Zynga’s Poker is one of the largest free to play online poker games in the world. While I will be focusing on the iPhone and Facebook applications of the game, Zynga has also ported it over to Android, Yahoo, and Google+. With apps and games like Hanging With Friends and Words With Friends, I thought it was time to look at one of their first games.


Although the app has “poker” in the title, it primarily is a Texas Hold’em variation. Just by downloading the app you automatically receive 30k in chips, and a mini tutorial opens up to show you some of the features. Every day you use the app you receive daily chip bonuses ranging from 50 to 1 million credits (I don’t know anyone who’s gotten a million). This itself makes it easy to continue playing without actually using real money. Most people could probably start at $0.99 for 120k of chips, and then, between bonuses and gifts from friends, you can easily avoid having to buy more chips.


The interface is pretty simple, and each tab (except for Play it Now) has info buttons that give you some general information. You can log in through Twitter or Facebook as well as set up your own Zynga account. The bottom tabs allow you to check your stats, buy chips, and send and receive gifts from your friends. You can add buddies during gameplay, but you can only edit through one of the web apps.

Play it Now determines your chips count and immediately puts you on a table (a quick play-styled game, if you will). Hold’em Tables lets you select the number of players, stakes, and minimum/maximum buy-in. Finally, the two tournament tabs contain Shoot Out, a game type with three rounds you can work up to, and Sit N Go, one that offers sliders to chose the stakes and buy-in for a single round tournament.

When you pick a table you’re presented with the main table interface. With controls at the bottom to fold, check, call or raise, the app vibrates your phone when it’s your turn. A timer bar circles your icons to tell you how much time you have to make a choice. The app will vibrate again when you are running out of time. If you do run out of time you tend to “stand up”, meaning you are still at the table but no longer at play. This can be annoying but it keeps the play going for the other players. On the other hand, in tournament play your player folds instead.

You can also chat to fellow players in the room, but you are forced to tap a button on the top of the screen if you wish to do so. This takes you away from the action, and will automatically snap you back to the table if it’s your turn. It’s rather annoying if you are actually typing something, but unlike the Facebook app, you do stay in play (more on that coming up).


So for those of you who want a larger, more robust interface (or at work and want to avoid using up your phone battery) there are web applications through Facebook, Google+, and Yahoo. I have played with a few of them, but Facebook is the primary interface I use. The application offers more in-depth profile information, buddy lists, better tutorials on how to play, as well as better explanations of the tournaments. Of course, it offers all of this and lots of other opportunities to use up your chips in smaller games of chance (along with a heavy dose of advertising). It can be a bit overwhelming after the minimalistic iPhone application, and you might feel a little information overload.


The functionality is basically the same with tabs (once you focus in the center of the application) as the iPhone application. You can sort searches better and gain a bit more information on tables. One of the main differences between the Facebook and iPhone apps is instead of placing you on the first table that meets your search criteria the Facebook app gives you a list to chose from. There is also a bigger push to have you actually pay for chips by offering membership into the VIP club. You can also keep better track of your friends (you are on Facebook after all) and see how they are doing compared to your performance.

The table interface is also more involved, giving more information on what players are doing, better chat abilities, and (my favorite) a hand meter. During play, the same meter will circle your character, and a bell will sound when it’s your turn. As with the iPhone app, a second reminder will happen near the end of your time. Also, if you do run out of time you will “stand up” allowing you to still communicate with everyone, but you are no longer sitting and playing hands.


Both the iPhone and Facebook applications do a great job of presenting a smooth and lag-free poker experience. Zynga’s first game seems to have come of age with its popularity and refined interface. Compared to their other apps, or even apps from other companies, it not only utilizes a resource cheap flash version, its iPhone app seems to not drain your battery like a similar game would.