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Aaron Todd

Aaron  Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

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ThwartPoker Set for Online Launch

1 Mar 2006

By Aaron Todd

When Daniel Pfeiffer was 17 years old, he became captivated by a card game his father invented. A mathematician, Arthur Pfeiffer found poker interesting but thought chance played too large a role in the game, so in 1984 he created a version of poker called "Pickem," which eliminated the element of luck.

All cards were played face up in Arthur Pfeiffer's game, and each player selected his own cards. Players tried to make the best hand while blocking their opponents from making an even better hand. To make card selection possible, he created a prototype "Dealer," which read, stored, and dealt cards. The machine was controlled by a microcomputer, and each player had a port to "dial in" his card selection. Once selections were made, the dealer would distribute the cards under the control of the microcomputer.

Although production of the game never went much farther than a few focus groups, it stuck in the back of Daniel's mind as he built a successful career as a software engineer. With the advent of the Digital Age, Daniel Pfeiffer approached his father with the idea of bringing the game to the Internet.

"He was kind of surprised at first, because it had been in limbo for so long," Daniel Pfeiffer says of his father's reaction to the idea. "I remembered how the game had been such a great idea, and it just occurred to me to make it a Web game."

The dream is now a reality. The duo now co-owns ThwartPoker Inc., and has offered games on mobile phone networks for nearly two years. Hold'em Poker+ for Prizes on Atlas Mobile (since acquired by InfoSpace) first became available to the public in April 2004.

Numerous wireless companies offer the game to their customers, who can play the game for $2.99 a month or have unlimited access for a one-time fee of $6.99. It is the most popular game on InfoSpace, with millions of entries into multi-player tournaments. One player won a $2,000 trip to Las Vegas in June 2005. Along with its popular appeal, Hold'em Poker+ for prizes earned critical acclaim with an IGN Wireless Editors' Choice Award in 2005.

Buoyed by the success of the mobile version, ThwartPoker is now available on the Internet at Users can download a 60-minute trial before deciding if they want to subscribe to the service (currently $2.99/week or $9.99/month).

Based in Palo Alto, Calif., the company can legally award cash prizes since the game is based completely on skill. Currently those prizes are awarded to players who are most successful against virtual opponents, but multi-player real-time tournaments will also be available in the not-too-distant future.

The Pfeiffers eventually plan to interface the wireless and Internet platforms so players can face each other whether they are in front of their PC or holding a cell phone. While the Digital Age changed the way people could play, the essence of Arthur Pfeiffer's game remains the same, despite the loss of the "Dealer" machine he created to play the game 20 years ago.

"It was a magical thing," Daniel Pfeiffer says, describing the prototype his father created. "The physical unit that my father built to play the game had quite a charm. The psychological element of how to build the best hand while preventing your opponents from building a better one is fascinating to me."

How to Play ThwartPoker

There are two versions of Thwartpoker: Hold'em Blitz and 6 Card Battle. In both games, cards are played face up and players select their own cards to build the best possible hand. Players simultaneously pick one card at a time, and if two or more players select the same card they receive a blank card and miss that turn. In Hold'em Blitz, three community cards are revealed before each player selects four cards, while each player selects six cards to make a hand in 6 Card Battle. The best 5-card poker hand wins in both games.

The Internet version of the game adds a new element, allowing players to make bets based on the strength of their hands and their opponents' hands. Both versions award bonus points based on the rank of the hand created, regardless of who wins the showdown.

"With this new form of Hold'em Poker, we combine the betting experience of No Limit Hold'em with the element of choosing your cards," Pfeiffer says. "Now when you get beat on the last card you get beat based on your own choice and your opponent's choice, not on the luck of the draw."

For more information and a free trial version download, visit

In his previous life, Aaron Todd was a sports journalist by day and a poker player by night. He can now be found covering the poker beat for Casino City and making horrendously unsuccessful bluffs in his home game. Write to Aaron at

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