PokerStars VR Emerges from Beta, Officially Launches
PokerStars took its new virtual reality product, appropriately named PokerStars VR, out of beta testing last week, making it available to all of its international players. Developed by Lucky VR, the game is compatible with Steam, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. It is currently only a play-money game.
In a press release, Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations at PokerStars, expressed his excitement in now giving nearly all PokerStars customers the chance to play in virtual reality after the 100-player beta test:
When we showcased the product it was amazing to see people really enjoy and become engrossed in the game. We wanted to venture into the world of virtual reality because we believe it is an exciting avenue of technology to explore and something that our players would appreciate. I highly recommend that everyone tries out the game as it can only truly be understood and enjoyed by experiencing it.
As someone who lives in United States, I have unfortunately not been able to try out PokerStars VR, but I do have experience with virtual reality poker using the Oculus Go, the lower-budget, lighter-featured version of the Oculus Rift. The top poker app on the Oculus Go looks very much like PokerStars VR – though it is made by a different developer – so if my experience mirrors that of PokerStars players at all, I can say it is quite fun.
Let me get this out there right now: PokerStars VR is not going to be something that hardcore grinders are going be into. Beyond the fact there is no real-money play involved, it is just a single-table experience, one that moves slower than a single-table online poker game.
But I don’t think that is who PokerStars VR is geared to reach. I would be willing to bet that the target audience for PokerStars VR is the casual poker player, the one who sees poker as more of a game, as more of a form of entertainment than does the serious player. Casual players want to have fun playing poker and as I said above, virtual reality poker is fun! Even if PokerStars VR is available for real money some day (it’s not on the “roadmap,” according to a PokerStars rep), the only thing that will be different is the quality of poker play.
It feel like nearly everything has been done in online poker to this point. Virtual reality is one of the only frontiers remaining. The newest novelty game probably won’t attract brand new players, but something like virtual reality very well might. A while back, I met someone who took an interest in what I did for a living and the first thing he asked about was not, “When will a poker room launch Showtime Hold’em,” but rather, “When are there going to be virtual reality poker rooms?
And for people like me, people who cannot easily get to a real-life cardroom, virtual reality is our best chance to even somewhat feel like we are there. Yes, obviously you are aware that it is a computer program and the player avatars don’t look particularly realistic (though they are human), but trust me ,you can definitely lose yourself in the game for a while when you are in a proper virtual reality environment, and the three platforms PokerStars VR runs on are all very good.
It’s all part of how the hardware and software trick your brain. You know you are sitting on your couch, but when you turn to your right and look at the player next to you and that player turns to look at you and you start looking each other up and down and then you turn all the way around and see an entire poker room surrounding you, well, it’s really weird when you suddenly rest your hand on a throw pillow that’s there in real life but doesn’t exist in the virtual world.
I have also had to keep myself from reacting to other players. How often do you shake your head in disgust at a stupid play by your opponent that paid off? Always? Constantly? In PokerStars VR, your opponents can see you do this. Also, try not to ogle the fake curves of the player in seat six – she can see you. And when you double-check your hole cards to make sure you have a flush draw, everyone at the table will know it.
If you have an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Steam rig, I highly suggest you give PokerStars VR a whirl (or any VR poker app, if you’re like me and don’t have a supported device). Since it’s just for play money, you might get a little tired of having eight players in every flop and players with J-7 offsuit win hand after hand, but it is a really enjoyable departure from what sometimes feels like the same-old, same-old.