AAA game worlds featuring realistic US poker experiences

Incredible as it may seem, variants of the classic and traditional card game of poker have featured in hundreds of video games, whether as the central focus of gameplay or deployed as entertaining mini-games. And this has been just since the 1990s, as both gaming and poker increasingly became widespread mainstream pastimes.

Based around somewhat more titillating themes, excusing the obvious pun, many of the first poker video games were usually of the Strip variety, which implies precisely what the word itself would suggest. Winning hands were often rewarded by pixellated images of nudity, making them explicitly the realm of adult gamers, apparently.

Nevertheless, as the growing trend for developers to create massive and sprawling open worlds emerged, they obviously needed to fill these virtual realms with plenty of content.  

Grand Theft Auto VI

Whenever you’re not busy racing modified cars around San Andreas, and planning money-spinning heists or various other nefarious activities, Grand Theft Auto VI is packed with numerous activities to keep us busy. In fact, developers Rockstar actually encourage this by providing a whole plethora of mini-games, including a huge casino, with traditional card games like blackjack and poker available, alongside roulette and even slots.

Intriguingly, but also quite unsurprisingly, access to casino games in GTA story mode and online is region locked, meaning that players from certain countries and locations are unable to access this content. Understandably, this reflects the varying acceptance and legalities of poker and online casino gaming around the world, as they can differ in certain regions.

However, access to the casino content in GTA is completely open for players in the United States. This is probably due to an increasingly relaxed approach to gambling and specifically poker, given that legal US poker sites are now quite widespread throughout the country, based upon detailed reviews for operators at

But for those of us who can access the casino content in GTA, we can spend hours going all in at the poker tables, chancing our hand at blackjack, and aiming to strike it lucky whenever the roulette wheel spins. What’s more, these mini-games are both realistic and highly entertaining. Even more so when played online, which is where the poker tables really come to life.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Few things are more compelling than delving into the Old West, exploring a time period filled with American lore and history, which is arguably what makes Red Dead Redemption 2 so enthralling. From the richly detailed landscapes and scenery to the riveting narrative and storylines, Rockstar also filled this epic adventure with lots of mini-games to grab our attention, including numerous poker games dotted around the huge map.

Considering the fact that poker as we know it was actually invented in the United States, initially rising to popularity in the south and around the Mississippi delta, it’s hardly surprising to find the game form part of the narrative within Red Dead Redemption 2. This real-world region inspired many of the fictional areas and locations.

We can play poker at railroad stations or dusty saloons in one-horse towns, even in the somewhat more sumptuously decorated bars of Saint Denis, which is obviously based around New Orleans. Wherever we may venture, there’s always the opportunity to lay down the cars and get playing poker, and this can produce some entertaining exchanges with main characters in the story campaign.

As the prequel in the series to date, just like the original Red Dead Redemption game, there are copious mini-games for players to enjoy throughout RDR2. Furthermore, these can also be an amusing diversion to pass the time, along with providing some unique and novel interactions with various characters. There are comprehensive guides to each of the available mini-games at

It's fair to say that whenever grinding for progress or gold becomes tiresome, and even if we just want something a little more tranquil to do than shooting everyone, passing the time in a saloon and playing poker is a welcome change of pace. What’s more, the poker mechanics used in RDR2 are highly detailed and realistic, making this a good way to earn extra in-came cash, for those who already understand the card game.

Watch Dogs

Acknowledging that mini-games are an established part of the open world experience, Watch Dogs was inevitably inspired by many of its contemporaries within the genre, including those which publisher Ubisoft had produced themselves over the years. And in such a big space as the virtual recreation of Chicago, extra activities and chances to explore the map are always appreciated.

Poker appeared in Watch Dogs via one of the missions, and while that initial taster was interrupted, we could return later to sate our thirst for the cards in four levels of the Texas Hold ‘em styled mini-game. The added bonus to fit the overall narrative, our protagonist Aiden can also use hacking skills to cheat, using security cameras to spy on rival hands or even gauge the stress of others via his gadgets.

Generally speaking, Watch Dogs ticked many boxes, although the main protagonist was rather an uninteresting character, while the overall storyline was perhaps a little flat. This was our take on the first game, ahead of the second release in the franchise, hoping for improvements once Watch Dogs 2 was released

Thankfully, the sequel was much better overall. Characters were far more interesting, as was the overall narrative, plus gameplay was much slicker this time. However, there was far less diversity within the mini-games available, notably the lack of poker being present. Instead, most were based entirely around racing of some description, which can be cool, but not when it’s the only type of mini-game on offer.

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Last Updated: Apr 10, 2023