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Ryan McLane

Ryan  McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news.

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Full Contact Poker's new launch reviewed

30 Nov 2006

By Ryan McLane

When the OnGame Network pulled out of the U.S. market after President Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act, Full Contact Poker went in search of another software provider so they could continue to accept U.S. play.

Just one month later, Full Contact signed with Dobrosoft and the Digital Gaming Network and launched a new poker interface that is functional, but still in its infant stages.

As part of our commitment in the post-UIGEA era to provide U.S players with the latest information on U.S. friendly poker rooms, Casino City reviewed the Full Contact Beta launch and had the following thoughts on how the new site looks and feels.

For more on the Full Contact Poker software switch click here.

Casino City Ranking System

Royal Flush – perfect play

Full House – solid

Flush – bet on it

Straight – average

Two-Pair – needs improvement

Ace-High – muck it

Overall – Straight (3 out of 6)

For a launch that took only one month to complete, the new Full Contact Poker Room is very functional. Players looking to remain in the Full Contact community will be pleased to find that their site appears operational and ready to move into the post-UIGEA era.

The site is player-ready, but there is still a long way to go before Full Contact moves into the upper echelon of online poker rooms. Established sites like Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker continue to lead the way, exposing some flaws in the Full Contact design.

The most glaring issue is the lack of player participation. The graphics are solid and the cash-game functionality is fluid, but a lack of players makes finding a game difficult. The game selection is also solid, including the uncommon offering of three-card poker. But without the players, even interesting games like that one fall flat.

Players looking for tournament action must seek out other sites until Full Contact draws more participants. Right now, only low-buy in tournaments with limited entrants are offered.

Overall, Full Contact did a great job with their re-design and the hope is that they will continue to tweak the design using player suggestions and feedback from their wildly popular forums.

Graphics – Straight (3 out of 6)

Daniel Negreanu is the centerpiece of the new Full Contact Poker room software that appears to be set in a locker room. Sitting amongst a group of interesting characters at a table, Negreanu looks like the dealer, but is actually a playable seat for anyone who wants to dream.

The room looks very dark and a player might get the feeling that they are sitting in an underground game-- fitting since most of America is still shaking their fists at the authors of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

The best part about the characters at the table is the detail. While players are waiting for their premium hands, they might enjoy the different avatars, including a tattooed woman with an "I Love Poker" shirt, a young punk with an iPod, a surfer presumably from California, and of course, the impeccably dressed Negreanu. The character detail allows a player to assume a personality -- perhaps using the look of their avatar to project an image to the rest of the table.

My favorite character is the man in the Team Canada hockey jersey on the left side of the table. He is most likely a creation of the Negreanu imagination -- a person who loves his Canadian hockey.

Two major annoyances in the new look Full Contact are the crowded feel of the table and the fact that the avatars remain when an actual player isn't sitting at the table. I know it sounds crazy in an online game, but the avatars are so close together, some players might be "uncomfortable" at a table even though they're probably playing all alone and naked on their couch. And the "avatars remaining at the table" causes some confusion as to how many players are in the game. Even if a hand is heads-up, ten players still appear at the table, a concern that can create decision-making problems for multi-table players and players with limited attention spans.

Cash Game Play – Full House (5 out of 6)

If you like fast action, the new Full Contact software is for you. The play goes so fast, there's time for hundreds of hands per hour -- even if you have a slow player at the table.

For me, this is a bit of a problem. I like fast action, but when the play moves this fast, I sometimes feel rushed. Also, it's hard to get a feel for the texture of hands because the flop, turn, river and betting comes at you so fast, it's hard to avoid getting into a pattern of auto-betting, calling, and folding. The showdown also loses some of its drama because its lasts less than a second, making me have to review hand histories to see what my opponents had, and how the best hand won.

The speed can be a good thing for true Internet action junkies. For players very familiar with Internet play, the speed doesn't matter and allows for a large number of hands per hour. Live action players beware – this isn't your regular poker room and you may get lost in the Internet shuffle.

The quick buttons, sometimes called "hot keys" are a great feature -- if you can figure out what they mean. On the left hand side of the table are options to chop, straddle, auto-post, auto-muck, and sit-out. While Internet-only players might be familiar with the last three, the options to chop and straddle are more prevalent in live cash games and probably come from Full Contact forum recommendations and maybe even Negreanu. They are great options that add value to Internet cash game play. Most other sites do not have these options and hopefully Full Contact's new release will result in other sites adding these features.

All the other buttons, and there are plenty, are not labeled, meaning a player will need to find out what they do before they truly make for faster play. Some of them are obvious, like the dollar symbol for the cashier, but others, like the squiggly arrow, remain a mystery to me -- even after some significant research.

Tournament Play – Ace High (1 out of 6)

The tournament scene at Full Contact Poker is very limited. Cash tournaments appear under the home screen tournament table and run at regularly scheduled time periods. The typical buy-in for these tournaments is small, most likely due to low participation levels.

Similarly, the sit-n-go tournaments don't have many participants. At any one given time, the heads-up sit-n-gos may have half-a-dozen tournaments running at once, but even medium sized sit-n-gos ($22 -$77), don't look like they have enough players to fill a game.

Compared to other sites like and, the tournament scene at Full Contact is poor and needs improvement.

Additional Features – Royal Flush (6 out of 6)

Daniel Negreanu's blogs and diaries and the Full Contact Poker Forums are the best features of this site. The huge participation levels in both of these arenas make players in the Full Contact Poker Community some of the most loyal players anywhere on the Internet.

Negreanu is one of the original founders of Full Contact. He sold the site in 2005 and now serves as a consultant and ambassador of the brand. He continually updates his written and video logs and is an active participant in the poker forums and games. His popularity is one of the main reasons Full Contact Poker is so popular. The forum about his poker journal currently has 1,157 topics threads with more than 13,000 posts.

The forum topic areas range from poker to religion. Boasting more than 50,000 topics of discussion, the forum is easily one of the largest online poker forums on the Internet, comparable to and Currently, there are more than 500,000 posts in the discussion areas.

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