PokerStars VR review

Barry Carter was one of the first people to try the new VR offering from PokerStars, find out what he thinks it means for the game.

PokerStars VR
PokerStars VR

This week PokerStars announced their Virtual Reality free play social poker game PokerStars VR. I was well aware of this because last month I got to test it out at EPT Barcelona at a special media event.

Previously in my writing about VR and poker I have been curious and somewhat cynical, in no small part down to the fact that I am behind the times where gaming is concerned. So this event was also the first time I had ever put on a VR headset at all. It is still very much the early days where VR is concerned, but first and foremost I was blown away by how immersive the game, and VR in general, already is.

You have a weird first couple of minutes as you are acclimatising to the digital poker room, but it is surprising how quickly you forget you are in a virtual world. In fact, by far the weirdest part of the whole experience is when it ends and you take the headset off. It feels like you have been awoken from a dream and you become very aware that you have been oblivious to the real world for quite some time.

Onto the game itself and it is very intuitive, after a few teething problems while you learn the ropes, actions like peeling your cards, picking up chips, throwing in a bet and going all in feel pretty natural. It was a bit manic at the table but that was mostly because everyone playing the game, like myself, was experiencing it for the first time so we were all doing silly stuff like throwing food at each other. You can talk to everyone else at the table using voice chat and this might have been the best feature from a long term perspective. The one thing that has always been missing from online poker was the social aspect you get from live poker, and while I cannot ever see this being a serious real money pursuit (there are no immediate plans for this to be other than free play) there is a potentially fun home game aspect to it.

The social side of poker

PokerStars VR
Will VR fans want to play a table game?

At the event there was a mix of poker media and general tech and gaming journalists. The tech people were picking the game up way easier than those of us who know poker very well and they were getting into it much more. While I was struggling with the controls (being an old fart and all) they were already making friends at the table and throwing their chips around. My wife was at the event and she is incredibly tech savvy, and she was an absolute natural at it.

This bodes very well for PokerStars VR. Make no mistake, this is not a product for serious poker players (and probably for a very long time, real money players), this is literally as advertised, a social free play gaming product. But that isn’t a bad thing for poker in general, because this clearly designed to attract new people to poker who otherwise wouldn’t consider it. We saw this week Lex Veldhuis stream to over 30,000 people, many of whom are new to poker, and this is another new platform to bring people into the game, and showcase the social side of it rather than the competitive side.

Virtual reality is inevitable, it’s coming whether we like it or not. Right now the barrier to entry for gamers is the cost of a headset which start around £399 (right now I believe there are only around a million people who have the hardware to play VR games), but it is only a matter of when, not if, the price of VR headsets become affordable and perhaps an integrated part of the next Playstation or Xbox console. When that happens, there is going to be a poker game already there waiting for people to try.

I’m not sure how alluring poker will be when VR will give people the chance to slay dragons or race F1 cars from the comfort of their home, but this does seem like the best shot at capturing the social aspect of live poker that we don’t see so much online. It may be a sad note to end on, but I’m increasingly reading about how gaming is becoming a lonely endeavour for some people, so there might be more demand for games where you can chat around a table than it first seems.

Do you like the look of this game? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (6)

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  • mbml


    hmm voice chat needed to be in place long ago i think, but that's available in Pokermaster and other chinese platforms
  • jonny1971


    # 1 some always pokerstars take something good ore little and think the be good pokerstars have always do that LOok on zoom and spin and go and some more the are not pokerstars som was first on that
  • OldSchoolPapa


    @jonny1971 except that Pokerstars are not the 1st to make it to
    Poker VR. Maybe the 1st of the main poker rooms but already played poker in VR with customised Avatars long time ago. :)
  • nsavov


    Can you punch russians, or at least flip the off?
  • anduke


    let's escape the reality, even more, everyone, that's the future! ;)
  • k0kki3


    Yes, because truth hurts