What do you get when you combine poker, mahjong tiles, a countdown timer and an airline ticket?

The answer is Poker Pop, a refreshingly unique offering that fuses multiple genres into one challenging and rewarding game.

Due out later this month, PlayFirst’s Poker Pop – at its heart – is a poker game. But instead of using cards, the game board is comprised of multiple mahjong-like tiles, spread out beside one another. The goal is to create the best poker hands by clicking five adjacent tiles (such as 5, 5, 6, 6, 6 for a full house). By doing so, the tiles disappear, making way for new tiles that drop down onto the screen.

But this is just the beginning.

For each board presented, gamers are on a strict time limit in which to find and click these poker hands. For this reason, PlayFirst says they’ve created a brand new genre: Action-Card. This is especially true with the aptly-named Challenge mode, where each of the 50 increasingly tricky levels must be restarted if the countdown timer reasons zero.

To add yet another layer of difficulty, the board can only be completed by creating specific poker hands, listed on the right-hand side of the screen, such as three sets of two pairs (e.g. K, K, Q, Q, 4), four straights (e.g. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) and three flushes (five cards in the same suit, such as all hearts or spades).

Special tiles, such as Jokers, can be used as wild cards to help your hand, while “peril” tiles, such as smoking or flaming ones, cannot reach the bottom of the screen or else you have to re-do the board all over again.

While Poker Pop includes multiple game types, such as the abovementioned Challenge mode or the more relaxed Arcade mode, the main game is the Tour mode. Here, players travel to dozens of cities around the world to play poker; unlock beautiful postcards for completing levels (such as Osaka, Japan or Rome, Italy); collect special souvenirs for creating impressive poker hands (such as a straight flush); and gain power-ups that can be used in subsequent games, including one that removes all perils from the board when things get too hairy and another that helps you make a flush easier by rearranging cards by suit.

Gamers will enjoy music, facts and images from that particular part of the world; after the country is completed, a world map shows players flying from one continent to another.

While the game can get quite tough – especially when the board is full of peril tiles, the timer is counting down and you’re trying to make two more straights! – but the good news is gamers can chose to play a game that is more relaxed and with plenty of instructions and assistance so they can learn how to play 5-card poker in a fun and fresh way.

If the preview build we played is any indication, Poker Pop looks like it will turn the popular poker genre on its ear. The game folds in multiple game types, fun power-ups…and even requires a passport!