Stacked with Daniel Negreanu Review
By Adrienne Dudek |
After a lengthy waiting period, the most-hyped poker game has finally arrived on the PS2, PC and Xbox. Stacked with Daniel Negreanu has been one of the most highly anticipated poker games for some time due to the fact that its AI routines were built off of the Poki engine, a complex poker AI system developed by the University of Alberta. Unfortunately, while a certain quote on the box would trick you to believe that Stacked is "Halo with chips" (we're not making this up), the game simply comes up short-stacked in just about every way possible.
Despite the fact that Stacked is supposed to contain the strongest opponents since Einstein played his last game of chess, it's anything but perfect. On one of the most extreme occasions, we managed to get the game stuck going all in every hand by first doing so ourselves about five or six hands in a row, and then subsequently fold every hand thereafter. At least one player at the table would then push in all of their chips every round following this until we finally checked the big blind about 10 minutes later. And we're not talking last-ditch moves here where players were getting killed by the blinds - every player at the table was about even in chip count and the blinds were still low, but someone at some point would go all in every single hand.
Aside from this extreme case, the AI seems fairly consistent but rather restrained. You'll find a player at the table every now and then that'll actually play the game aggressively (protecting hands, push players out of a pot, etc.) but for the most part the play is quite subdued, even at the highest difficulty level, which is where you'll need to set the game in order to get any sort of competition. As an example of how careful the AI will play, even when the blinds are 0.5% of the average stack at the table, a majority of players at the table will fold without calling the blinds. When they're this low, you're better off calling as many hands as possible and try to hit something on the flop. For whatever reason, it simply seems that the computer doesn't take chip count into consideration until an actual bet has been made and will fold without thinking even if the big blind is pennies on their millions.
One of the hard things about reviewing a poker game is that as you only see the hands of players who finish out the hand, it's hard to determine if the computer is doing anything dumb when it folds. We didn't notice anything entirely wrong, though the game's advice feature hints that it has a hard time at figuring out what is and isn't a good hand. During any hand, you're able to ask for advice from Daniel Negreanu and he'll give you a quick synopsis of what you should do. On special cases he'll have specific instructions, like if you're dealt pocket aces, A-K or even a middle pair. The problem is that his general advice can be way off, again hinting that the game may have a hard time picking up on hand strength or proper moves.
For example, on one occasion I had 8-6 off-suit, so Daniel tells me to be careful about raising before the flop because I'd have to fold if anyone re-raised. Sounds good, so I just call. The flop comes Q-10-2, then someone ahead of me makes a nice bet. Daniel then says it's perfectly fine to call. Um, no, it's not perfectly fine to call, especially since he suggested I would have to fold if anyone re-raised pre-flop when I still had a decent chance to hit something.
One great piece of advice Daniel gave me was, "Protect your hand! Put in a decent sized bet." The problem was that I had just been dealt 9-2 off-suit. Thanks for the great advice. The very next hand I get the same message with 3-7 off-suit. My favorite of all though was when I was told, "I know you've been waiting for this. Stick it all in."
I had 6-2 off-suit.
One presentation problem related to this is that while the advice can sometimes be correct, it almost never tells you why you should make a certain play. For instance, I once had 5-7 off-suit with only five players left in a tournament. Daniel suggests I not only bet, but bet big. Sure, that's a nice bluff, but simply suggesting I throw out a huge bet with no explanation doesn't help you understand why you should make certain plays.