Review: World Series of Poker 2008 – Battle for the Bracelets (Nintendo DS)

In this review, we bet on the game World Series of Poker 2008 – Battle for the Bracelets. We find out how well this gambling game plays.

This game was released in 2007. We previously played the game World Series of Poker on the Playstation 2. That game got a fairly mediocre score. So, we thought we’d try this game to see how well it plays.

There’s really no story to this game. You just enter the World Series of Poker tournament as a rookie and play to win. As you progress, you may be invited to some cash games where you get treated to an intro video along the way, but that’s about it.

For those who previously played World Series of Poker on the Playstation 2, you might recall just how many different varieties of Poker there were. This includes 7 card stud, Razz, Hi-Lo split, and, of course, Texas Hold’em. It might be tempting to think that there is the same kind of variety in this game. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. Whether it is some kind of limitation with the system or some other reason, the only game you’ll be able to play is Texas Hold’em from beginning to end.

While that is a pretty big limitation, that’s not to say that there isn’t variety in this game. You are treated to slight variations of the game. This includes pot limit, limit, no limit, and even a heads up tournament where you get the opportunity to try and “beat the brat”. In addition to this, if you perform well enough in a tournament game, you have the chance to unlock various cash games with differing buy-in amounts. In those games, you can leave at any time and keep your earnings (or eat your losses, depending on how well things worked out for you).

Another side feature is the ability to play quick play where you can set the rules. You can choose blind size, starting chips, and various other limits if you want them in there.

Finally, for beginners, this game features a small “poker school” section. You can have Phil Hellmuth guide you through a preset hand where he gives some thoughts on how it plays out. In addition, you have Same Hand Jam where you pick any two cards in the deck you want to play with and play that hand every hand.

Some might dismiss this idea as pointless, but players are given the chance to see how hands develop while removing the variances in your hand. For instance, if you pick King ten suited, the flop can show 3, 7, king. This will frequently play very favourably for you and you can choose to slow play your hand or push everyone out of the pot with a big bet right off the bat. However, if the flop comes Queen, Queen, four, and someone is making a big bet against you, you might be more tempted to fold the hand because, at best, you might catch a runner runner straight or pair your king for a big two pair.

If you’re new, this may actually be of minor help in giving you insight into how hands develop without having to worry about what you’re going to get dealt next. It’s not a be all and end all learning tool, but it’s not completely useless either.

There are also sections where you can read the general rules of the game as well.

When you start a new career, a critical selection you can make is your difficulty. Obviously, if you’re new to the game, you would be more inclined to pick the easier difficulty. While it may help you hone your skill, you’ll also get to take on fewer tournaments. In fact, you are reduced down to a mere 7 tournaments throughout the game. Additionally, by the time you complete the game, you might only be able to unlock half the cash games.

Alternatively, you can pick the hardest difficulty and have the ability to unlock everything. Just know that poker tournaments are hard. If everyone is at the top of their game, you might want to get used to being eliminated before the bubble frequently because the odds are definitely more stacked against you.

As you play different tournaments, you’ll notice various screen options locked at the beginning. As you become more successful in your tournament career, screens will gradually unlock. This can include readouts of pot odds, outs, and a number of other statistical features that can help you along the way.

Tables generally have 9 seats total. As players get eliminated, the seats will get refilled. This only happens, of course, if you are left with less then half the table left (4). Who joins your table is seemingly random. Sometimes, you’ll get players that have little more than 4 big blinds left. Other times, you’ll wind up with a nice selection of tournament leaders to challenge you.

If you get lucky enough to reach the final table, you’ll get treated to a nice purple felt look and everyone left standing in the tournament vying for a bracelet. Winning a bracelet is, of course, an incredibly difficult accomplishment, but, if you do, you’ll not only earn a major boost in your bankroll, but also a boost in Player of the Year (POTY) points. Make it to the end of your career and, if you get enough points, you’ll win player of the year as well.

Of course, winning tournaments isn’t the only way to earn points and bankroll (though it helps substantially). What you probably should focus more on is the statistic on “bubble” placement. If you place higher then that placement, you’ll also earn bankroll and points. Given the difficulty of tournaments in general, making it into the prize money at all should be considered an accomplishment in and of itself.

One thing to note is that we only played this game on the easy difficulty for, well, obvious reasons. During our play, we noticed that there is seemingly only one year to play. Whether or not that is different for other difficulty settings is unclear for us, but once we got to the end of the year, our only options were to either reset the career or play a whole new one. There’s not much of an ending to this game outside of probably getting a few pictures.

Still, what we found was that adopting a loose style of play wound up being highly successful in the long run. You lose more chips faster to blind money, but you also wind up picking up hands you probably shouldn’t have gotten in the first place and eliminating a few players in the process.

For instance, during our play, we called a straddle with ten five offsuit. That is generally a hand you’re better off folding – especially if players are raising pre-flop. The chances of making a straight are slim and there are plenty of over cards that can hit the board in the process (re: any paint card). Also, you need four of the same suit to make a flush which is also extremely unlikely. We ultimately were treated to a flop of 10 ace 10 with one other player constantly betting. Turn and river wound up being bricks. Player moved all in with an ace and we happily called to inflate our chip count and eliminate a competitor in the process. Dumb luck, but that’s a tournament for you.

On the other hand, we’ve made it to the flop with a pair of two’s. A case can be made for folding that depending on betting patterns, but we wound up calling and making it to the flop anyway. There were countless times we missed the flop and found ourselves in a check fold situation. Still, sometimes, we hit a 2 on the flop and wind up with an incredibly strong hand as well. You sometimes never know what happens when you take those ducks for a swim.

The key for these tournaments is not only knowledge for the game, but patience. Major swings is expected throughout a tournament in general and this game is no exception. In one tournament, we’ve gone from chip leader all the way down to three blinds left. A few bad beats where an opponent rivers a straight or a flush didn’t help things. However, in this case, we finally started catching much needed cards, doubled up a couple times and wound up finishing the tournament in 9th place. It’s hard to have a much larger swing of fortune then that, but we never really lost patience even if that fall was frustrating.

Another thing to note is the length of the game. This depends hugely on your success in the tournaments. If you constantly get eliminated early in the tournament, games can last no more then an hour or so. However, if you perform well, you can expect to play well over a hundred hands in a single tournament. This, of course, can take hours and can be mentally draining for those who aren’t actually used to the grind of a poker tournament. So, length is almost exclusively tied to your success in this game.

A major mode outside of the tournament is Beat the Brat. This, of course, is a heads up tournament where you play against 6 poker pros. Beat them all and you’ll get the chance to play Phil Hellmuth himself. Win and you’ll make the cover of some magazines.

Heads up tournaments in general have one very critical aspect to them: it’s you against one opponent. This has a major impact on the odds of different hands. This is because if you are facing 8 opponents, chances are, someone is going to hit a huge hand. On the other hand, if you are facing one opponent, you’re probably facing against hands where that opponent hit nothing but air. You may not hit very many big hands, but remember that your opponent is likely facing the same problem. So, it is more than possible to steal a pot or two by moving all in pre-flop. Just be wary of the possibility that your opponent might hit a pocket pair and, at best push you on the defence.

A problem some people had with this game is that speech play really isn’t even in this game. Since you’ll face off against many pros, their trademark reactions simply aren’t present. While some people might feel that this is a huge part of poker, it really isn’t the be-all end-all of poker either. For me, a lot about the game is examining odds and figuring out whether to call, raise, or fold. That, to me, is a big part of poker and you get that here. Besides, do you really want 10 minute rants from Phil Hellmuth about how badly you play in poker after winning a hand?

One problem that I will agree with other critics on is the fact that it’s just Texas Hold’em in this game. This can feel rather repetitive after a while, especially when you can spend several hours on it at a time. All you have to look forward to after is more Hold’em. As such, this game does suffer from variety problems even if you have the chance to play cash games and various other tournament rules. While hold’em is a fun type, I would have liked to have tried 7 card stud every once in a while to spruce things up.

Another problem is that there really isn’t anything this game offers if you succeed. All you get treated to is some pictures as your reward. The fact that you can only play 1 year does make this game seem a bit more limited.

Finally, one issue this game suffers from is the fact that it’s not all that friendly to new players. When you get those screens about outs, pot odds, etc., all those Poker School tutorials wind up seemingly vague in the grand scheme of things.

A lot of what I knew about poker came form some statistical lessons, YouTube poker tutorials, hours and hours of hand analysis from Doug Polk and video explanations by Daniel Negreanu among others, spending a day or so just playing with a physical deck of cards by myself to see how hands develop in general, playing poker against others in real life from time to time, and playing a few other poker video games. This game was more of a test of my knowledge more than me learning anything new. It’s an interesting experience for me, but if you are new to Poker, I’m not convinced this would be a good game for you.

Generally speaking, the lack of variety outside of Hold’em games does hamper things a lot. The difficulty of the game, even on easy mode, might also be offputting – especially to new players. This game may not be a bad one to try if you have a fair bit of experience with poker, but that’s about it. The endings leave a fair bit to be desired and the lack of multi-year careers does make this game seem a bit more abbreviated. So, a good game to play only if you are already into Hold’em.

Graphics is where this game does suffer a bit. The menu’s are probably the best graphics you’re going to get in the game. Beyond that, you get treated to the same table look in tournaments and mostly the same players mugs in pictures. It’s nice to see some movement, but you don’t get much else beyond that. The video intros for the cash games are nice and the colour schemes do change for those cash game events, but that’s not a huge amount of variety.

The best variety in graphics is when you play the Beat the Brat tournament. In that case, you get the different pros in different poses while you play. I don’t know if it was the portrayal or the style, but playing against David Ulliott somehow wound up being intimidating to me. In the end, not the worlds greatest even if there are a few upsides to this game.

Another sore point in this game is audio. First impressions are pretty good in this game. You have some rock music playing in the background of the menu’s. You get treated to a nice variety of sound effects as you work your way through the menus and things seem to sound great when you enter the tournament. Things fall apart when you discover that every tournament and cash game has the same one track (yes, one) playing over and over again. Heads up has a different track, but that one track will get played over and over again. If you’re going to put music in the game, give a little variety. In this case, you can get away with non at all as long as you have some interesting background noise. Unfortunately, this game just doesn’t have much going for it in this department.

Overall, this is definitely a game to try if you are already into Texas Hold’em. It’s an interesting way to test out your skills in a small variety of situations. Unfortunately, this game is limited to one game of poker with nothing much for endings. The graphics can be a bit repetitive after a while and the audio is really repetitive. So, in the end, a fairly mediocre game to play.

Furthest point in game: Beat the brat and got half a million bankroll on the easiest difficulty.

General gameplay: 14/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 54%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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