For most people, “online poker” means one of two things: playing via an app or playing on a poker site. But a third option has emerged as an alternate category—namely, downloadable PC poker games. These get less attention than the other two; there are fewer of them, and they haven’t truly had the time to build up the reputations typical of poker sites or apps. The truth of the matter though is that they now offer some of the best poker experiences out there. So naturally, it’s worthwhile for poker players to get to know them!
Why PC Games?
One thing to consider is that there are different requirements. Setting up a game on a computer does involve a few more clicks and hardware prerequisites (notably storage) than one needs with a browser-based counterpart. But to call supporting a poker download difficult would still be a stretch.
Due to the large game library at Steam, many who download poker games will do so through this platform. And fortunately it’s a simple platform to install and use for anyone unfamiliar—requiring only that you register a free account, verify your email, and set up a password.
Once you’re in, you’ll find that most of the poker games are free to play, which in turn means that getting straight into a game can be as simple as a few clicks. By contrast, when you play at an online poker site with real money, the process of signing up is typically more involved. You’ll need to create an account, but you’re likely to be asked for a bit more personal information (including your social security number), and you’ll also have to set up a payment method and deposit funds before getting started.
There are of course web-based options that allow you to play for free too—but the downloaded games offer a few more perks. What are those, you might ask?
For one thing, there’s the fact that many of them have an offline play option against bots, which is great for playing in a remote area, or on the go when internet access isn’t guaranteed. There are also the graphics to consider: web-based games are catching up, but for anyone with a decent modern computer, there are downloadable games with real whizzbang graphical fidelity. There’s even a niche of VR titles emerging, for those who want that immersive experience and large field of view (though naturally these games are more demanding on the PC).
All things considered, it’s clear that for those who don’t specifically want to bet on poker, want the option of offline games, or want a full-fat gaming experience, Steam offers some appealing alternatives to web- and app-based games.
Which Specific Games Are Worthwhile?
Starting on the simpler end of the spectrum, those familiar with mobile poker apps might already be aware of HD Poker: Texas Hold’em. The interface will be familiar to anyone who’s played the mobile version, but the extra screen real estate is welcome, and makes it possible to have more displayed on one screen. This is particularly true given that much of what makes HD Poker unique is its background settings. The game sets you up in all sorts of bizarre locations for games; at any given point you might find yourself playing poker in the middle of a basketball court, against a guy in a sombrero and a frog in a suit.
Governor of Poker is essentially a Facebook game, but its built-in progression system makes it great for learning against some of the better AI around. It also appeals to some through its playful (if vague) background narrative involving advancing through a competitive Texas poker circuit. Prominence Poker, meanwhile, offers some similar benefits (progression and strong AI) while also being a more graphically intensive game. And though it’s been around for some years now, we continue to see updates to this poker game, including improved art and UI and new features (like leaderboards).
In the virtual reality space, perhaps the most popular dedicated poker game is PokerStars VR. Its custom avatars—which now include lots of fun Facebook avatars—mean you can cosplay within the game as anyone from James Bond to a Martian empress, as you please. Fun features like this on top of the professional-quality poker gameplay you’d expect from a brand like PokerStars makes for a fairly impressive experience. There are also quite a few VR titles of lesser quality, too, but this is the standout for now.
In short, while playing via a website or mobile app has its conveniences, there are lots of perks to downloadable PC poker games as well. And as you can see, there are several specific games well worth trying out in this space.
We hope this has opened your eyes to a fun new category, and for more on gaming and entertainment please feel free to visit our game culture section.