After centuries of being analogue-only, online poker first broke out during the dot-com boom of the nineties, before having its own boom in the aughts. Since then, the game has seen a huge variety of iterations, gracing virtually every screen you can think of –– from the tournaments we see on TV to the games we can load up on smartphones.
And now, the poker-loving public has just about innumerable ways to play the game. Covering all of those options would make for quite a project –– but here’s our taster of some of the best ones available today.
A very popular “real” site (which is to say one that involves real-money stakes) that’s already been around for a decade — previously under the name Bovada –– this is one vintage that’s matured rather than turned sour. Like some other major poker options, Ignition is available as a download on all the major operating systems: Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.
Available varieties of poker on the app range from Texas Hold’em to Pot-limit Omaha, and even include Pai Gow Poker –– a version based on an ancient Chinese game of dominos. Additional perks include a large player base (meaning it’s always easy to find a game or tournament to get into) and the option of earning payouts in Bitcoin, for those who prefer it.
If you’re looking for a free-to-play poker game to access through capable hardware — PlayStation 4 or Xbox One and above, or a decent PC with Steam –– Prominence could be the right fit. It’s a game that stands out for a few reasons. First, a review at Gamerhub states that the game feels “more polished” than your average digital casino game, as a result of little touches ranging from jazzy background music to an ability to perform small magic tricks with your character in idle time.
What really sets this one apart though is that surrounding the core gameplay (which revolves around Texas Hold’em), there’s a sort of career progression that takes place in a comedically seedy criminal underworld. This adds a sense of atmosphere and (vaguely) story that is lacking in most poker games.
Four Kings Casino and Slots
Okay, so this one isn’t a dedicated poker game, but there’s no reason you couldn’t stick to the poker tables. The game itself is massively multiplayer online (MMO) and socially oriented, supporting a community of player avatars (not entirely unlike those from The Sims). For some, this kind of setup –– a free, social, virtual casino –– might lead to thoughts of dreaded microtransactions.
However, as The Xbox Hub notes that the game is actually perfectly enjoyable without spending extra money. While there are things you can buy, you can mingle with other players and enjoy casino games at your leisure without needing to spend –– particularly given that you get 250 free chips every 15 minutes. The game has long been available on Steam and PlayStation 4, but can now be played on Xbox systems, as well as on the Switch (for those who may want a portable version).
Sometimes you want a straightforward, social experience through which you can learn and have fun without some of the pressure of larger poker platforms. In this vein, Easy Poker was highlighted by Poker.org as one of the best poker apps available for learning and playing online, specifically offering free software (with in-app purchases for things like adding more players to a table or customizing betting blinds).
Designed for mobile, the clean and vibrant interface contains all the key options you need to tailor a game to your preferences, as well voice chat integration, and a leaderboard where you can track results (and use to back up trash talk with friends!).
Poker Tower Defense
This is quite chaotic by comparison to most poker games, but it’s nice to see a twist on the genre! In this game, you seek to protect Diamond Kingdom using special abilities conferred by your choice of cards. The game follows the tower defense format, which it seems has now been adapted into every imaginable theme –– but until this title, poker was not on that list. Without a doubt though, it’s a fun addition.
The playful cuteness of Poker Tower Defense belies its intense layering of strategic defense with poker. And while the game’s mobile version is a relatively recent release, it is fully featured with a write-up at PocketGamer.com listing versus, “duo” (or co-op), and challenge modes all as being included. In other words, you can have a ton of fun playing this game by yourself or with friends online.
There truly are so many ways to play poker these days – it’s almost overwhelming. Hopefully we’ve helped narrow it down enough though, and given you some great options for whatever way you prefer to enjoy the game. Have fun checking these poker experiences out, and for more game-related content, check out our other gaming articles here on Reel Craze.