Saturday California opened their own free online poker site. I'm not the only one who believes that legal online poker is coming soon, and everyone is trying to position themselves to capitalize. The CA site is called Calshark.com and is operated by a group called COPA, the California Online Poker Association. This is a coalition of CA card rooms like the Commerce, and Bicycle, along with various Indian tribes like Morongo and San Manuel. You can see all the members here http://www.calonlinepoker.org/online-poker-facts/who-we-are/. This group is spending millions of dollars lobbying in CA in an effort to control online poker when the law gets passed.
I checked out the site.
They are using Playtech software so the site is miles ahead of the South Point site. The graphics are much better, you can make notes about the players, you can change backgrounds, although I really would like an option of no background, and you can use 4-color decks which I like. Two other very good features, you can play in a browser version if you don't want to download, and you can log in as a guest if you don't want to give them any information. (Obviously that will have to change if and when they are allowed to play for real money.)
I couldn't resize the window. The cards and betting amounts are a bit hard to read so I would like to be able to make the whole screen bigger. I was using the browser version so maybe this is better in the download version.
On each player's turn a large clock face appears at their spot and counts down 15 seconds. It is too large, and annoying. You do have a time bank of an additional 30 seconds that you can use if you have a tough decision.
You can buy virtual gifts and drinks for other players. They call this "social gaming" and are planning a facebook app. So what? You're going to buy virtual drinks for some dude pretending to be a girl, and then go to Farmville and hook up in a cucumber patch? Just show me the money.
I hear that Barona will be launching their own free site soon, so this will compete for CA players. I'll let you know when it comes out, and give it a review.