Poker Night at the Inventory made its Steam debut yesterday, and within hours, millions of Team Fortress 2 players had been converted into gambling fiends. What was once a friends list full of FPS diehards was now a precursor to a series of gambling addiction interventions.
Why all the fuss? Unique unlockable items, of course. And the small hurdle of being somewhat good at poker was by no means a deterrent for the masses of players hungry for a blood soaked Pac Man watch.* But if you’re absolutely terrible at Poker Night (or just Texas Hold’em poker in general), odds are you won’t be unlocking a now-valueless Lugermorph any time soon.
Well, it just so happens yours truly is a type of poker idiot savant who’s willing to share a few tips to let you grab, nab, and backstab your way into The Prestigious Miscellaneous Item Owner’s Association…
Specific Tips: Poker Night at the Inventory
In order to win one of the new unlockable goodies (or baddies, depending on your taste**), one of your four fictional opponents must place it up as a collateral wager. Whenever you start a new tournament (this is the only game type), there is a chance Max, Strong Bad, Heavy, or Tycho will declare he’s broke and would like to bet a prized possession instead of the $10,000 buy in. While I’d argue the Dangeresque, Too sunglasses aren’t worth as much as a minigun, a mercenary license, or a watch that turns you fucking invisible, the proprietor of the Inventory has no such qualms and will allow the wager.
Regardless, this collateral is always placed during the opening setup cinematic. If you’re trying to earn these items and if you start a new tournament in which everyone has ponied up the requisite 10 Gs, you should quit the match and immediately start a new match. You can’t win one of these items if it’s not part of the stakes.
Once the item you want is up for bets, it’s important to note that you must personally eliminate its owner to claim that item. This means even if you win the whole tournament, you won’t own the Iron Curtain unless you were the person who won the hand on which the Heavy Weapons Guy walked away from the table. For this reason, it is important that you play slightly more recklessly than normally on any hand on which the owner of the unlock is betting. If you want the Iron Curtain and the Heavy calls the big blind, you should call the big blind. If the Heavy Raises and you can afford to see the next card, you should raise. Obviously if you go broke you won’t win the item, but it is much more painful to see Max take it home than you. After all, he’s a fucking rodent.
Your goal should be to find a decent hand and force a showdown against the item’s proprietor. If everyone is checking, make a big bet and hope everyone except that item’s owner folds. Once it’s down to you two, try to push an all-in (assuming you’re not holding a 2-7 off suite with 3 Aces on the flop). If your hand is decent, you could win the item out right. Or, at the very least, the CPU will fold, granting you more cash to bully it around on the next hand.
General Poker Tips
While this is by no means exhaustive, here are some things to keep in mind if you’re terrible at new toTexas Hold’em:
- Always ask yourself: What’s the best possible hand? At any given time, you must always consider an opponent could have the best hand possible. Is it two pair, slightly over your hand? Is it a flush with 2 pocket hearts? Most players lose to obvious god-hands because they get too caught up in their own cards to consider how hard their pocket will fail against a lucky three-of-a-kind.
- Know the hands inside and out. The most important things to know in poker are what the possible hands are, what beats what, and how likely each hand is to occur. Sure, it’s possible your opponent could get a straight if the river and turn are a 5 and an 8, but if you have three-of-a-kind already, the odds this will happen are low. If you bet big on the flop, will your opponent be willing to leave a phenomenal hand to chance? Maybe. But you have a solid hand secured.
- The fewer players are in, the less important it is that your hand is amazing. When the game starts out with five players, you generally shouldn’t call unless you have something moderately playable, and definitely shouldn’t raise unless you’re fairly certain you have the best hand possible.
- The later you are on your bet, the more information you have. If you’re the small blind or right next to him, you get to see how everyone else bets before you have to decide to call the big blind or not. If you see a lot of folding or calls, perhaps you should raise with your pocket nines. However, if you’re the first person to bet, raising on pocket nines might be risky. You have no way to know if the person after you will go all-in with something scary. Always ask yourself “how much do I know about the risks my opponents are willing to take?” before making your own bet.
- Know when to fold. This is common sense, yet many people treat poker like a slot machine, pulling the lever over and over for another spin. Never tell yourself “it’s too late, I have to play this hand.” If you are about to be sodomized by this hand, you should definitely not play it.
The last thing you want to keep in mind is that Poker Night at the Inventory, like any single-player poker game, features artificial intelligence on which safe bets and wilds bluffs may have no effect. There are no mind games to play with a computer that has no mind. And while it may be discovered that Tycho really likes calling big raises after a pair of 7s hits the table, I doubt the game will ever be cataloged extensively enough to determine such patterns. So just play conservatively, push big on strong hands, and good luck earning your second Lugermorph!
Looking for higher-level poker strategy? Check out Rabid Ferret’s School of Poker articles.
*I find it hilarious that less than 1 week after the greatest Pac Man game of all time is released, people are more excited over owning a virtual watch featuring our favorite ghost-munching spheroid.
**Or Strong Baddies. See what I did there?