At first, the social gaming startup Zynga‘s new iPhone game “Live Poker” seems pretty run-of-the-mill. The interface is intuitive, the visuals make good use of the iPhone’s widescreen, but there are dozens of other poker applications available. There’s nothing special about this one — except, oh yeah, you’re playing live with real people.

San Francisco-based Zynga says Live Poker is the first iPhone app to tap into the Facebook Connect platform, which allows outside applications access into a user’s Facebook data and social graph. So not only can you use your iPhone to join the 1.4 million people playing Zynga’s Texas HoldEm app, you can also see if your Facebook friends are online and challenge them.

Chief executive Mark Pincus showed me a demo of Live Poker a couple of weeks ago, and I was pretty impressed — it does a nice job of repackaging the major features from Texas HoldEm. I actually find the Texas HoldEm Facebook app to be a bit of an eyesore, but Live Poker has a much slicker design, and isn’t covered in ads. It also handles mobile issues like losing signal (Live Poker runs on WiFi or the 3G network) — it drops you from the current game but lets you jump back in once your signal returns.

You can see the app in action for yourself in the video below — or just download it, since it’s free. There’s also a $9.99 version that gives you more chips and allows you to access tournaments.

This is a smart move for Zynga, but what’s really exciting is the potential for other iPhone games, from Zynga and others. Instead of seeing more games that just sit on your iPhone, Live Poker could be the first in a wave of games with multiplayer capabilities and social networking features.

The social gaming company has raised about $39 million in venture backing, including a $29 million second round from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers announced in June. It says it has 5.4 million daily users overall on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5 and Friendster.

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Live Poker by Zynga