Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 128 / APRIL 1991 / PAGE 92

Card games. (computer card games) (evaluation)
by Harry Bee

Computer card games tend to be odorless and tasteless. Not so with Ante-Up at the Friday Night Poker Club, Video Poker a la Carte, and Edward O. Thorp's Real Blackjack. These three games up the ante on computerized card playing and whet you appetite for challenging, instructive, and visually stimulating entertainment.

The most addictive of the trio is Video Poker a la Carte, which includes six video poker machines. The differences among them are stylistic, and it takes no effort at all to learn them. Deposit your bet, and you're dealt five cards from an antique deck so splendid that anything less than the required EGA graphics couldn't do it justice. You can discard up to all five cards, and the machine pays off after the draw. The better the hand the richer the pot.

In addition to excellent graphics, effortless pay, and seductive appeal, Video Poker is an effective trainer. Able to keep up to ten histories for each machine, it can help you develop profitable playing strategies. It's possible to win more than you lose; you'll learn, but it isn't easy.

EGA graphics aren't necessary to enjoy Ante-Up at the Friday Night Poker Club. The text version plays well on any system. The graphics version offers both an appealing look and mouse support.

You're treated graciously at the Friday Night Poker Club. If you're new to poker, the club pro teaches the mechanics of draw poker, 5-and 7-card stud, and a game called Texas hold 'em. He can also coach you as you play, but don't bank on his advice. I wager that an uncle on the club's board, not skill, got him his job.

When you're ready to play, four of the club's eight members join you. The game lasts till you go broke or they do, but if you lack a poker player's stamina, you can save a game in progress. Each player has his or her own personality, consistent throughout the game. Players' differences are more pronounced at the pot-limit table than at the $5 table, and they play better when the stakes are higher, too.

Ante-Up at the Friday Night Poker Club is a great place to learn poker, practice, and sharpen your skills. The atmosphere is informal, the play is spirited, and the money isn't yours.

In contrast, blackjack is serious business to Edward O. Thorp, who made his reputation and several fortunes winning at cards and beating the stock market. So while Edward O. Thorp's Real Blackjack is as much the tireless dealer as a hundred other blackjack programs, it's also an instructor, a trainer, and a fascinating system for developing strategies for the game of 21.

Play up to six hands yourself or set any of them to play automatically. Five value tables control the way an automatic hand plays, another controls the way it bets, and you control every aspect of all six tables. In addition, you control the way the dealer plays and can vary the house rules to match your favorite casino.

Searching for the perfect blackjack strategy, you'll first try out your ideas by playing manually. The documentation includes descriptions of several card-counting schemes, and the program tracks details like the distribution of cards left to deal and your chances of improving your hand.

When you've found a strategy that may work, you can modify a set of tables and save it. To test your theories, assign different styles to automatic players and play enough hands to see a trend. The program can run through thousands of hands unattended and report the results in detail.

When you've discovered the ultimate blackjack system, you'll want to learn it. Real Blackjack becomes your coach. If you're unsure how op play, or think you've lost count, ask for help. When you're done, the program rates your performance within your system.

Edward O. Thorp's Real Blackjack doesn't look as slick or play as simply as card games that focus on entertainment. It's substantial enough to take as lightly or seriously as you like.