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Best of Aaron Todd
Today, many people walk around with small computers in their pockets (which also can be used to make phone calls), and they have Star Trek-style tablet computers in their homes. If you're a gambler who happens to own one of these gadgets, you can take advantage of loads of apps that offer fun games and simulations, some of which might even make you better at your game of choice.
While I personally don't own a smartphone (when Vin Narayanan saw that I recently replaced my old flip phone with yet another flip phone, his response was, "That phone was cutting edge six or seven years ago"), we do have an iPod at home. After an exhaustive search, I've discovered the 10 best gambling-related apps in the iTunes App Store.
(Of course, as a U.S. resident, none of the apps I could access allow real-money gambling. All games are listed below are for play-money games or for tracking purposes only.)
10. Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker is a one of my favorite casino table games, and the app developed by QiYoFun provides a new twist on the classic game. While you still arrange the cards in two hands of five cards and two cards, you get a sneak peek at three of the dealer's cards. The peek may help you decide to set the hand in a non-standard way. The app is free, though you can purchase additional credits.
9. Abzorba Live Blackjack 21
There are a lot of blackjack apps available, but this one is my favorite because you can simulate a real blackjack table with other live players. As with most of the apps on this list, you can play for free, or purchase additional credits for a fee.
8. Ultimate Bet
This unfortunately named app, which shares its name with the disgraced online poker room, is an incredible tool for sports bettors. While you can't bet real money, you can track your bets and results. The free version allows tracking of one bet at a time, provides injury reports, and provides lines for upcoming games. If you choose to pay for the app, you gain access to key trends, can track the play-by-play of games that you're sweating, and track multiple bets.
If you're looking to test your heads-up poker game, there's no better app out there than Pokerbot. The game pits you in a heads-up match against an artificially intelligent poker bot. You can customize the match for four different speeds, but the best part of the app is the ability to use "one times," a feature that allows you to replace hole cards or community cards when you don't like what you see. While "one times" are limited, they are plentiful to start and you can earn more when you win matches.
While the heads-up game isn't exactly like playing a real heads-up match, it's still a lot of fun, and being able to switch cards you don't like adds a fun twist to the game.
6. Keno Gold
There are dozens of keno apps available, but the most fun one I was able to find is easily Keno Gold. The app allows you to play games at several different speeds, and as you hit selected numbers, you build up a meter that awards a bonus. When filled, the bonus will award free games, a multiplier on the game you just completed, or award more balls in the game you just played.
The game features a fun Irish theme, with a leprechaun sitting in a pot of gold. And if you hit a 10-spot, gold coins, four-leaf clovers and green and gold stars fall as a spirited Irish jig is played.
5. Poker Income
This app isn't a game, but it's a useful tool for anyone who wants to keep track of the results of their poker play.
Endorsed by poker pros Mike Matusow and Matt Affleck, Poker Income allows you to input cash game and tournament sessions, whether they be at home games, online or in a casino. As you track games, you can begin to start getting a sense of what games and settings you perform best in. You can also make notes on key hands which can be a starting point for discussion with friends later. Tracking can be done live, or you can add in details about your play after the fact.
Tracking results is essential for anyone who takes poker seriously, especially since you should be tracking results for tax purposes. Poker Income is a great way to do it right as you play, and if you like, you can also post results on social media.
This slot app is my personal favorite among dozens of available slot machine options. Designed by Playtikia, players start with just one available game, titled Farm Fortune. The five-reel, nine-payline game features free spins and a fun bonus round. After 250 spins, players unlock a new game, Bubble Rumble, a five-reel, 15-payline game that also features free spins and a bonus round. The longer players play the games, the more games become available.
The app is free, though you can buy additional credits for a fee.
3. Zynga Poker
Originally designed for Facebook, Zynga Poker is available for play on the iPhone and iPad. While the level of play is pretty horrific, the graphics are well designed for a small screen, and the experience points and levels give players something to shoot for, since they aren't playing for real money. The game also offers the best play-money liquidity on the mobile market, though it would be nice if games other than Texas Hold'em were available.
Zynga Poker is free to play, though as with most apps on this list, extra credits can be purchased for a price.
2. Chinese Open Face Poker
This app, designed by sculpt software studio, gives you the chance to play Chinese Poker against real or computer opponents. You can play either standard or open faced, and the "Pass and Play" version is free of charge. If you want to play against opponents who are on other devices, you'll need to purchase the live games version for $6.99. This app gets such a high rating because it's the only Chinese Poker app I could find that offered an open face version.
The game is fully customizable, allowing you to set the point values for royalties and scoops. The only beef I have with the app is that when playing open-faced Chinese Poker, you can only see where opponents set their first five cards, and not the actual cards. This makes a very big difference in how you might set your hand. For instance, if you are last to act and have three cards in a suit, you probably won't put them in your bottom hand if you see that there are six other cards of that suit already exposed. But if there aren't any cards in that suit exposed, you should absolutely put them in your bottom hand, because you're a big favorite to make a flush.
1. Video Poker!
Perhaps the best educational tool on this list, Video Poker! is a simulation of a video poker machine. The app allows you to play several different video poker variants, and along the way lets you know if you aren't playing optimally. Every time you play a hand incorrectly, the software chides you and shows you the cards you should hold to get the best possible return.
The tool, designed by Robert Suh, is incredibly addictive, and it even includes a simulator, allowing you to plug in different hands to get the correct play. (You may want to use this on the sly if you're actually in a casino … I'm not sure that the gaming brass want everyone playing perfectly!)
The app is free, with free training included for the first 600 hands. You can then purchase additional training hands for as little as nine hands a penny. Considering how much the app could improve your game, it can easily pay for itself if you're a video poker fan.