As much as the world of poker stays the same, there are always those that are looking for the next great innovation. This leads to the creation of new and different games, like “Short Deck Hold’em” that is currently sweeping the poker world, and the innovation of the “big blind ante” instead of everyone putting up an ante. In the online industry, that innovation has extended to the way the product is presented, and the #1 online poker room in the industry, PokerStars, is stepping into some uncharted waters.
PokerStars recently introduced a virtual reality method of playing its games. Called PokerStars VR, it is available for download wherever PokerStars is available and through the Oculus and Viveport stores and the video game outlet Steam. Billing it as a combination of “live and online poker” PokerStars VR was developed with Lucky VR and, according to a press release from PokerStars, “provides the perfect mix of serious gameplay, fun interactivity and social engagement that adds a whole new poker realm for players and gamers to explore.”
“When we showcased the product, it was amazing to see people really enjoy and become engrossed in the game,” said Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations at PokerStars. “We wanted to venture into the world of virtual reality because we believe it is an exciting avenue of technology to explore and something that our players would appreciate. I highly recommend that everyone tries out the game as it can only truly be understood and enjoyed by experiencing it.”
Players can choose between a list of playing locations, such as Macau 2050, The Macau Suite, The Showdown Saloon, Monte-Carlo Yacht, and The Void. Through the controls of the VR device, they can also handle the chips and cards, pick up on tells from their opponents, and speak and interact with their tablemates as if they were actually playing. The game also has other features and can be integrated with Twitch broadcasting and media streaming on Oculus Rift for those who wish to play and stream.
A video on YouTube displays what the play of PokerStars VR is supposed to look like and, for some, it might take some time to get used to (or not be interested in at all). The video shows very stylish surroundings, with flashy lights and even fireworks in a “virtual” sky above players’ heads, but the actual components to creating the opposition looks problematic. In some cases, the opponents are torsos floating in the air with a couple of hands that just hang in the air with no arms to support them. Now, I’m no VR expert, but I would think that there would be a bit more development into that area to fill in the blanks.
The video also shows a very “herky jerky” movement. That is one of the main complaints of VR, however, is that you have to be controlled in your head movements (the VR devices enclose the eyes with a visor) to be able to control what you’re looking at. And, if it is a PokerStars product, it’s got to have Daniel Negreanu in it; he appears for a quick second on what looks to be a VR television screen to say something along the lines of “lots of action on that board.”
Is it something that will take off in the poker community? Well, poker players aren’t exactly known for their warm reception to new products. 3D technology has been tried by several online poker rooms, but it has failed to capture the masses attention. Interactive play would seem to be a natural thing for an online site to try – connecting players through headsets (to hear), microphones (to speak) and video cameras (to see each other) – but many players would rather be interested in concentrating on their games, not to mention there’s that “anonymity” thing that online players enjoy. If PokerStars has gotten behind it, however, then there might be some who will latch on to the new technology and make it successful.