Five-O Poker is a Facebook-based casino card game from Chiki Gaming. The game aims to offer a fast-paced and unconventional twist on traditional “heads up” poker gameplay that is friendly to both casual newcomers and experienced veterans alike. The game has been showing activity on AppData since August of last year, and its user figures peaked in early July 2012 at around 22,600 MAU and 4,000 DAU.
A Five-O Poker match takes the form of a head-to-head battle between two players. Five cards are dealt to each player face-up, and these stacks will become the players’ five different poker hands. Players then take it in turns to draw a face-up card and place it in one of their stacks in an attempt to build as many winning poker hands as possible. The game provides tips as to what hands they may be able to build by placing the current card on each stack — for example, if the player draws a club, the game reminds them that laying it atop another club may help them to build a flush. This is helpful, but there does not appear to be a quick reference guide of which hands beat others within the game — Chiki Gaming offers one on its website, but it would be more beneficial for it to be included as a popup help window in the game.
No stack may have more than one card over and above what the others have, so players must “fill” all their stacks to two, three, four and five cards in sequence rather than focusing exclusively on one hand at a time. The final card in each stack is placed face-down so the other player doesn’t know exactly what hand their corresponding stack is competing against. Once all five stacks contain five cards, the face-down cards are flipped over and each hand is compared to its corresponding rival across the table. Whoever wins the most hands in total is the winner of the game, and if a player beats their opponent with all five hands, that is a “Five-O” win, which is recorded separately. Games left early for any reason are regarded as a loss for stat-tracking purposes, as there is no means to rejoin a game if the player loses connection or navigates away from the page.
The game monetizes entirely through the sale of poker chips with which the game is played. Players receive regular free chips bonuses and can also score additional one-time bonuses for Liking the game’s App Page and publishing the game’s information to their timeline. Those who have friends playing may also send gifts to one another — this may either be a fixed package of 200 chips or a “surprise” package which has the chance of containing considerably more or less than 200 chips. There are no useless vanity items for players to expend currency on — poker chips are used exclusively to play new games.
The game is inherently social in that it is a synchronous multiplayer game. Even the game’s tutorial match pits the player against a live opponent, getting them immediately into the swing of things. A real-time chat facility is available for players to converse with one another during a game, though while playing for this review none of the community seemed particularly talkative, instead preferring to concentrate on the game. This was perhaps a wise decision on their part, as each player’s turn is timed, and running out of time causes a complete forfeit of the game. This is perhaps a somewhat harsh punishment — assigning the inattentive player’s current card to a random stack would have been a rather more friendly solution — but it does at least ensure that players are giving each game their full attention.
Overall, Five-O Poker is an excellent twist on the poker genre. While the scope for bluffing and psyching out other players is a little more limited when compared to a traditional poker game, this is a fun, fast-paced two-player take that is particularly friendly to casual players. The game’s interface is easy to understand, the tutorial is clear and non-condescending, and at the time of writing the game has no difficulty with finding other players against whom to compete — though there often seems to be something of an experience disparity between competitors. During the review process, opponents who had played over a thousand games were regularly showing up much more frequently than less experienced newcomers, for example, making for some comic “David and Goliath”-style matchups. While the game is primarily luck-based in nature, some players may find themselves discouraged when confronted with a “Gold” level player with over 900 wins to their name. This is probably unavoidable, unfortunately, due to the relatively limited number of current users and the game’s apparent slight downward trend in its MAU figure.
Despite this, Five-O Poker deserves to enjoy some success for trying something a little different and doing so in a player-friendly manner. Outside of an initial request to “Like” the game’s App Page in exchange for a chips bonus, the player is never “nagged” to invite friends, share achievements on their wall or spend more money. Instead, these decisions are left up to them, making this game a particularly good choice for those Facebook users who want to play a hand of cards against a live opponent but are wary of some social games’ propensity to spam their Timeline. It’s a shame the game’s user numbers appear to be on the way down — with a renewed marketing push to acquire new users, perhaps the game can enjoy a second wind. It certainly deserves one.
A high-quality, fun one-on-one poker game that deserves to enjoy more success than it has done previously.