Hughes isn’t the latest online poker hotshot or crushing it on the global poker circuit. He’s currently a mechanical engineering student at CalPoly at San Luis Obispo. Real-money online poker may be illegal in California, but Hughes spends plenty of time at PokerStars free virtual reality tables.
That now expands to representing the company and helping others.
“In a nutshell, my duties as ambassador are to represent the PokerStars VR game and community,” he says. “This is done through streaming tournaments and events to new and existing players, acting as a bridge between players at the table and the development team, and helping out to create new video, audio, and visual content for the game.
“On top of that, not only am I showing off the game to new and existing players, I’m showing PokerStars that this game they decided to green-light back in 2018 is what the future of poker and casino gaming will look like.”
From free-play virtual reality to real-life PokerStars ambassador role
PokerStars VR offers players a unique 360-degree, three-dimensional experience. The unique backgrounds and player animations create more of a game with friends than a traditional online poker platform.
The first PokerStars Virtual Reality Poker Tour (VRPT) launched in September 2019. The promotion included a contest to find the first ever PokerStars VR ambassador.
The competition ran through February and narrowed down the field to 10 finalists who earned spots in different ways. That included slots for the most chips won, votes, royal flushes, and leaderboard rings attained.
Hughes earned “Community Hero” for content creation and streaming. Finalists sent in a video explaining why they should be the ambassador. That was then narrowed down to three finalists who were interviewed via Skype.
“It would be a dream come true to support and promote PokerStars and represent the VR community as well,” Hughes said during his interview with Stars. “I feel like I already take on the role of an ambassador, so to me this role would just be an extension to what I already do.”
None other than poker legend Chris Moneymaker called Hughes to let him know he’d won. Hughes had already played more than 1,500 hours on PokerStars VR by then. While he wasn’t surprised, Hughes knew there was some tough competition.
“I was more nervous about being selected at all due to the other amazing and talented candidates I had to compete against,” he says. “There were many people just as deserving as I am to have the title of VR ambassador and I hope one day PokerStars decides to run the contest again to find someone to be a VR ambassador with me.”
Taking the poker game virtual
Like many players, Hughes learned to play poker at a young age from his father. He always enjoyed making up new games, but school began taking up more of his time. During his third year of college, however, Hughes discovered PokerStars VR – and he couldn’t get enough of it.
“Ever since I started playing, I’ve grown to love the game and found myself learning new strategies every hand I play,” says Hughes, who goes by “TurtleJuice447” online.
When not at the virtual tables, Hughes enjoys games of all kinds. He also likes playing and composing music on the piano, traveling, and hanging out with friends.
For Hughes, there are two main aspects of the virtual reality action he particularly enjoys. First, the gameplay is polished and realistic.
“Picking up your chips and throwing them into the center of the table is such a simple action, yet it’s so satisfying to do in VR,” he says. “Every action you take is intuitive to what you would do in a live poker game.”
The social side of poker is also a major attraction. Chit chatting and interacting with others is a big part of the fun.
“There is something so amazing about living in a time where I can sit down and play cards at a table where nobody is from the same country,” he says. “I can reach over and give a fist bump to a player literally across the world.”
The platform mixes some of the best aspects of live poker with the best parts of online poker, Hughes notes. Players make real physical actions and socialize from the comfort of their own homes – “all into one free game.”
Getting in the VR PokerStars action
Playing poker in VR requires a bit of a learning curve. In his new role, Hughes helps new players learn the VR mechanics and streams his own play. Another duty is taking player feedback to developers to change and improve the poker client.
“The new player experience is a bit overwhelming for new players,” he says. “PokerStars VR, as of right now at least, doesn’t have an in-game playable tutorial, so new players must figure out how to play or ask others for help.
“Even without a tutorial currently in-game, players at the tables and in the Discord, in my experience, are more than willing to help show the ropes to struggling new players.”
Players accustomed to real-money online poker may avoid free-play poker. Hughes sees VR as a way to work on the social aspects of live poker.
The new VR ambassador believes there’s potential for PokerStars VR to become the best option in playing for real money. Players have plenty of fun too.
“Many of the high-stake tables in the game are dominated by real money players who play to have a good time,” he says. “Play money players will love PokerStars VR due to its design. Playing PokerStars VR is very similar to playing a live game but with the connectivity and action of online play.”
Just like in live poker, players peel back their cards to peek at them. Ready to bet or raise? Players must pick up a specific number of chips from their stack and toss them in the center of the table.
“You can even put your hands together and shove your entire stack into the middle of the table to go all in,” Hughes says.
And while the play may be virtual, getting knocked out of a tournament still hurts.
For more on PokerStars VR, visit the platform’s Discord channel or the GetLuckyVR channel on Twitch.
For a complete PokerStars review including exclusive PokerScout bonus offers, click here.