Get Out Your Poker Face
The subtle intricacies of maintaining a poker face when sitting behind an excellent hand of cards and staring down your competition across the table is thrilling for some. Beyond working the cards to your best advantage, there’s a whole other level of strategy that comes into play at the table in the form of reading other players and actively working to deceive them.
And when wagering chips and strategizing isn’t enough of a gamble, cheating ups the ante, the fun, and the danger. In a real poker game, most cheaters would worry about getting caught and subsequently roughed-up; that’s less of a concern in Texas Cheat ‘Em, since everybody is a cheater.
Rather than letting you simply count cards or sneak a few aces up your sleeve, Texas Cheat ‘Em takes a go big or go home approach to cheating. The game is as much about bending the rules and doing everything in your power to foil your opponents as it is about trying to put together a winning hand. It’s this extra layer of malicious strategy that transforms a tried and true card game into something far more entertaining. Sure, it’s a niche offering for card game enthusiasts, but it’s one that endures well beyond its cheater gimmick.
You don’t have to be a poker expert to be able to quickly grasp the underpinnings of Texas Cheat ‘Em, though some familiarity with the card game certainly helps. For those who have little-to-no experience playing the Texas Hold ‘Em poker variant – the only kind of poker offered in this package – extensive tutorials are included to walk you through the rules of the core game and the new cheat-heavy tactics. You have two “hole” cards to work with at the start of each hand and five community cards are sequentially unveiled as the rounds progress. The objective is to build the strongest five-card hand using a combination of your hole cards. It’s still relatively easy to pick up even if you’re not familiar with all the various card combinations and associated scorings, since a handy feature automatically shows you the best possible hand that can be made from the available cards.
The original card game is fun in and of itself, and the slight changes to the way bets are handled and money is doled out in the end (the pot is divided between the top three hands instead of winner-takes-all) are good adjustments to make the game a better fit for the new elements – namely, cheating yourself silly. In each round of a particular hand, you’re given cheat points that can be spent on firing off quick cheats to potentially give you a momentary upper hand. They can also be saved up in order to unleash a string of cheats or engage more powerful cheats that can make a huge impact on the current hand. To keep things interesting, you’re not the only cheater at the table; all of your opponents will make good use of every available opportunities to thwart you and each other throughout every hand. With all kinds of cheats being thrown down from all directions at different times, the tide of each hand can change at a moment’s notice. This unpredictability and chaos makes the gameplay more exciting than a standard hand of Texas Hold ‘Em.
With a total of 15 possible cheats at your disposal, things can get chaotic very quickly. There’s a great mixture of offensive, defensive, and strategic abilities to draw from. Personal vendettas against opponents can be intensified by stealing their chips, switching out one of your “hole” cards for one of theirs, sapping all of their cheat points, and looking at their hand with x-ray vision. A helpful defensive cheat also protects a player from such attacks. Other cheats help you out by letting you modify one of your own cards or a community card, swap out cards from the deck, view the community card before they’re unveiled, fake a bluff, guarantee a win, and even fold without losing your chips.
Of course, cheating isn’t quite that simple. Adding another level of entertainment and complexity into the competition, you’ll have to successfully complete a random mini-game every time you use a naughty ability. These range from playing hi or lo, rolling dice, and blackjack to button-mash racing, roulette, and strength testing. When you or an opponent is cheating, a red sign flashes over the offender’s character portrait. There’s no other indication of exactly what cheats are being used, and adversaries won’t know what’s trouble they’re possibly in until they’re being directly affected by it. In player vs. player cheats, both the attacker and the defender will engage in a mini-game duel – the winner pulls off a successful attack or defense accordingly.
The single-player Career mode consists of four card circuits that are each made up of four challenge matches. Winning a certain number of matches in the first batch will unlock the second match and so forth. Objectives in each challenge tend to fall along a handful of different goals, including accruing a certain amount of money, beating a specific player, beating every player at the table, and accruing the largest amount of money in a specific number of hands. This provides enough options to facilitate some lengthy and challenging solo sessions, and playing against up to seven other players in brutal cheat-riddled online matches is equally entertaining.
Gameplay-wise, Texas Cheat ‘Em delivers, but the overall visual presentation is lacking. Progressing through the Career mode will unlock various background settings to play in. Unfortunately, these static images don’t really mesh with the game visuals, and they come off as looking rather cheap. When you’re not playing against other humans, the character avatars are static and uninteresting. The table itself and cards are functional, if not overly snazzy-looking.
Texas Cheat ‘Em freshens up the classic card game with ample shenanigans that should sit well with casual card players or more experienced poker hounds. Incessant cheating across the board makes each hand fast-paced, unpredictable, and constantly changing. It’s easy to get drawn into multiple hands of this quirky and playful take on poker, even if the game is still pretty niche.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.8 Graphics
Visuals lack cohesion and depth. 3.9 Control
Easy to pick up. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nothing too fancy but nothing offensive. 3.8 Play Value
Cheating makes for a strong improvement on an already solid card game 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.