Let's get one thing straight -- I love poker. I love everything about the game, from betting to bluffing.
But damn it, Poker video games just aren't fun.
The industry keeps trying, with big budget games like "World Championship Poker 2," all the way down to "Texas Hold 'Em" on XBOX Live. Every game tries to excite you by incorporating online play, improved AI, or even the occasional "play against the pros."
None of them get it right.
In order to succeed, a poker game needs to revamp three things:
Problem: What's to stop you (or any other moron online) from going "All-In" with a 2 and a 7? Without anything truly riding on the game, players are free to bet like lunatics. They can always just join another game with their imaginary money.
Solution: You obviously can't use real money (that's probably illegal, not to mention the danger that could stem from modders/cheaters). Instead, set up an imaginary fund that actually LEADS to something. All players start with 5000 "points" which will enter them in an online tournament. However, if you use up your points, you have to play through the campaign (single player) to get more. You can always play for free in multiplayer, but the ranked tournaments will cost you those points. Use the money you win in ranked tournaments to enter higher stakes (ie more $ exclusive) games. So what makes you keep playing? The points are WORTH something. Let's say it's for 360 -- wouldn't you play to earn 1,000,000 points if you knew it was good for 100 MS points? Maybe not an equal amount, but something to keep the players honest and competitive. Speaking of which...
Problem: Who the hell am I playing against? You can't really tell when a player is bluffing based on the amount of time that has run off of the timer. Most games support a camera, but no game enforces it.
Solution: Package it with the game. Seriously. Most poker games are basement/budget ($20), every major console supports a camera (not 100% sure about the Wii, but I'll bet it does). Make the game $50, and package a camera that normally costs $40. Might increase your sales, and it makes players MUCH MORE LIKELY to use it.
Problem: In regular poker, you have to keep your opponent on their toes, and be able to read them accordingly. To do this, you have to be creative. In most poker games (especially when playing against the AI), there are no "tells."
Solution: Nothing a little innovation won't fix. Add some ways to read the player, no matter how good he is. For example, on the Wii, a player might have to make a gesture with his arm to put chips into the pot. With the motion sensitivity, you could tell if that hand was shaking, was quick, smooth...etc.
Take heed, poker players. I'm waiting.