CELL PHONE POKER
It's been a while since PokerRoom.com launched a version of its software that allows you to play Texas HoldEm on your cell phone, and the truth is it has failed to set the world of online poker alight. For many that's no surprise - who, in reality, wants to play poker on a device with such a tiny screen? And let's not forget all the connection problems inherent with a WAP / GPRS phone... or the software limitations of JAVA ME, the mobile version of Java. What's really needed to move cell phone poker to the next level is a full Java game that can be accessed via WiFi, on a device that has a decent enough screen for the players to see what they are doing. Poker on an iPhone or iPod touch anyone?
Perhaps sometime soon, but not at the time of writing. There are reports of Java running happily on an iPhone, but iPhones don't ship with even mobile Java as standard. There's no way of installing Java without "jailbreaking" your phone, loading up an installer and compiler ("Jikes", for example), compiling the Java programme, crossing your fingers and hoping. It's just not convenient for most players. You can download some simple Poker Games from Apple's store if you really need a fix of poker, but frankly these games are likely to disappoint you. Many believe that the future lies in "all in one" mobile devices that work as mini-laptops, mobile phones and mp3 players. If these devices of the future hit the market soon, then you can bet that the poker rooms won't be far behind with some software that will allow them to access real-money tables at the big poker sites. For now, if you have a Java enabled device that is probably a better bet for playing poker on the go than trying to squeeze a "mobile poker" game onto your cell phone. Use one of the "no-download" clients for best results (PartyPoker have a decent version).
Cell Phone Poker Basics
If you must play right now, and using your cell phone, then here's how to go about it. Firstly, you'll need a java-enabled WAP / GPRS phone. Then visit a mobile poker website. You need to register with the poker room to obtain a "mobile poker" account. You'll be send two text messages, one of which contains a PIN number, the other containing a WAP / GPRS link to follow. When you click the WAP / GPRS link you'll be able to download the software to your phone. Once that's done you are more or less ready to go. The poker room usually doesn't charge anything to play the game, so the cost is whatever your network charges for connecting via WAP / GPRS to the poker room (if you play the online version). Some network operators charge for downloading the game, and some may charge for the data transfer between your phone and the poker room servers. Check with your operator if you aren't sure. As a guide to how much it will cost you to play if you're being charged for the data transfer, the client is likely to use around 350-900 kb per hour of game play. That can soon add up - which is another reason why cell phone poker really hasn't taken off.
Cell Phone Texas Hold Em
Texas Hold Em is currently the only game offered by cell phone poker platforms (if you don't know the rules try our page on Poker Rules For Beginners). You can choose to play limit or no-limit, and to sit at a table with 2, 5 or 10 players. There are two types of game on offer : offline or online. If you play online then you play as if you were sitting at the same tables as you would be playing at if you logged on to the Poker Room from your desktop PC - but stripped down and much, much slower. If you want to play offline then you play against computer-generated players, just for fun. You don't need a WAP connection to play offline, but you cannot chat to other players, and your computer opponents are always the same. If you're playing online then table selection is much the same as it is from a desktop - you type in what limits you want to play and how many opponents you want to play against and a lobby screen shows you which tables are available. Select a table and find a vacant seat. You choose your seat by pressing the seat number (0 - 9) on your phone's keypad. Once you've sat down you choose whether to FOLD, CALL or RAISE by pressing 1, 2 or 3 on your keypad when it is your turn to act (if you need advice try our Texas Holdem Cheat Sheet, or Poker Cheat Sheet). If your screen is pretty small, you can choose a "symbol view", which renders the table in 2D rather than 3D, or even a "text view", where the game is relayed in lines of text. You can also choose whether to turn on/off sound effects, four color deck, chat etc... If you've played online before, it will all seem reassuringly familiar, if horribly cramped on your tiny phone screen.
Cell Phone Poker Versus Online Poker
Overall the mobile poker software works patchily, though it is straight forward to download it onto your cell phone. However, there are several pitfalls to playing poker via a mobile phone. The first one is network connection : if the signal gets dropped, then you are disconnected from the game. You are given thirty seconds in addition to the normal amount of time you would have to re-connect, so if the dropped signal is the result of you passing through a train tunnel or similar you might be okay. Our advice is to play in an area where the signal to your phone is strong and reliable. Ideally that means playing when stationary, which might sound odd given we're talking about mobile poker here! Cafes, airport departure lounges, park benches and beaches are all fine - but if you're on the move you're sure to find a few dropped connections. Secondly, there's the problem of what happens when you receive a call during a game. This essentially counts as a dropped connection, so you are better off playing at times when you are unlikely to be disturbed, such as late evening. Finally you might have to alter the amount of time before your phone's backlight automatically switches off. Most phone's switch the screen light off after 15-30 seconds to preserve battery life, which means the table goes dark until you press a key... it's not a major problem but it does get annoying if you're in the middle of an important hand. If you can live with these downsides then fine - it's one way to get to the tables when you can't get to your PC. Just be sure to choose an operator who doesn't make you pay through the nose for accessing the site via WAP / GPRS, and don't play if you're surrounded by tunnels! If you have a fully featured mobile device such as an ultra-mini laptop / notebook, that's a much much better way to play, and you can just use a no-download option to avoid eating up your precious bandwith. There'll be true cell-phone poker one day, no doubt, but we're a long way off a decent cell phone poker client at the moment. Get yourself an ultra portable laptop / notebook, a reliable WiFi account, and point your browser at PartyPoker.