Zynga Poker: The perfect Facebook game?

Zynga Poker is social in a way that most games on Facebook or not. The average Facebook game lets you interact with your friends through the occasional visit to their virtual home, or by hiring a picture of their avatar to work for you, or by letting you compare your high score with theirs, or one of a thousand other indirect interactions between you and other players. In Zynga Poker, on the other hand, you're actually sitting at a table with friends and strangers, battling for virtual chips in real time.

This difference means more than just the ability to chat with your fellow players and send gifts directly to their chair, though both are nice features. It means that Zynga Poker is a true battle of competitive multiplayer strategy, rather than merely a story of inexorable progress. The basics of which hands win and what hold cards are good can be learned in no time, but the vagaries of betting strategy and bluffing can take a lifetime to master, and vary depending on the personalities of the real people you're playing against. In poker, you're playing the other players as much as you're playing the cards.

So it's not surprising that poker is one of the most popular genres on Facebook. Zynga's version is the most popular of those on the network, helped along by cross-promotion from Zynga's other games, but also by an excellent interface. Cards are large and easy to read, and the game provides helpful sound effects to help you follow the betting action. The small bell that sounds when its your turn to act is especially nice, making it easy to follow the game even when you're multitasking. The interface is also helped by handy checkbox buttons that let you check, fold or call any bet before it's your turn to act, so you don't have to constantly be on the watch for your chance to act.