Tech Trends
Published in

Tech Trends

PokerStars VR is Something New

Played poker before? Not like this, you haven’t! The world’s leading poker brand, PokerStars, has combined live and online poker in a truly immersive & social VR experience.

I don’t often see a new VR experience that makes me gasp or more significantly, excites me like I was first excited by this medium. However, the world’s largest online poker site and tournament organiser PokerStars have pulled one such experience out of the bag here.

An exciting and innovative experience for new and existing players, PokerStars VR is a free-to-play, authentic and immersive social poker game, which will give players the chance to play poker in visually stunning game environments, handle chips and cards just as in the real world, study opponents and pick up tells, chat in real time, and keep the tables fun with a host of interactive props. PokerStars

Now to be honest I hear pitches about new VR experiences every day but as with everything, the proof is in the pudding. Tech Trends flew over to sunny Barcelona last month to get a sneak peek at this new game and stood in a room full of journalists watching them all disappear into one of the most immersive and engaging social VR experiences yet. I have stood in many rooms like this but have never seen an experience suck in so many people so fast. In seconds they were laughing, chatting and playing with PokerStars VR Beta testers scattered all over the U.S. They were acting like VR natives, truly through the looking glass and they didn’t give a damn. It was a strange and thrilling experience.

At this point, it’s worth explaining a bit more about exactly what PokerStars VR is. It allows players to come together from all over the world in a virtual card room where avatars not only interact around the game but can dress to impress, socialise, entertain and chat as if in the same room. They can do this while streaming shows or sport and enjoying a variety of virtual items and activities such as ordering food and drinks, sharing sushi, throwing items at each other, or even owning a pet donkey and smoking a cigar (or a cigar-smoking pet donkey if that’s on the wish list). Initially offering the No-Limit Hold’em version of poker, the multiplayer game currently runs on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Steam.

PokerStars VR is a chance for us to take this amazing technology and bring something totally unique to poker players,” said Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations at PokerStars. “Poker is about interaction. It’s been bringing people together for well over a century. We’re really excited to invest in the next generation of the game and to give players the opportunity to meet in a brand new virtual reality dimension.

OK, so it’s a new way to play poker right? Well yes, but it is so much more. The social side of PokerStars VR is where this experience shines and why people will stick with it once they are hooked. There are five exotic virtual reality settings for players to experience: Macau 2050, The Macau Suite, Monte-Carlo Yacht, and The Void and once I got the chance I jumped into the western style Showdown Saloon to get a taste myself. Wow, PokerStars and their partners on this project Lucky VR have worked some magic!

The scenes, table, objects and avatars are beautifully rendered, they have built a world where you really want to be. A world where you can chat live with your fellow players, play a little poker and shoot the shit with a cigar, a beer or a donkey. Sounds good right? But it is the quality of this virtual world that makes this experience stand out from anything else I have tested, it really is fast, now what I mean is that the interface functions at the speed of the person immersed in it.

Unlike platforms including Altspace VR and Windows Mixed Reality the interface feels natural and keeps pace with the user. If you have transported around the Cliff House and played with the objects and wall interfaces you will know that it is laggy and the controls are not instinctive to use, every action is preceded by a pause as you think about what you need to do. PokerStars VR has the most instinctive and natural feeling VR interface I have used meaning social interactions are in real time so it doesn’t feel like you are all on an international conference call with a second delay.

If the Poker game is your principle interest players can also study stats and observe their opponent’s reactions as if physically in the same room, bringing every virtual interaction and action to life. With leaderboards and private tables, there is something for everyone, and players can earn free chips to use at the tables by spinning a virtual wheel every day. But the glorious design of the smoothly rendered environments combined with the natural social interplay is far more powerful than the Poker action and is what will make this a huge success.

We want to provide something different and we are not planning to allow real money, the most important aspect for us is social. We want something that is not heavy poker playing, you can still stare out your opponent but you’re not playing for your life, you’re not risking your savings. It’s a free game so it’s not so serious, it’s more about the community and social interaction.” Explained Severin.

PokerStars operates the world’s most popular online poker sites, serving the global poker community. Since it launched in 2001, PokerStars has become the first choice of players all over the world, with more daily tournaments than anywhere else and with the best online security. More than 182 billion hands have been dealt on PokerStars, which is more than any other site. PokerStars VR does not feature live betting but if you do gamble remember to play responsibly! For more information on responsible gaming please visit their website here.

The product was also previewed this week in Birmingham at EuroGamer, the UK’s biggest games event. I demand you try it out whenever you can, as well as being an excellent VR experience that will keep you coming back for more it is another real step forward for the medium and another reminder of the power of VR when done right.

Tom Atkinson is a Digital Producer & Photographer at R3Digital and Reviews & Dept. Editor at Tech Trends. Connect on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @R3Digital



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Alice Bonasio

Alice Bonasio

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications