PokerStars Launches Live Dealer Betting Games on Play Money App
On Wednesday, August 15th, PokerStars debuted two live-dealer games on its play money app, PokerStars Play. PokerStars touts these games as the first of their kind on any social-gaming mobile app, however specific that might be. PokerStars Play isn’t really that much of a “social” app, but it does offer free-to-play Hold’em and Omaha cash games, Spin & Go’s, slots, and the new live-dealer games. As with most apps of this type, there are loads of opportunities to get free chips as well as buy chips for real money.
Live-dealer games cropped up years ago, mainly in response to people who were afraid that the random number generator used in online poker was “rigged” and easily manipulated. Having a live dealer that players could watch on their screen could possibly tame their fears. Live-dealer games never really caught on, but in the last couple years, we have seen them gain in popularity as online gaming sites have tried to cater to casual players who prefer a more realistic and slow gaming experience. PokerStars itself has real-money live casino games on PokerStars Casino.
Let’s Boot Up the App
Being the diligent worker bee that I am and in an effort to bring you only the best, hard-hitting journalism available this side of National Geographic, I actually downloaded the PokerStars Play app to take the live-dealer games for a spin. To my surprise, I didn’t have to create a screen name or enter any sort of personal info, as the app just made up a screen name for me (FunkyBull796 ftw!). I would assume, though, that the app links my account to my Google account.
I was unable to jump right into the live-dealer games, unfortunately. Instead, PokerStars Play makes you reach Level 7 before it unlocks said games. Yes, since this is a “social” mobile app, there are experience points (XP) and levels that you can climb. It’s not hard to do, at least. I played some cash games (remember, this is all play money) and some Spin & Go’s, earning XP as I won. Soon enough, I was at Level 7.
War of Bets
I waded into the live-dealer game called War of Bets first. This is ostensibly casino war, though just a passive betting version of it. In a real casino war game, the player and dealer are each dealt a card and whoever has the higher card wins. If there’s a tie, the player can opt to surrender and lose half his bet or double his bet and “go to war,” which means the dealer and player get another card.
In War of Bets, you aren’t playing directly against the dealer. All you are doing is betting on whether the “player” (which is just a generic hand at the table, not you, the actual player) or dealer will be dealt the higher card. The game begins with a pre-deal betting round in which you can bet on the player, dealer, or a tie (I just bet on the tie for the first time and somehow won). The app calculates the proper betting odds for each result. The player is then dealt the first card, which changes the odds, and another opportunity to bet follows (you are never required to bet at any time). The dealer’s card is then dealt and the payouts are determined.
Side bets are also available. You can bet on the color of the cards as well as their value.
All of the dealing is done by a live dealer, as expected; so far every dealer I have had has been an attractive young woman who sounds like she is from an Eastern European country. The cards are giant, so as to be easily seen by the players at home and appear to be imprinted with a barcode. When the dealer pulls them from the shoe, she swipes them over a scanner, which reads the barcode and sends the card ID to the game server so that everything can be calculated properly.
The entire time, the dealer narrates what is going on, often explaining what needs to happen for certain results to occur. Most of the dialogue seems like it is being read off of a screen, but I’m not sure. And while all this is nice, most of the dealers I have had speak very quietly, which makes them difficult to understand.
Bet on Poker
As for Bet on Poker, it literally is a game in which you bet on the results of a poker hand. You are not actually playing a real game of poker with a live dealer.
In this game, there are six spots on the table representing six imaginary poker players. Your job is to pick which of those six players is going to win a hold’em hand. Before any cards are dealt, you can bet on one or more players. Obviously, at this point, they all have equal odds. The dealer then deals each player their hole cards face-up, the odds change, and there’s a pre-flop betting round. Next, the dealer puts out the flop, the odds change again, and there’s another betting round (in this sense, it’s like regular poker). The same thing happens after the turn. Once the river is dealt, the winning hand is determined and payouts are made.
Like in War of Bets, side bets on the value of the winning hand can be made at any time.
One aspect of Bet on Poker I found interesting is that an automatic card shuffler is not used (perhaps this is because of the size of the cards?). After the hand is completed, the dealer fans the unused cards, collects the dealt cards and burn cards, and washes them all in plain view. She then makes the deck tidy and shuffles and cuts the deck several times before returning it to the shoe.
All in all, if you are someone who likes goofing around with play money gambling, the live dealer games on PokerStars Play seem like a nice change of pace. They are certainly very slow – the Bet on Poker hand I am watching right now is taking several minutes – but hey, you get plenty of opportunities to be a degenerate with no risk.