Several years into what was meant to be a VR revolution in gaming, statistics indicate that virtual reality games have been slow to catch on. Specifically, a data rundown at Earthweb showed that as of 2021, only 1.89% of gamers on Steam (a popular game marketplace) owned virtual reality headsets. Additionally, at that same time, only two VR games had surpassed $60 million in earnings.
Many reasons have been offered to explain the slow start of VR gaming. One factor is that there is a learning curve to VR that some avid gamers who are perfectly happy with consoles just don’t want to mess with. Another is that VR headsets –– the good ones, anyway –– remain quite expensive, at $400 or more per unit.
One more significant issue, however, is that there remains a widespread and largely accurate perception that lots of VR games can cause motion sickness. And unfortunately, this is not an easy issue to address. As was discussed in an Input piece on motion sickness in gaming, the problem comes down to bodily functions. The inner-ear fluid that controls balance and the signals we get from our eyes are in conflict in some virtual reality experiences, leading to uneasy sensations. So far, developers have struggled to find a fix.
While we wait, however, it is worth paying attention to the fact that not all virtual reality games involve the actions and motions that lead to motion sickness. It is this simple fact that has led to some specific genres gaining popularity while others have been less successful than anticipated. Arguably the most fitting example is that of virtual poker, which requires little to no locomotion.
Players can simply stay seated and look around virtual environments, such that the inner-ear issue doesn’t come into play, but the sensation of being transported into a game itself is still present. This basic construct, combined with the consistent worldwide popularity of poker, has led to some momentum where these specific VR games are concerned.
For those who may have been looking for the right VR games to try, here are a few more words on how to get started with the medium’s poker genre.
Learn Texas Hold’em
Your first step, if you don’t already know the game, is to learn how to play Texas Hold’em poker. While we’d hesitate to say it’s the only variety available in VR, it is by far the most common and popular option. So, before you even worry about stepping into a virtual gaming environment, it’s best to learn the rules and processes of Hold’em (or refresh yourself if it’s just been a while since you played).
Hold’em revolves around each player having two personal cards, called “hole cards,” and everyone being able to use five community cards. The hole cards are dealt first, followed by three community cards, then a fourth, and then a fifth. In between these rounds of dealings, players get opportunities to fold or to bet (or raise) to stay in hand. Once all five community cards are visible, and the final round of betting has been completed, the winner is determined according to who has the strongest hand between their hole cards and any three community cards.
Study Rankings and Terms
In addition to learning or refreshing yourself on the rules of Texas Hold’em, it’s a good idea to brush up on two other aspects of the game. First, you’ll want to make sure you memorize the hand rankings, from Royal Flush at the top all the way down to High Card at the bottom. Second, it’s wise to study some of the common terms, such as “The River” (the final community card dealt) and “Heads Up” (a hand that’s come down to two players contesting each other).
Studying in these areas will help you become a savvier player, but it’s also particularly important for a VR experience. In VR poker games, you’ll be paired up with other live players, and the games can move along quickly. Knowing the terms and hand values the instant you hear and see them will help you keep up (and perhaps win a few big hands!).
Find the Game for You
Finally, you will also want to compare the different virtual reality games that make up the genre and find the one that most appeals to you. It’s best to preview them and play each one a little bit if you can. But to get you started, here are a few words on popular options:
Pokerstars VR – Perhaps the most prominent VR poker app, this is an extension of the vaunted Pokerstars platform online. It’s well designed and caters to a large player base, and is particularly well-liked for its “Sit and Go” games, from which it’s easy to move on to a new table after losing a hand. These games are ideal for those who want to play multiple quick games rather than longer tournament sessions.
Poker VR – This is a popular title that is best known for its social elements. Player avatars are highly customizable and can even be used to convey certain elements of body language. Through them, gamers can interact, play in one-off games or tournaments, and socialize. Imagine a poker-themed extension of The Sims franchise, and this is close to what you might come up with.
Texas Hold’em Poker VR – While not quite as well known as the first two games on this list, Texas Hold’em Poker VR has established itself as a competitive option. It has excellent, convincing visuals, and Hold’em players can enjoy a range of tables supporting different types of games.
Study up on poker, try out these games, and you’ll soon be enjoying one of a select few VR gaming genres that work quite well. With motion out of the equation, you can focus fully on immersing yourself in an authentic virtual poker experience.