virtual Fortunes on the iPhone Timothy Prentiss iPhone Life 1528-5456 2009-06-17 Summer 2009 1 3 52 Apps Games iPhone iPod Touch

Even with the bad economy, I’ve made over $300,000 since the beginning of the year! Unfortunately, these are virtual dollars, not real ones. I’ve amassed this fortune playing Texas Hold ‘Em ($4.99) and Virtual Pool ($1.99) on my Apple iPhone.

Texas Hold ‘Em

By Timothy Prentiss

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Texas Hold ‘Em is Apple’s version of the popular poker variant. It includes near-lifelike videos of each player’s tics and tells as they decide whether to call, raise, or fold. Unfortunately, after playing with the same dozen or so characters, I still have no consistent feeling for who’s bluffing.

Try not to let your emotions—positive or negative—control you. For example, I don’t seem to try as hard when I’m playing “Darla,” the sexy cowgirl. It’s kind of fun watching her shimmy with joy when she wins a hand (even if it’s my money). imageAlso, I’ve developed a deep dislike for “Bubba” and will bet on questionable cards in the hopes of crushing him and watching him do his loser ritual—he smells his armpits every time he loses. He smirks when he wins, and unfortunately, he gets the better of me too often. The key to winning these multi-player games (with yourself as the only real person) is to know when to make your move.

Unfortunately, if your timing’s off, you have to be prepared to go home with your virtual tail tucked between your legs.

Darla (top-left) and Bubba (right) are some of the characters you’ll meet in Apple’s Texas Hold ‘Em. The table view (top-right) shows the status of all the players.

 

Virtual Pool

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By Timothy Prentiss

imageVirtual Pool is a great 3D pool simulation that’s available for a variety of platforms, now including the iPhone/iPod touch. Although it’s pretty easy to get started, you still have to get used to the look of the table. The cue ball always appears slightly larger than the ball you’re aiming it at, and you have to develop a “feel” for how hard or soft you have to hit it. You don’t win at your local pool hall by simply flicking your thumb over your phone—you have to figure out how to wield that cue stick!

After you finish a game, Curly the pool hustler congratulates you and holds up a roll of bills to tempt you to the next level. The game includes six different pool halls and 121 opponents. The further you go, the more skilled the challengers and the more difficult the games. Eventually, you’ll meet the masters and lose your bankroll. At that point, you might have to rely on the kindness of strangers and borrow money from “an anonymous donor” to get into the next game. You can also delete yourself from the game, create a new persona, and start all over again.

 

Eventually, you get a feel for the different pool halls and the skill level of opponents, and make your game choices accordingly. For example, I built up a bundle of winnings, but lost them to a quiet lady who calls herself Slow Roll. Her game is all about cue control—she pulls off amazing shots into surprising pockets, with the cue ball ending up perfectly positioned for the next ball in line. 

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After losing to her, I dropped down to some easier tables where I could beat the likes of The Hammer and Chimpie in $5,000-15,000 matches. I’m building up my pile of winnings so that I can take on Slow Roll again. I just hope she makes a miscalculation on one of those bank shots.

Virtual Pool’s graphics and gameplay are better than the look of the players’ bio boxes.

Your playing style may change as you gain experience and play in the more challenging pool halls. For example, I began my career by hitting the cue ball as hard as I could every time, hoping for good things to happen. Now, my technique is a little smoother, and I’m winning matches more consistently.

Virtual Pool is impressive in its realism. Everything from the reflections on the shiny billiard balls to the clack of the balls when they hit each other rings true to life. I hope future upgrades include the ability to replay your most recent shot. Replays of short portions of the last shot are sometimes played when the phone is slightly bumped, so it seems possible. Reliving that fabulous winning shot—or trying to figure out how in the world your opponent beat you like that—would add to the undeniable fun of this game.
 

Virtual Pool

• $2.99 Virtual Pool Online; Lite version FREE;

• Celeris, INC.

• http://www.celeris.com/games/VPMobile/

Imagine Poker Touch

By Timothy Prentiss

imageimageI also played with Imagine Poker Touch, a crazy game that lets you play Texas Hold ‘Em with Lincoln, Napoleon, Mona Lisa, Little Red Riding Hood, and other historical or fictional characters. You compete as one of the initially-unlocked characters, with a stake of $200. When you beat the players at one table, which isn’t always that easy, you move on to another.

Imagine Poker Touch gives players a chance to compete as Napoleon (left) and other historical or fictional characters. Playing Texas Hold ‘Em in overhead table viewing mode (right) speeds up play—you don’t have to wait for the animation of each player thinking and playing their cards. Then you can switch to the regular viewing mode when you’re in the final three, to see if you can catch any of the characters’ tells.

The constantly-panning camera, which swings quickly from one player to the next, can be dizzying, and the table talk isn’t worth listening to. (Napoleon sounds a bit like Inspector Clouseau.) One frustration for me is that I couldn’t build up a bankroll playing Imagine Poker. You only win money if you conquer all the players at a table, which seems fair enough. But even if you’ve won at two venues and lose at the third (Dracula’s castle), you’re totally broke and have to start all over again. I haven’t had the patience to see how much you can win.

All things considered, I prefer the tables at Apple’s Texas Hold ‘Em, where I win money around 25 percent of the time. My quarter-million in virtual winnings doesn’t come close to the $20 million I’ve “won” at Tiger Woods Golf on my PC, but it makes the train ride to work pass just a bit more quickly.