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G.R. Stevens
Gambling: Games
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

'Poker is not a card game but a gambling game played with cards.' (David Parlett TEACH YOURSELF POKER AND BRAG 1980).

There were six of us at the table; Adam, Ben, Caleb, David, with eyes like a moose. Eddie and myself. I was holding two pairs, fours and tens with an ace, but Ben was betting like money was going out of fashion and I was nervous.

While previous attempts have included the likes of 'sexy Mindy' stripping away her pixels (see April '85 issue!, Maverick is the first serious poker program for the Spectrum and what can be more serious than playing for money? Not that it's a difficult game to play just get a higher scoring hand than your opponents but playing well is difficult, depending on a combination of psychology and statistics to judge how high you can bet. Learning can prove a costly affair!

The application of characterisation techniques, so popular in adventure games at the moment, to your five opponents in Maverick is a genuine breakthrough. Is Caleb betting like that because he's got a Royal Flush or is he just bluffing? CCS also claim that the program responds to your tactics. This human level extends to allowing you to cheat by trying to peek at the cards of an opponent who's won without having to reveal them because everyone else has dropped out.

The display is unspectacular but serviceable, with your cards displayed in full and a line for comments by the other players. It's easy to get drawn into the 'school' despite there being no danger to your wallet though that will be a real advantage as far as many people are concerned.

The one real problem is that only a five card draw is catered for. Poker is really a number of variations on one of them; in the draw you can change cards between the two rounds of betting. Most expert players favour stud poker though, and that's a very different game. The answer is for CCS to provide a stud program as good as this one.

I also found my opponents rather too timid and the difficulty level misjudged. Even on the hardest level, with £500 and unlimited raising of stakes, it's hard to go bankrupt, and though you wouldn't want to in real life that danger could broaden the appeal of Maverick.

While it isn't for complete novices, as the inlay card doesn't include full rules, it could prove an efficient and economical way to learn something about the game, even if it 's only that in poker it 's at least as easy to lose as it is to win.


Control keys: Y(es)/N(o) plus numerics for bets
Graphics: cards displayed for you and others at showdowns
Sound: good beeps and effects
Skill levels: 3 depending on funds available
Lives: 1 of course
General Rating: A good draw poker program that can prove quite addictive.

Not Rated

Screenshot Text

A pair of seven with King high - not the most illustrious betting hand.

If they were all held in one hand, someone would have a decent straight.