Zynga Plus Poker is a new real-money gaming service from the social gaming giant. At present, it is available in the U.K. — its availability in other territories will depend on local laws relating to online gambling. Zynga Plus Poker is one of two real-money gaming services that the company has launched recently — the other being Zynga Plus Casino, which we explored yesterday.
Like Zynga Plus Casino, Zynga Plus Poker is playable both via a dedicated client app that is available for both Windows and Mac machines, and via the Web in a Java-based “Instant Play” pop-up window. There are currently a few issues when attempting to run the Web-based version of Zynga Plus Poker in certain browsers such as Chrome on the Mac, but Safari and Firefox offer a more reliable experience, and Zynga is aware of the problems. Players are pushed very strongly in the direction of the downloadable client from the service’s front page.
As with Zynga Plus Casino, Zynga Plus Poker requires players to sign up for a proprietary account in order to play — though if they already have an account for Zynga Plus Casino, this may be used for Zynga Plus Poker and vice versa. Any balance that the player has in their account can be shared between the two games, though at the time of writing I encountered some issues where all of my real-money balance was regarded as “restricted” and thus it did not appear to be possible to bring it into real-money games. It’s not clear whether this is a problem with the service or if there are some prerequisites that I have not met, and the help function in the app itself does not do a very good job of explaining what a “restricted” balance is or why it is restricted.
Again, like Zynga Plus Casino, Zynga Plus Poker offers “Play Money” games for players to get a feel for the game and how it works without having to risk their real money. There are also some tables known as “Welcome Lounge” games specifically designed for beginners — these are only accessible by players who have less than 15 “poker played days” on their account — defined as days in which they actively played poker and generated rake.
Unlike many other online poker services — particularly those focused on social rather than real-money play — Zynga Plus Poker allows for games other than the popular Texas Hold ‘Em variant, including Omaha and 7-Card Stud. The client allows players to filter the available tables by the type of game they would like to play, the size of the table, the size of the stakes and the gameplay speed. There’s also a special “Fast Forward” mode, whereby wait times are minimized by allowing the player to immediately hop between tables when they finish a hand either through folding or winning. There are also a series of “Sit & Go” games, and a variety of tournaments on offer, many of which are multi-table affairs. Players may have multiple tables on the go at once, and a “stack” function allows for the management and/or observation of multiple games simultaneously. Regular special events and tournaments help keep players coming back for more on a regular basis.
The actual poker game itself is presented in a straightforward, clear manner. Players can see at a glance the status of the other players, including their bankroll, and may make use of a real-time chat facility to communicate with others. To facilitate speedy play, turn timers are implemented and players are also able to “queue” actions to perform when their turn comes around. Players may also take private notes on other players if they find themselves coming up against the same opponents regularly and start to recognize their strategies, and a detailed statistics function allows the player to evaluate their performance.
The client is largely a non-flashy, no-frills sort of experience, largely using default OS fonts and interface elements. This gives the package a rather “businesslike” appearance, but this is presumably intentional to allow players to focus on the game rather than audio-visual chrome. The interface is highly customizable, however — players may select from two different deck designs, choose their preferred on-screen seating position and adjust various elements of how the interface works if desired. The default options work just fine, but for those who are serious about their online poker, the ability to fully customize the experience will doubtless be welcomed.
Since Zynga Plus Poker uses the same account as Zynga Plus Casino, it also uses the points-based reward system that allows users to earn higher membership tiers and real-world prizes the more they play. Players earn two points for every $1 they contribute in rake. This is a relatively complicated system to understand as it is dependent on a large combination of factors, but Zynga is at least transparent about how it is calculated via a help page on the Zynga Plus Poker site. As with Zynga Plus Casino, earning points is a painfully slow process for those who only play small-stakes games, and is completely impossible for those who only play with “play money.” It does, however, allow dedicated players the opportunity to be rewarded for continued play, and for a variety of “prizes” to be won, ranging from Apple laptops and iPads down to smaller rewards such as decks of cards.
On the whole, Zynga Plus Poker appears to be a much more solid experience than the slightly buggy Zynga Plus Casino. It offers a variety of different games for poker fans to challenge themselves, and while it perhaps could be a bit more accessible to newcomers, it’s not really designed for those who are completely new to the game. Inexperienced poker players should cut their teeth on risk-free social poker games such as Zynga’s own Facebook and mobile offering, and then graduate to a more complex real-money affair such as this one when they have become comfortable with the game and how to play it against others.
While it’s not the flashiest online poker experience available, Zynga’s real-money offering is a solid choice for those seeking a risky, potentially rewarding challenge.