It’s a pretty obvious idea: People like poker, and people like cell phones. All anybody would really need to pull off a slamming cell-phone poker company, then, is the starting capital and a couple of programming nerds.
No doubt, this was the logic behind Pokerroom’s 2005 launch of the world’s first cell-phone poker room. And, as the number of cell-phone poker providers grows, it still seems to be a notion many companies are willing to bet on.
The problem, however, is that with so many go-anywhere games on the market, and the up-front stipulations of an added phone bill and battery drain, most prospective players need to take a hard look at what they’re getting with a cellular poker house before they sign up.
Of the handful of international providers, Pokerroom still stands out as the best. It not only features other games, including wireless slots and sports betting—for when you need a little down time or your thumbs are hurting—but it boasts an upfront 40% bonus on the first deposit and lets those proud few in the winners’ circle send their cash straight into their bank accounts. What’s more, as a conscientious gambling house, Pokerroom.com allows players to set their own limits and thereby avoid squandering their savings when there are no casino doors to keep their gambling drives in check. These limits can only be changed every six months, and even if a player demands to go all-in, he’ll just have to wait till the moratorium expires.
Of course, if you’re a U.S. citizen looking for something a little more on the domestic (and legal) side, there are a couple cellular-poker companies who have put their stock in other areas to make up for the lack of cash prizes. Mforma’s World Poker Tour, for instance, takes the lead in crack-core ambiance, using graphics to create amazingly realistic visuals.
The downside to this, though, is that Mforma’s drive to place players squat in the middle of the WPT causes some major problems for basic play. For one thing, the view makes it impossible for a player to see some of the other players. And when the action shifts at the end of a player’s turn, it automatically pans to the other end of the table. Needless to say, this isn’t as much of an Achilles’ heel as many reviewers have made it out to be. But, in the realm of basic strategy, it usually does help knowing how many people you’re up against.
As for an all-around solid experience for U.S. players, Summus, Inc.’s Texas Hold’em by Phil Hellmuth seems to be the real chip leader. While it does lack the sense of realism you get from playing WPT, it sacrifices none of the mechanics players would normally get from a brick-and-mortar casino or an online house. Moreover, it stashes an extra handful of goodies into subscribers’ grab-bags, including an offline option that allows players to practice against poker-champion avatars before putting up real money.
But the real strength of Summus’ game lies in its many online options. Essentially, it’s kind of like that old Burger King slogan, “Have it your way,” with a smorgasbord of possibilities, including under-limit, limit, pot-limit and no-limit game types, turbo settings for each of these, a ring-game feature and tournaments.
In comparison to this, WPT takes a back seat, mainly because it has so little variety. There’s only one type of tournament and ring-game play, limit, and in tournament play, the blinds go up every hand. As a result, WPT tends to draw a less professional crowd that will nine times out of ten go in for the flop, even when their hands look like mystery meat.