PokerStars Getting Virtual with PokerStars VR
PokerStars announced on Thursday that it is taking the next leap in online poker, something that many poker fans have been fantasizing about for some time: virtual reality poker. Partnering with Lucky VR, PokerStars VR is currently being tested in a closed beta with only 100 people. The free-to-play game will be available for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Steam.
“PokerStars VR is a chance for us to take this amazing technology and bring something totally unique to poker players,” said Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations at PokerStars, a press release. “Poker is about interaction. It’s been bringing people together for well over a century. We’re really excited to invest in the next generation of the game and to give players the opportunity to meet in a brand new virtual reality dimension.”
PokerStars explains some of the interactive features of PokerStars VR, saying that it “….will give players the chance to play poker in visually stunning game environments, handle chips and cards just as in the real world, study opponents and pick up tells, chat in real time, and keep the tables fun with a host of interactive props.”
PokerStars VR allows players to come together from all over the world in a virtual card room where avatars not only interact around the game, but can dress to impress, socialise, entertain and chat as if in the same room. They can do this while streaming shows or sport and enjoying a variety of virtual items and activities such as ordering food and drinks, sharing sushi, throwing items at each other, or even owning a pet donkey and smoking a cigar (or a cigar-smoking pet donkey if that’s on the wish list).
From novel fun and social interaction to serious poker action, players can also study stats and observe their opponent’s reactions as if physically in the same room, bringing every virtual interaction and action to life. With leaderboards and private tables, there is something for everyone, and players can earn free chips to use at the tables by spinning a virtual wheel every day. In addition, there are five exotic virtual reality settings for players to experience: Macau 2050, The Macau Suite, The Showdown Saloon, Monte-Carlo Yacht, and The Void.
While I am not involved in the testing of PokerStars VR, I have played three different virtual reality poker apps, two of which I reviewed on this site: Poker VR and Texas Hold’em Poker VR (I may get around to reviewing the third).
From what I gathered from the brief, minute and a half marketing video, PokerStars VR looks like it may be a more feature-rich cross between the two VR poker apps about which I wrote. The graphics look a lot like those in Poker VR, though a bit of the immersive effect is lost in PokerStars VR as only the upper half of players’ avatars are visible. In the other two apps, you can see full bodies (which actually gets a little creepy in Texas Hold’em Poker VR, which is a bet over-sexualized).
The ability to watch television shows or sporting events while at the virtual table is a very nice touch. One problem with donning a virtual reality headset is that the rest of the world is shutout. I should say that this is also the key benefit, or else you wouldn’t feel immersed in a fake world, but with something like poker that has a lot of down time, being able to pull up a video screen would be really nice. I could play poker and watch football or something, like I might do in a casino (or at home with my poker buddies).
PokerStars VR, like any virtual reality poker, will not be for the professional grinder, except maybe as a change of pace. There will be no multi-tabling in virtual reality – single table only. Besides, that’s the whole point, to make you feel like you are really at the table. And sure, these games are fairly cartoony-looking, but when you get past that, it does feel quite real. To use a word I’ve used more than once already: immersive. You can talk to people (with your voice, not text chat), look around the room, gesture, peek at your cards, etc. For the most part, you can do whatever you would do in the real world, aside from actually feeling the cards and chips.
As mentioned, PokerStars VR will be available for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Steam. I have played virtual reality poker on the standalone, lower-budget Oculus Go, but upon asking a PokerStars representative informed me that there are no plans to develop the app for the Oculus Go.
“Whilst we are huge fans of the platform,” she said, “for our first foray into VR we wanted to deliver the optimal player experience and as such have focused on the Rift and VIVE.”
Real money poker is also not on PokerStars’ “roadmap” for its virtual reality product at the moment.