America's fascination with all things poker has resulted in its permeation of our televisions, magazines, and, naturally, game consoles. The pinnacle of its myriad variants these days is the ubiquitous Texas Hold 'Em , with its psychological nature and tournament style of play. It seems you can't shake a stick in any direction without pointing to a Hold 'Em tourney somewhere (legalities notwithstanding). Gaming companies have seized upon this phenomenon, unleashing dozens of poker video games upon the landscape, of varying quality and styles. Stacked by Daniel Negreanu enters the fray, backed by a big name in the game and a laser beam-like focus on Texas Hold 'Em as its one and only subject.
The luck of the draw
If nothing else, Stacked serves as a tremendous teaching and training tool. Mr. Negreanu, the game’s cover boy, doesn’t assume you know everything (or anything) about the game and is willing to teach you the basics, should you be inclined to listen. While Stacked is an ideal starting point for poker newbies like yours truly, based upon the immediate reaction from some card-savvy friends it also appeals to those who know their “big blinds” from their “all-ins”. People who just plain like to play poker at any time will get a kick out of the practice. It's easy to jump in, start playing, and win (or lose) a bunch of virtual chips.
There are three main areas of play, all depending upon what suits your fancy at the time - Quick Mode, Career Play, and Online. If you're itchin' to jump right in to some card dealing, Quick Mode will put you at a table in an instant. Online play will get you betting and bluffing in the wilds of Xbox Live, with the obligatory leader boards, tournaments, entertaining opponents and random jerks.
The career mode is the true single player game, and offers the most depth and continuity. For starters, you'll create of a customized character that will embark upon a quest to go from playing people from the neighborhood for small stakes to staring down the biggest stars of the circuit. Be warned, it's not an easy or quick climb up the ladder. After all, no matter how good you may think you are, the cards will decide your fate, and they're not always kind. In addition, the rivals that you'll face will do their best to keep you from winning each step of the way.