Stacked with Daniel Negreanu Review

If the names Josh Arieh, Evelyn Ng, Jennifer Harman or Daniel Negreanu are familiar to you, you just might be a poker fan. 60 million people in the U.S are now playing the game of poker. Informal games are held at the office, card rooms and over at friend,s houses. This is due, in no small part, to the televised championship poker tournaments from ESPN, BRAVO, and the Travel Channel. And as many poker players know, there is no greater joy for an amateur or professional than to go "all-in" and win the pot. It takes guts, a little bit of luck, a good understanding of the game, and the ability to read your opponents.

With the growing popularity of poker spreading around the world, it was inevitable that video poker games would soon follow. But the offering of a solid, entertaining game has alluded virtually all game developers as their offerings are either tedious at best and a total bore at worse. One of the challenges in turning poker into an entertaining video game has to do with the AI. Virtually every poker video game out there gives you the feeling that you are playing against an AI-there is no personality behind the computer players. They play stiffly and mechanically. In short, although you are playing the game of poker, it doesn,t really feel like you are playing in a real poker game. Myelin Media and 5,000Ft Inc. have thrown their offering on the video game altar with the hope that Stacked with Daniel Negreanu, will be acceptable to the poker gods. Is Stacked bluffing, or does it really have the guts? Read on for the answers.

Daniel Negreanu is poker kingdom,s Prince of Cards. He is known for his friendly demeanor, his ability to accurately read his opponents, and his sure-fire poker skills. He is easily one of the best liked and most feared professional poker players in the world. Stacked with Daniel Negreanu (SDN) tries to incorporate the vast knowledge and experience of Negreanu into the body of the video game by allowing you to pick his brain at any moment during your card play. This is accomplished by accessing a popup menu and simply hitting the "ask" button for advice. Negreanu then voices his strategy on how to play your hand-more about this later.

The name of the game featured in Stacked is Texas Hold ’em. This game is very familiar to poker fans and is considered by many to be the Cadillac of poker-elegant and with lots of class. (For you movie buffs out there, you,ll remember that Texas Hold ’em was featured in the classic poker movie Rounders, starring Matt Damon and Ed Norton.)

SDN offers three game options; cash games, career and online. Of these game modes, the variants are "no limit", where bet amounts have no boundaries, and "limit," which allow wagers within pre-determined amounts during the course of betting stages. Cash game mode is informal and you can come or leave as you please. No statistics or progress scores are taken and this is a good place to begin to get a feel for how the game is played. Tournament gameplay is where the meat of the game resides. Here, you must first register your character and play on through the various poker tournaments to win cash, unlock players, and open other tournaments to compete in.

Online gameplay allows you to go head-to-head with other players from around the world. This mode gives you the chance to make it to the leader board. You,ll be able to assume any character in the game except the featured professionals. The reason is to reserve these characters for the real life counterparts to use when they go online. So if you see Negreanu pull up a chair next to you, it,s really him.

As stated before, career mode is where the action is. I registered myself and assembled my onscreen image from the character selection palette, I was ready to kick some butt and take down names. I felt confident in my skills as I have more than on one occasion beat the pants off of my poker buddies and laughed in their faces at my victory. There,s nothing like being a gracious winner, I always say.

In SDN, I entered a single table event, which means 9 players. The estimated stakes were about $1200 per pot, and I had about $1750 to my name. The cards were dealt, and I was expecting the usual high cards that all poker video games seem to give you. I came up with an unsuited 8 of clubs and 4 of spades. No problem, I should be able to bluff my way through this game with ease. I raised my opponents $200, in an effort to steal the pot, but to my surprise, and chagrin, two of them called me. Can you say shipwreck? I was already committed, so I tried to go for an even bigger bluff and made an "all in" bet-I pushed all my chips into the pot. No way is anybody going to challenge me. I heard the horrible words, "I,ll call ya," from Tony, sitting across from me. After the flop I only had a pair of 8,s. The dealer dealt the final river card which didn,t help me one bit. The dealer said, "player 6 wins," and I heard a "Yee haw." Tony had won, and on the very first hand, I was eliminated from the table.

I went to the kitchen to drown my sorrows with a can of diet soda and realized that Stacked may be more than the usual fare of video poker games that I have encountered. Upon restarting the game, I attempted to try again, this time, with not so big of an ego. This is the first video poker game that feels as if you are playing against real live people instead of cardboard cutouts. The reason for this became apparent when a little investigation was done on Stacked. The game is run on an AI system named Poki, which was in development for over 10 years. The Poki AI is different from other AIs, due to its ability to adapt and learn from your playing moves and style. This is what gives the game a live feel. Your opponents don,t go through an AI routine that just repeats itself; it actually modifies its own game play according to what you do.

The game has a moderately high learning curve, not because the game is difficult to play, but because you must relearn and throw away your preconceived notions of stiff, lifeless video poker games. Once you understand that the AI characters are intelligent and are basing their strategies on your playing style, you will soon start to strategize and play the game in earnest. You cannot win at this game haphazardly. You need to think out your moves and try to figure out your opponents, just as in a live game.

After playing several rounds of tournament poker, I noticed that my opponents were trying to sucker me into raising my bets. The AI players evidently noticed that I had a pattern of trying to steal the pot by bluffing on a raise, and the AI accommodated me by always checking, or not betting, thus giving me the impression that the players held weak cards. I took the bait, made exorbitant raises to scare off my opponents, only to find out that they were holding stronger hands than I realized. I lost my bankroll many times because of this and changed my strategy.

This game is not a fast game, although SDN does offer a speed up mode, but even with this option turned on, you can expect to be playing at least an hour or more in order to finish a tournament. On the other hand, there is great satisfaction in reading your opponents correctly and taking them down. In one game, the short stacked player, (the one with the least chips) attempted an "all in" bet. I was watching this player closely and knew that he was a conservative player. He moved "all in" before the flop, and I guessed he was bluffing. I called him. His hole cards were a queen of diamonds and a nine of hearts. I was holding a king of diamonds and a jack of diamonds. After the community cards were dealt, I beat him with a pair of kings. He stood up, groaned, and disappeared from the table.

Tournament games continue until you are one of the two players left for the final showdown, or you are eliminated before you make the cut. Playing "multi-table" offers extra challenge as you battle it but with 16 players to secure one of the eight spots for the television broadcast show. If you are skilled, or lucky enough to win a tournament, you get prize money, an unlockable character and a tournament "buy in" for another event. There are many tournaments to enter and only the dedicated will be able to finish the entire game. After several days of playing SDN, I was able to adapt to the slow game style, but in all honesty, it was a hard transition to get used to.

Negreanu serves as a disembodied tutor while you are playing. His expertise can be accessed at any point during the game. The advice is somewhat general in nature, but offers an occasional gem of insight on how to play your hand correctly. But the feature is not infallible as the advice is sometimes shaky or entirely wrong. In one instance, my hole cards were two aces. I clicked on the advice icon and Negreanu said to be careful because I had a weak hand and not to bet too heavily. Are you kidding me? I ignored the advice and proceeded to go on to win a fairly large pot. For in-depth learning, there is a feature on the disk which offers a "Poker School" by Negreanu. He stars in this half hour video and quickly goes through the various elements of how to play Texas Hold ’em poker. The video is arrange in short 30 second to 1 minute clips and can be viewed all in one sitting, or be broken down into the specific areas where you need help. The video won,t win any academy awards, but it is an interesting study on how a professional poker mind works.

SDN, as with all other poker games, has less than stellar graphics. The scenery is flat and dull looking without much definition and the player characters are no better than last gen game graphics. The practice of incorporating mediocre graphics in poker titles is sad. However, the game tries to make up for its relatively modest artwork by mimicking the camera angles and look of a poker television broadcast. The poker games take place in various casino houses and the constant drone of the gamblers in the background give an authentic feel to the title. After about an hour of play, it almost felt as if I were in a card room at Las Vegas.

Stacked offers some of the most realistic poker gameplay out there. The AI feels as if you are playing against live poker players. It will offer you a way to hone your skills or provide you an outlet to play poker when your buds can,t come over to play. The game isn,t a fast game, and this will bring down the enjoyment level for the majority of gamers. But if you are a dedicated poker fan, and want to play a game that is realistic and challenging, Stacked with Daniel Negreanu is a good choice. In short, Stacked isn,t bluffing, but it won,t cause a lot of gamers to go "all in," either.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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