Cards on the table: I’m not a big poker guy. I mean, I do understand the basic rules of Texas Hold’em, but I’d still describe myself as a complete novice at the game. This means that I find most iOS poker apps — which are largely aimed at experienced players — pretty intimidating and inaccessible. You can imagine my delight then when I discovered Jelle Baars’ Jesters Poker (out now, free), a poker-based title that strives to be as approachable and fun as possible for players of all skill levels.

Jesters Poker is about as far from your average po-faced poker sim as you can get. Instead, it’s a mystery-driven adventure game that sees you journeying through a circus-themed world, solving riddles and taking on a cast of eccentric and comical foes in fast-paced Texas Hold’em battles. The game is set across ten levels, each of which features a multi-stage poker tournament with a boss-type character that you must defeat to progress.

Even though you’re not playing against real flesh-and-blood opponents (Jesters Poker is an offline-only affair), the game’s poker matches are still thrilling, challenging and thoroughly absorbing. This is due to the fact that your computer-controlled rivals all possess impressive AI and realistically unique play styles; for example, Boulder, the circus Strongman, plays a lot more aggressively than Sonia, the Fortune Teller. Having to figure out — and adapt to — the different characters’ personal strengths and weaknesses adds a really compelling element of strategy to the game.

In addition to the lengthy story mode, Jesters Poker also features two additional modes: Survival and Challenge. The former sees you trying to survive your way through a knockout poker tournament, while the latter tasks you with completing increasingly tricky challenges, such as winning 3 hands in 3 minutes. Playing these secondary modes allows you to earn in-game currency, which can be spent on cosmetic items and other perks.

Verdict

Jesters Poker is a unique story-driven take on Texas Hold’em poker that features fun characters, vibrant visuals and accessible yet deep gameplay. Whether you’re a poker noob or pro, it’s well worth checking out.

Positives
Accessible enough for casual poker players to enjoy, while still packing enough challenge and depth to satisfy die-hards
Fun story and characters
Lots of content and gameplay modes
Negatives
Serious poker fans may be put off by the cartoony visuals and lack of online multiplayer features
4
Great
Download on the App Store