Texas Cheat 'Em, if nothing else, is one of the most interesting poker games to be released in a video game format in recent memory. Starting with a game already built around strategy and bluffing, it adds a whole new tactical layer, actually encouraging players to cheat rather than play it straight and narrow. While adding depth to the card game, Texas Cheat 'Em remains easy to grasp both for poker veterans and newcomers. Even if you're one of those folks that don't what a flush is or what the game is talking about when it says you have two pair, Texas Cheat 'Em has you covered. Beginners have easy access to a series of well-written tutorials that explain the game rather in depth, complemented by a status bar that plainly tells you at all times if you have a hand - and better yet, how high it is on the poker (or "Texas hold 'em," to be exact) scale.
If you're the sort that likes to just jump into games, as long as you have a running knowledge of poker, you should be fine. The cheating mechanic is rather self-explanatory. There are a wide variety of cheats that can be used, but their names alone pretty much describe what they do, and the mini games you have to play in order to execute them generally involve little more then mashing buttons or involving yourself in more gambling-centric activities. That said, the in-game lessons on cheating still provide some useful insights and, considering their brevity, it won't harm the average player too much to spend a few minutes skimming through them. In addition to straight text, there are a few interactive lessons, just in case you're still lost after everything.
It's unspeakably more satisfying to know you messed up another person's hand rather than just the computer's.
The gameplay itself is solid. Poker is fun, and it is only made more so by the added ability to cheat without reprimand. In addition to standard moves like betting and assembling a good hand, you - and your opponents - are allowed to reshape the game by executing cheats. Don't like one of your cards? Change it. Don't like the public cards? Change those. Don't like your opponents cards? Feel free to take a shot at them, too. There really isn't much that is off limits in Texas Cheat 'Em.
At the same time, however, the game balances well. Many of the cheats are easy to use, requiring only the successful completion of generally easy mini games. The most powerful cheats, however - e.g., the instant win cheat - are hard to do, and something to keep in mind is that your opponents have access to all the same powers you do, and as you increase the game's difficulty they become more willing to use them against you. Furthermore, you are limited in how many cheats you can perform. You build up points over time, and each time you cheat you spend some of them. Depending on the strength of the cheat, the cost might be more or less expensive. The game does a good job of limiting itself wisely.
In addition to the single-player mode, Texas Cheat 'Em allows for online play, which is always a plus. That is the case here as well, as the game is taken to a whole new level of crazy when you're competing against other people. The AI's cheating pales in comparison to what humans will do, and while it can get a bit too nuts at time, it's unspeakably more satisfying to know you messed up another person's hand rather than just the computer's.
Ultimately though, Texas Cheat 'Em suffers from the fact that beyond a few play modes the game is relatively scant when it comes to content. If you are a devoted fan of poker, this might not bother you, but for the rest of the world Texas Cheat 'Em might get old a bit too fast. It's not that it isn't fun, it just might not be fun enough to merit a long-term commitment for most people.