CHOKER: The Brilliant And Cunning Poker/Chess Hybrid Game

The world of games has seen many hybrids over the years, but the most recent addition, CHOKER -  described as a cross between the brilliance of chess and the cunning of poker and recently released as an app – seems to have really caught the imagination…

By: Andrew Burnett


Chess and poker have long been ‘intellectual bed-fellows’, the strategic approach and tactical battles appealing to both sides of the mind-game community.

Daniel Negreanu, Charlie Carrel and Bill Perkins have recently fallen in love with chess, while Dan Smith, Mike ‘Timex’ McDonald and Dan Harrington were all strong chessplayers before discovering their poker skills.

Meanwhile world-class chessplayers Alexander Grischuk and Francisco Vallejo Pons have mixed it with the pro poker ranks, while former World Championship challenger, Boris Gelfand, was rather an exception – turning down a chess team offer because ‘he would rather discuss chess than poker at the lunch table’!

Your writer is part of both worlds, 35 years as a tournament chessplayer, reaching a top rating of 2307 and the FM title, as well as having played poker since my teens – latterly focusing on mid-stake online SNGs pre-Black Friday, and low-stakes (up to $200NL) live cash games since.

OK, onto CHOKER. The brainchild of award-winning game maker Andrew Finan and developed by Queenside Games, Choker is now available as a free-to-play app for iOS and Android mobile users.

Here’s the lowdown on the game – all you need to know to get yourself started…

Rules

  • Players are dealt 5 cards each, from a 44-card pack, with a chess piece depicted on each card
  • The betting rounds occur after 2, 4 and 5 cards are dealt. If you like the look of your chess pieces (how valuable they are, not aesthetically-pleasing!) then you’ll be more inclined to check, bet, call or raise (or fold, of course).
  • Once the betting rounds are completed (if neither you nor your opponent has folded) you place the chess pieces you have been dealt in specially-marked zones.
  • Note that you already have a king each, with one pawn each on the square in front of the monarch, and you’ll have seven pieces each in total by the time the actual chess game starts.
  • After that, it’s a traditional chess game, the winner taking down the pot, checkmate – or CHOKEMATE! – the ultimate goal, though not the only way to win.

Here’s how that looks in nifty infographics from the Choker site itself…

Intro

It’s simple enough to set up your account, or you can play as a Guest, with FB or Google sign-ins as well – English and Spanish the two language options (sorry France 😉 )

Reviewing the Tutorials gets you a 20k chip bonus, but you can skip it and choose your username and… you’re all set to play.

The Multiple Game Modes allow you to practice against the CHOKER AI, challenge your friends, or play ‘randoms’ from around the world as you would do in normal online poker or chess.

There are already CHOKER tournaments and titles to get you immersed in the community, and challenging chess masters or poker pros is another huge draw.

Speaking of which…

CHOKER Pros

As with almost every game new to the market, and as poker players in particular are well-used to, big names are required to help push the promotional side of things.

For CHOKER, that means US chess legend and world-class Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura

...and renowned chess commentator and International Master, Anna Rudolf, who recently challenged Nakamura to a game under the watchful eye of CHOKER inventor Andrew Finan…

Throw in one of Britain’s finest chess Grandmasters, David Howell, and there’s plenty of challenges ahead for the poker pros and players who also fancy themselves kings of the 64-squares…

Strategy

Well, nobody has written anything much on this, given how CHOKER is such a new game, but here’s my tuppenceworth…

For those who come from a primarily chessplaying background, you should generally be looking to ‘see the flop’ – that is, get the game onto the board.

For that reason, betting big with good cards (pieces!) should be tempered with caution – why scare off your opponent unnecessarily? Poker players already know this simple tactic, and the potential downfalls.

Strong chessplayers also know that certain combinations of pieces work well together – for example queen and knight with limited other material, can be deadly.

They also know better how to position their pieces so that they complement a position and each other.

The primarily poker player’s advantage comes with betting and recognising betting patterns.

Bluffing exists in CHOKER too, and can be used by good poker players to get their opponent off a poor or medium set of pieces – or even a good set if the opposition is poker-savvy but chess-deficient.

As the game progresses – as in, more people play, discuss and strategise it – deeper ideas and plans, and possibly mathematical approaches will come into use.

Negatives? Well, I spent much of my CHOKER playing time trying to work out if my opponent was a poker genius, or a chess monster. If someone can find a tag on the app to keep track of such things it would be much appreciated.

Gameplay

CHOKER’s design and gameplay is very appealing – well-thought out and well-designed, aesthetically pleasing and without any noticeable glitches.

It runs smoothly and, just as in online poker, it makes the ‘forced’ decisions for you – promotion of pieces, for example, a very important part of CHOKER.

You simply can’t make illegal moves or out-of-turn bets, something which in live poker and chess happens perhaps too frequently!

Basic tutorials can be found on the CHOKER site, with a shortened version on the app itself, so learning the rules and gameplay shouldn’t prove particularly difficult.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, and tastes vary, but I can safely say that the vast majority of chess and poker players will find something to love about CHOKER.

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