Crispy Gamer

Casual Fridays: Word Ace

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Remember when Texas Hold 'em was the big new "sport"? It was on ESPN2 for 23 hours out of the day (in between airings of the World's Strongest Man Competition), people actually learned the names of pasty dudes who play cards for a living, and it was considered cool to wear sunglasses inside a dank casino. 'Cause that made you a "player." Whenever someone starts whining about the downfall of society, remind them that we survived the Hold 'em poker craze. Surely things are looking up.

Word Ace

Now poker has resumed its rightful status as a fun game* that we don't need to watch on TV. That makes it all the more palatable that this week's Casual Fridays game is based on Hold 'em poker. It's an iPhone/iPod Touch/Palm Pre game called Word Ace (iTunes Store link), and it works the same way as Hold 'em, except that it uses words instead of playing cards.

At the start of each round, each player gets two letters that form their hand. Nobody else can see these letters. Then five letters are dealt out onto the board -- in a flop, turn and river according to Hold 'em convention. These are the community letters; anybody can use them. Once all the betting rounds are over, you scramble to make the highest-scoring word possible using your two letters in combination with the community pile. Longer words are better, but uncommon letters score more points, à la Scrabble.

Word Ace

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that everyone in the office was actually playing this game last Friday -- I was the only one playing Upgrade Complete!, and I stopped to play Word Ace with everybody else. But I promise that we will be playing it again this Friday, because if there is anything that the readers demand, it is honesty in our Casual Friday selections.

By the way, given my pride in my Word Challenge skills, I expected to trounce the rest of the office at Word Ace. Then our managing editor, Elise, joined in the game.*** She was like, "How do you play this game? I don't get it!" and we bought this line because our thought process was, "She's a girl, so it makes sense she does not know how to play games." Of course, she is also the managing editor of a game Web site, so she was hustling us, and she proceeded to win all of our imaginary chips. Damn it. Do not be sexist and expect to win at Word Ace.†

Hey, Crispy staff, share your Word Ace friend code in the comments so the readers can join us. Mine is 69155.

Word Ace

* I like to go to Foxwoods Casino in kinda-nearby Mystic, Conn., to play low-limit Texas Hold 'em. I like the low-limit tables because you meet more interesting varieties of crazy there. My favorite guy I ever met was this 60-something guy with a racing form and a Members Only jacket. Really!

He went off on this tear about jacks. Like, the cards with the "J" on them. Those jacks. He kept repeating some variation on "I hate jacks! Hate 'em!" until he egged himself on to the point where he proclaimed, "I would rather lose a hand than win with jacks!" It reminded me of people who play Super Mario Bros. and try to get as few coins as possible, or the speedrun of Track and Field where the player tries to fail in as many interesting ways as possible. Often the most entertaining players are the ones who play the game in an unorthodox way. I think a poker player who writes off jacks entirely would qualify for that standard.

I also wondered, why jacks? Kings I could see -- they're pompous, and everybody wants to take out the guy at the top. Maybe queens if you have mommy issues. But what did the jack ever do to anybody? Nobody even knows what a jack is. Is anyone still reading this incredibly long footnote? No? It's just me here? OK, I'll get the lights.

** We were a bit worried about making this week's Casual Fridays game an iPhone download because we thought it might limit the audience. How many of you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch? I'd say a survey would be in order, but our surveys are put together by marketing people who ask questions like, "In the next 4 to 6.5 months, how likely are you to be the leading decision-maker on a purchase of an electronic appliance or device?"

*** Word Ace uses a friend-code system, like the Wii, to join you together with people you know. It's probably the only technically feasible solution, but still, bleh.

† Unless the community board is something like SEIST and you hold the only "X." Then, at long last, your chauvinism will pay off big.