Is it game over for PKR, and what on earth went wrong?

PKR, the only 3D real-money online poker site around, has hit the muck.

After blocking users from accessing the site at 5.32pm UK time on May 3, quoting “site maintenance” the company ended up filing an administration order with the UK court.

There was a lot of affection for, and hopes are that the famous brand can survive in some form after administration.

At the moment, most people are wondering what will happen with their balances and if PKR will be able to give funds back to their players. However, there is another aspect that’s worth looking into, and that’s how PKR got into trouble in the first place, and whether this is its final goodbye.

Unique online poker experience

From the very first day of its existence, PKR offered a completely different and unique online poker experience. Its 3D setting and an overall virtual reality feel put the company ahead of its time at launch in 2006. It was able to offer something no one else did, and to this day, the site has no real competitor in this regard.

During the first years of their operation, PKR certainly held its own, attracting a sort of players who were primarily interested in having a good time at the virtual felt. Unlike nearly every other online poker room out there, PKR didn’t cater to grinders who wanted to play ten or more tables at the same time. They stood for fun and entertainment, something that’s largely been sucked out of online poker over time.

Right idea, wrong audience?

Looking back on the entire situation, one can’t fail to wonder, how come PKR Poker remained without competition for all these years? Surely, there are companies out there with required funds and resources to develop a full-fledged 3D poker experience. Yet, not one serious company, like PokerStars or Full Tilt in its glory days, tried to replicate the experience.

What seems to be the case here is that PKR had a good idea, but it was just aimed at the wrong audience. Online poker players, for the most part, aren’t after the lifelike experience, as they can get that in a real casino. When they play online, they want to play as many hands as possible in the shortest time. With 3D poker, you don’t get this, as the action is slow and it’s hard to play more than one or two tables.

If you can’t beat them, join them

All this isn’t to say that PKR didn’t have its target audience who enjoyed their different approach. During the boom years of online poker, the room was able to do okay for themselves. However, with interest for online poker generally declining, and even the giants like PokerStars seeing their player traffic hit, it was hard for a room so specific like PKR to hold its head above the water.

So, in 2016, it finally gave in and abandoned the idea of being a standalone room. They joined forces with Microgaming Poker Network (MPN), which was guaranteed to boost their traffic. However, at the same time, the risk was it would strip away almost everything that made PKR unique. Instead of casual players looking to have fun, the tables would become populated with hardcore MPN grinders.


Writing on the wall

Many PKR players at the time tried to warn the room that this simply wouldn’t work. The MPN already has many rooms, all offering more or less the same things, so there was little incentive for anyone to join PKR specifically.

They retained their 3D client, but those looking to play on Microgaming weren’t interested in that for the most part.

But, with their traffic declining, this may have been a last ‘hail Mary’. There were also the 2016 launches of an online casino and virtual sports betting platforms, as part of a reimagining of the brand.

It is hard to say if people behind PKR expected this to happen, but just didn’t see any other way out, or they genuinely believed joining a large poker network would help revive the room.

It may have been that PKR drowned in the large ocean populated by hardcore poker grinders who didn’t care for the fine experience the room was offering.

So, the only question that still hangs in the air is what will become of PKR? Is this their definitive end, or will they rebound and come back stronger than before? Perhaps with a different management and different approach to finding players, the room could survive this difficult period.

If not, May 3 will be remembered as a sad day for online poker, as PKR was one of those rare companies that wanted to make a difference, despite all the adversities along the way.

Ivan Potocki is an online casino and poker journalist and also a former professional poker player.

The views expressed in this opinion article are of the author and not Casinopedia

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