All In?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Let us be clear at the outset, I suck at poker. I like the idea of poker, the game itself always looked cool and alluring when portrayed in fiction. A crippling fear of losing my hard earned monies always kept me away from learning the most basic rules of the game. I even had a good opportunity back in ancient days, when I dated a professional poker dealer, to learn the game, but I still didn't pick up a thing.

Poker Night 2 is effectively my only real exposure to playing any kind of poker so you will have to forgive me, dear readers, if I have missed some of the finer (or lesser) points of Telltale's portrayal of the ever popular card game.

First thing, Poker Night 2 is not lacking in character. Telltale upped the ante (see what I did there!) from the original Poker Night at The Inventory's cast, populating the game with gaming/comic/cartoon favorites - Brock Sampson (Venture Brothers), Claptrap (Borderlands), Ash Williams (Army of Darkness), Sam (Sam & Max), and GLaDos (Portal) with respective tertiary characters to boot. That cast of players is plenty enough to make any geek squee with joy. I had a little hesitation initially upon learning that Ash Williams was not voiced by the iconic Bruce Campbell, but a Mr. Danny Webber. Among Webber's previous work was "Birdemic" and "Birdemic 2" which didn't fill me with confidence. Much to my surprise Webber did an excellent job of voicing Ash Williams and I would be hard pressed to find another voice actor that could do a competent job replicating Bruce Cambell's distinct voice.

I honestly wasn't sure, given my nearly complete and total ignorance of poker's structure that I would enjoy Poker Night 2 at all. Telltale's introductory to the two styles of poker available in the game (Texas Holdem' and Omaha) are simple and straight forward, thought the game itself is deceptively complicated with the "human" element of bluffing key to it's function. I am sad to say that even though the game provides tutorials, an easy cheat sheet of possible hands, and the ability to order drinks for characters to loosen their tells, I remain dismal poker player.

Fortunately for the player, characters and their entertaining banter are well worth struggling through one losing hand after another. I didn't expect that all the "extras" (dialog, in game props and bonuses, obscure jokes) in any video game could keep me playing while I lose thousands of fictitious dollars at every turn. Even though Lady Luck had dumped me for "I-Only-Know-One-Dave-Matthews-Song Guitar Guy" every single tournament, I never felt bereft of company or amusement with Brock, Sam, Ash, Claptrap, and GlaDos belittling me about my life choices.

As lovely a way to spend an afternoon Poker Night 2 is, it never did cure me of my fear of losing money. I am currently $200,000 imaginary dollars in the hole and terrified that they are going to send Brock to collect.