As online poker
technology has grown with leaps and bounds, so too has the ambition to recreate the brick-and-mortar live poker experience within a virtual reality model. Numerous attempts have been made to provide a realistic 3D graphical interface for online poker players
, but few sites have had any true success in this arena.
One issue that plagued all 3D virtual world creators - not just 3D poker endeavors, but also chat rooms and other 3D gaming genres - at the turn of the last century was the tremendous drain on system resources in order to run virtual reality interfaces. The graphics, sounds and animations proved to be far too intensive for the average home computer to process smoothly. These days, however, most modern computers manufactured within the last five years will meet the minimum system requirements needed to run the latest 3D poker software
without hang-ups or glitches.
The very first online poker room
to advertise the release of a 3D poker environment was True Poker. Launching the site in May of 2001 with graphics superior to most existing 2D poker sites, the 3D interface failed to meet the expectations of players who had envisioned the latest in video-game quality technology.
Several attempts were made by various companies to provide a more impressive 3D poker experience, but most either ran out of money before completion, or were simply too taxing on players' systems. Stacks Poker is one example of a company that released very promising preview videos of their 3D poker endeavor in 2006, but the design never made it past the beta-testing phase because the project ran out of funding.
The first truly successful virtual reality 3D poker site came in 2006 with the launch of UK-based, PKR. PKR
managed to develop a truly advanced and impressive 3D poker interface with richly textured virtual environments. The online poker site has maintained an impressively substantial traffic count to this day - especially in tournaments.
In 2007, Ladbroke's announced an upcoming 3D Poker software release in cooperation with software developer Pokerwize; an online gaming division of Playwize, the creators of the 3D Playwize Poker for PC, PS2 and PSP. However, both Pokerwize and Ladbrokes have since suspended their 3D poker downloads
What has made PKR so triumphant in the realm of 3D Poker, despite a seemingly doomed market, appears to be a combination of sufficient funding invested in the software development, successful marketing strategy, and a dedication to provide all of the aspects of live poker that 2D online poker lacks. Giving players the tools to create a completely unique in-game character, the PKR shop offers (for 15,000 points) the ability to have a 3D model of one's own face and head rendered in order to create a more true-to-life avatar. In addition, players at PKR have a full range of "emote controls" that can be used to convey "tells" (as well as fake tells) through body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures.
PKR has unfailingly managed to stay on top of the 3D Poker market since 2006. The only downside is that PKR, like many online poker sites
based in the U.K., is not available to U.S. players for real money games. However, Americans who would like to try out PKR's 3D Poker experience may still enjoy the "play money" games, but the ability to deposit or play freerolls
will be off-limits.
A multitude of 3D poker games
have been released for every video game console, including the PC, Xbox, PlayStation2 and 3, Nintendo DS, GameCube, Game Boy Advanced and PlayStation Portable (PSP). The most engaging of these tend to be based on major poker tournaments
, such as the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour, providing a larger game selection and long-term character improvements. However, the AI for 3D Poker video games is typically leaves something to be desired, and is incomparable to competing against real poker players.
Some of the 3D Poker video games, such as World Poker Tour, allow multiple players to connect and compete online, set up poker leagues
with friends, and create custom poker games with specific rules and betting limits. World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions 2007 Edition allows Xbox 360 players to map their own likeness with the camera for their in-game character, and accumulate experience points, which unlock the ability to check hand odds.
A Playfish 3D poker game available on Facebook, called Poker Rivals, provides the simulated feel of a real online poker room with avatars and tables that can be customized. Players can use the play money earned at the tables to buy makeovers and clothing for their avatars, though the selection of styles to choose from is quite limited. An array of body language actions are available at the tables in Poker Rivals, including slam fist, chuckle, think, hurry up, celebrate, thumbs up, thumbs down, and ashamed. Unfortunately, there is no first person view or facial expressions, and the player traffic and game selection aren't very strong.
For online poker players who enjoy a greater sense of community and social interaction, 3D poker introduces a more realistic, life-like experience. The ability to "see" other players, and perform physical actions creates a simulation of actually being there. This can be quite gratifying for the player seeking that "home game" or "live casino" feel.
However, 3D poker cannot match the speed of a 2D poker game for those who play poker
for the income. The more serious poker players, who put "hands per hour" and the ability to play upwards of six tables or more at once above graphical entertainment, will likely remain in the realm of 2D poker no matter how prevalent or popular 3D poker may become in the future.