Poker on the Mac (Part II)

by - Episode 25 - September 3rd, 2004

I ended my last column by saying, "If Hold 'Em is your favorite and the only game you care to play, you'll probably prefer Tournament Poker No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. I'll show you how that one works in my next column." This is that column.

iPoker, which I discussed in Rants & Raves episode 24, is a lot of fun and offers over 100 different variations on the game of poker, many of which I've played in real life. If you want to learn to improve your playing skills and you like to play any variation but Texas Hold 'Em, I recommend iPoker without reservation.

But while iPoker plays a decent game of Hold 'Em, if you really want to improve your Texas Hold 'Em skills or if you hope to someday play in a no limit tournament or in a casino against real poker players, Tournament Poker No Limit Texas Hold 'Em (US$19.99 - Amazon) (TPNLTHE hereafter) by Donohoe Digital is going to be a far better choice.

In TPNLTHE your computer-generated opponents play smarter than the shills in iPoker, which makes sense-they're only programmed to play one game and not the 99 other variations found in iPoker. Another great feature is this: When you fold in TPNLTHE, the winning hand is shown immediately and you can start a new hand without a delay. This is a definite plus if you're trying to improve your Hold 'Em skills 'cause you get to play more hands in less time.

So, when you fold in TPNLTHE, you see what would have been the winning hand instantly and can begin another hand without delay. Although iPoker has a "fast play-out when you fold" option, it still deals cards to all the remaining players, which takes longer. It's not a huge thing but I find myself appreciating the instant-fold feature every time I play TPNLTHE. (As our fearless editor Bryan Chaffin once told me, the key to winning at poker is to always look for a reason to fold, which is good advice indeed.)

OK, then, let's take a look at a game of Hold 'Em in TPNLTHE.

When you start a tournament, you have a choice of several formats as shown in Figure 1.

TPNLTHE lets you play against 1, 10, 40, or even hundreds of opponents.
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The Card Room and Card Room Rebuy formats pit you against 39 computer-generated players at three unseen tables plus the table for 10 you're at. The Heads-up format lets you practice your end-game by pitting you against a single opponent for all the marbles. The Poker Night and Satellite formats simulate 10 player tournaments; the Super Satellite format pits you against 250 opponents; the World Championship formats are just like the real thing, pitting you against hundreds (2003) or thousands (2004) of other (computer) players.

My favorites for a quick(ish) game are the Card Room and Satellite options. In this case I'll choose the 10 player Satellite format you see in Figure 1.

Each tournament starts with one card dealt to each player, which determines who the first dealer will be, as shown in Figure 2.

The player with the highest card deals.

Once that's done, merely click the Deal button or press the D key on your keyboard to deal out the first hand. Figure 3 shows the first hand; the action is to me.

4 players before me have folded; do I call the $15 bet?
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Four players have folded and it's my turn to act. I can Fold (F key), Call the $15 bet (C key), or raise any amount up to the $1,000 I have in my stack. The pot odds aren't so great (21.43%) but I like my ace and having two hearts, so I call. All three players who follow me call the bet and the three common cards (the flop) are dealt-the 6 of clubs, 2 of diamonds, and 4 of spades.

The first player to act, Kinsley, checks; the second to act (Frazer) bets $75, making it my turn to act as shown in Figure 4.

The flop didn't help me so I'm going to fold.
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I don't like my chances of winning (4.47% as shown below my hand) so I folded. As soon as I did (by clicking the Fold button or pressing the F key on my keyboard), the winning hand was revealed, as shown in Figure 5.

Frazer won with a handful of nothing-he didn't even have a low pair.
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Sigh. My ace would have won the hand had I stayed in, but I was looking for a reason to fold and found it-Frazer's $75 bet. I wasn't willing to risk it so I folded and lost out on a $165 payoff. Thanks a lot, Bryan.

When I clicked the Fold button, the screen shown in Figure 5 appeared instantly so I can click the Deal button or press the D key on my keyboard to begin another hand.

And that's how it works. The deal moves around the table with each player taking a turn as dealer. To insure there's always money in the pot, there are two mandatory ("blind") bets made by the two players to the left of the dealer. In this game the blinds start at $10 ("small" or "baby" blind) and $15 ("big blind" or "straddle") and go up every few minutes to a maximum of $500 and $1,000 towards the end of the game when only two or three players remain. You continue to play until you lose all your chips or win all the chips from the other players, just like a real poker tournament.

Last but not least, TPNLTHE offers a handful of options that let you tailor game play to your liking including several "cheats." All of these options can be seen in Figure 6.

The Options screen lets you adjust the game to your liking and even cheat if you must.
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…and that's all he wrote.

P.S. I'll be back in two weeks with something completely different.

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