Most people might remember Zynga as the company that took a gamble on farming with their smash hit Farmville, but did you know that before that they took an even bigger gamble on gambling? Zynga Poker (aka Texas Hold'em Poker) was the company's first real success, and we're not bluffing when we tell you that it still holds up wonderfully. In the face of fresh competition from games like Poker Rivals and Poker Palace, Zynga Poker is still the hand to beat.

Before you start asking “but isn't online gambling illegal?” let me be the first to assure you that no real world money is involved. Unless of course you want to buy more chips. This is Facebook gaming after all – you've got to assume they're trying to sell you something to enhance your play experience, don't you?

Don't worry though – just like every other worthwhile Facebook game you can enjoy Zynga Poker without spending a penny. What's great about Zynga Poker is that it provides the thrill of online poker without any of the risk. If you've ever thought about dabbling in some virtual card turning but don't like the idea of gambling away your life savings, Zynga Poker provides a safe alternative that everyone can enjoy.

Unlike most social games on Facebook, Zynga Poker matches you up with real live players who are sitting in front of their computers too. For most poker experiences on Facebook this is the beginning and the end of your social interaction, save for the possible chat window or the buying of virtual drinks for your friends. Zynga Poker, though, takes it a bit further and blends the offline social interaction of other Zynga games with the online interactions of virtual poker.

Zynga Poker offers “poker team challenges” that you and your friends can complete together, yet separately and on your own time. These challenges are things like “you and 2 buddies must each win a single hand within 2 days.” So long as you and the required number of friends achieve the goal in that set time, everybody wins. You don't have to do it together; you just have to do it in the time limit.

Speaking of time, the speed of each round in Zynga Poker couldn't be smoother or more efficient. The game is balanced to have a great pace – nothing ever seems rushed, yet nothing ever goes to slow. Nailing the balance has been tricky for other poker games on Facebook, yet Zynga seems to pull it off flawlessly. Despite all of the other bells and whistles that we've enjoyed there's little that feels as good as the pacing.

Should you feel like you've mastered the basics, there are achievements, tournaments, and VIP tables to keep your interest held well beyond the occasional afternoon of poker.

Zynga Poker has been an incredibly popular app for quite some time now, and with the speed and sophistication of this offering it's plain to see why. Games move at a perfect pace, tournaments and challenges provide a wealth of reasons to keep coming back, and every little detail offers up the same level of polish that we've come to expect from Zynga properties. Zynga Poker isn't the only poker game on Facebook, but it's the only one you need to be playing right now.