Casino VR is an online multiplayer casino, currently hosting Texas hold’em poker games in a social VR environment. Created by a San Francisco based team, the free online casino is gearing up to not only offer more social casino games, but also a cross-compatible environment that will host Oculus Rift DK2 user and Gear VR users in the same space.
Look at the pot (that’s the amount of chips tossed in the middle), and a number appears over it indicating the amount. Now look at your neighbor’s stack of chips. Again, the total amount appears, but he folds. The guy across the table is frantically looking down at his cards and back up at the flop (the first 3 community cards dealt by the dealer). He only has $340 and he’s going all-in. Is it a bluff? Most likely. You press on and match his all-in raise, making the pot over $700 just between you and him. The flop comes out, the river, and the turn. The 5 community cards (all conveniently facing you) hover in the air to show you how Mr. $340 just won, and how you just lost.
If you’ve never played real life Texas hold’em before, you might say it sounds complicated, but with a VR headset and maybe an online guide or two, and you’ll be playing one of the closest experiences to casino poker available, only it’s a hell of a lot easier for first-time players.
Created by a team of semi-professional poker players one-and-a-half years ago, Casino VR differs greatly from the high-speed 2D online poker experience. Focusing on delivering single games at a time to people looking for a social environment, the beautifully rendered space currently only hosts Texas hold’em, but more card games are planned for release down the road.
“A lot of people who play real life poker in a casino would say that they don’t like to play online poker because, to be honest, it’s a completely different game. Sure, it uses the logic of poker, but online poker is much more analytical—it’s basically a probability or numbers game. You have to play a lot of tables at the same time to make a living. Whereas real life poker is much more about social queues, psychological queues, the ability to read the person instead of the cards,” co-CEO Hamza Siddiqui told me.
Although the fundamental social queues associated with another players body language aren’t entirely addressed—something eye and body tracking will greatly improve—the team is filling the gaps by extrapolating body movement via inverse kinematics, which can make it seem like players are leaning back, or hunching over to get a better look. At times, the body positioning I saw in other players felt exaggerated, but was surprisingly grounded and smooth as long as everyone was wearing their headset properly and hadn’t shifted too much from their real-world chairs.
But then there’s a Gear VR beta on the rise too, which won’t really change much depending on your perspective. Siddiqui told me that their Gear VR beta, that although an ambitious timeline, would be coming out “somewhere around Christmas,” enabling users cross-compatibility gameplay between the DK2 and Gear VR.
“Most probably what you would have in Gear VR is the same setting, but instead of full avatars you would have those floating heads, something like Oculus Social,” Siddiqui explained. “In the DK2 everyone will be a full-bodied avatar, while in the Gear VR version everyone will appear as a floating head.”
And the big question: what about money? Right now, the platform is entirely free to play, but will be adopting a freemium model in the near future that will allow you to buy more chips on top of the free ones you already get automatically. These chips can then be used to bet with, or used to purchase in-game items like sunglasses or other flair for your avatar.
Casino VR supports both keyboard and Xbox controller, but uses an ‘on rails’ navigation scheme that is designed to make it easier for the first-time VR user to get used to. It’s one of many VR comfort modes I’ve tried, and can be fiddly in general if you’re used to normal WASD/Xbox controls. Considering you’ll be sitting down for most of the time at a table though, it only really serves as an ends to a mean that is quickly forgotten.
You can sign up for events from Casino VR by going to their website, as they host weekly events including poker nights and marathons.