Where are you spending the holidays? Probably not sat at a poker table. And even if you’re able to play online, there remain plenty of places in the world where the wi-fi isn’t strong enough to play real games with real players for real money.
From a remote cabin in the woods, to a cheap economy flight, to Christmas dinner with your in-laws, say it with us: places without poker are BORING.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of fun, free single-player poker puzzle games you can play on your phone to help scratch that itch. Whether you want to hone your skills, exercise your brain or just have some fun, check out these mobile treats.
1. Poker Showdown
I always love when developers take an existing game-type and add a twist of poker. This is a turn-based combat game set in the wild west; players take on the role of a gunslinger who must face down enemies in a series of duels, with the damage you can output linked to the strength of poker hands you can make.
You’ll only ever be able to see four of your cards at a time, with new ones dropped in as you use them, so there’s always a little unpredictability at play, and an understanding of probabilities and hand strength will serve you well.
New characters, power-ups, special abilities and more keep things fun as you get deeper into the game and its story.
Try it if you like: Advance Wars, Red Dead Redemption
2. DTO – Poker Trainer
Part single-player game, part poker trainer, this app is a great way to sharpen your skills when it comes to playing game theory-optimal hold’em.
It’s not too basic, nor overly complex: you won’t face AI opponents, collect gems or play minigames, and likewise you won’t simply be presented with an endless carousel of charts and graphs.
Instead you’ll be dropped into specific spots and challenged to choose the GTO play from a range of options. Make the right play to collect maximum points, and see how big a streak you can hit of correct GTO decisions. Explanations are always available, whether you’re getting the decisions right or wrong, so you really can improve your understanding as you go.
The app is available for free in cash game and tournament formats, with a big range of further options, spots and set-ups available with a $9.99/m ‘Beginner’ plan or the $39.99/m ‘Pro’ plan.
Try it if you like: Real poker games, but can’t find one
3. Poker Match
Nothing says ‘family fun’ and ‘it’s raining outside’ quite like Boggle: the word game where you jumble up 16 letters and start the timer, before attempting to make words out of the randomized, connected letters. Each round then consists of three-minutes of silence, only broken by frustrated groans from everyone as the professional writer in the family racks up the highest score again (sorry, kids).
Poker Match shakes up the format by a) making it an offline, single-player puzzle game, and b) using cards instead of letters. Drag your finger across the cards to create 5-card poker hands, and those cards will disappear, replaced by new ones that fall from the top. Bigger hands mean bigger points, unlocking new levels as you go.
Try it if you like: Boggle, Candy Crush
As the name may suggest, this game mixes poker with solitaire for an entertaining single-player experience with some fun strategy elements.
You’re dealt a five-card hand, with three cards more from the deck visible and available to be switched into your hand. Just highlight the cards in your hand you want to swap, and swipe them back into the deck – new cards will drop in to – ideally – create strong poker hands. Each time you create a hand, from a pair on up, your five cards will disappear and be removed from play.
You’ll make more points by making stronger hands, but that’s only part of the challenge; as with traditional solitaire, your target is to use every single card in the deck.
Try it if you like: Solitaire, Freecell
5. 5-Hand Poker
This game is one you can play at your own pace, but which sees you matched with a random opponent for a head-to-head duel. These are strictly asynchronous, though, so there’s never any waiting around for another player to make their moves, and you’ll always find a game waiting.
The idea is to build five poker hands, one card at a time, by placing cards in one of five ‘lanes’. The twist is that you cannot add another card to a lane until all lanes contain the same amount of cards, so you’ll need to constantly find places to put ‘inconvenient’ cards that can derail your plans. You can temporarily hold one card in limbo while continuing to place the other cards that come off the deck, and as usual you’ll score more points for making stronger hands.
When you’ve constructed all five poker hands you’ll be scored for each hand you make, as well as how quickly you finish. Win the duel to earn points and rank up.
Try it if you like: Yahtzee, Open-Face Chinese Poker
6. Scatter Hold’em
We’ve deliberately steered away from ‘traditional’ poker games on this list, as playing no-limit hold’em against AI opponents simply doesn’t stand up to the real thing in any way. Scatter Hold’em is as close as we get to traditional poker on this list, and that’s down to the way it brings an element of fantasy to proceedings.
You’ll face up to five opponents in NLHE games set in a number of different fantasy worlds, with various avatars, rewards, and story elements to explore. It can get a little aggressive when it comes to monetization, so if you’re the type who’s easily sweet-talked into buying gems/coins/etc this might be one to skip, but it’s still possible to play for free.
Try it if you like: Hearthstone, Zynga Poker
7. Poker Square
Another game with echoes of solitaire, made for single-players to challenge themselves and hit high scores.
In Poker Square you are presented with a 5×5 grid and must fill it, one card at a time. You can place each card on any available space, and will earn more points for making stronger hands. The tricky part comes when you realize hands are evaluated both horizontally and vertically.
The result is a score-chaser with some depth, as you try to keep track of what cards are still to come, and how to create high-scoring poker hands in every direction.
Try it if you like: Yahtzee, Solitaire