Since PKR Poker shut down, here are some great alternatives to 3D poker online, by Joffrey Daniels
It was a sad day for many online poker players, when PKR in 2014 shut down their business and declared bankruptcy. Loyal fans of playing poker emerged in a 3D world were left with an empty vacuum, since no other online poker site offered a similar experience. In this article we will take a look at some of the current and upcoming alternatives to a real 3D experience when playing poker online.
We will keep this post updated as new technologies come along, and will constantly be on the lookout for changes in the industry which may indicate that qualified candidates for a PKR poker replacement is on the way, and former players on PKR may yet again find themselves in a much more social and entertaining way to play poker with other people.
This marks the second time - the other was Full Tilt Poker - a major poker room as been closed... and strangely enough, both poker rooms' assets seem to have been acquired by PokerStars, now the largest online poker room in the world.
Why did PKR shut down?
That's the question everyone is asking themselves, because PKR was well known for being one of the fastest growing online poker rooms in history, with lots of momentum, new technology, exciting take on playing poker online and even extremely attractive online poker business. So what went wrong? How could a poker room with that sort of pace in growing users, suddenly fold its hand and concede? Especially one that's been in business since 2006, by steadily growing a loyal fan base with streamlined processes and original marketing.
Well, the same happened to PKR that happened to other companies who couldn't stay alive, such as Full Tilt Poker - who also had to close its doors in 2014 (and later transferred all assets to PokerStars in May 2016) - due to... financial difficulties. In the end, it all really comes down to finances and how well the company is being run. Despite what some people believe, running an online poker room is not a walk in the park, and sometimes it doesn't matter that you have an original platform with cool software, if - at the end of the day - you still have more expenses than income, licensing problems or customer service issues that fuel bad reputation online.
While PKR did not necessarily go through all of the above, sometimes it doesn't take much more than a couple of consistent missteps to ruin an otherwise promising poker startup. One of the main reasons PKR had to shut down was the - for some reason - their growth rate declined over the years, and eventually it became enough for PKR to consider closing due to the increased difficulties in sustaining their marketing, software development and employee salaries.
What was the cause for the declining user numbers?
This is a tough one. And boy has there been a lot of speculation about it. After spending many hours reading about the possible causes, it seems that it actually came down to a change in the culture of online poker. As weird as it may sound, I think that one of the main reasons for PKR Poker's downfall was a shift in how people wanted to play poker online. While the 3D world was a fun, engaging and cool experience, online poker players started to want more practicality and "things that just work" instead of fancy graphics, 3D gestures and the clothing you can buy and wear. At the end of the day, poker is about the game and the sport of making a good hand give more money in return.
It's a hard one to swallow though. I mean, PKR was the pioneer of the online poker world with innovative software, original ideas and even introduced an entirely new social aspect into playing poker, by allowing users to dress up however they wanted, chat with personal gestures etc. even out of the games. But still... while all of this sounds really good, we cannot deny the fact that it took time - albeit a little - to "walk to a table" or find the right tournament room, and even to change the clothes of your character. All of this ended up, at least subconsciously, drifting the poker experience away from simply playing poker and making money playing it.
In a desperate attempt to recover from the culture change, and perhaps realization that there might be something fundamentally wrong with their foundation, PKR released a 2D version allowing players to "just play" without the 3D graphics. But while this might have been "okay" in some users' minds, it meant that PKR suddenly became "just another poker room" and now had nothing over bigger and more popular rooms like PokerStars and PartyPoker. Suddenly, playing at PKR meant that you either had to "waste valuable gaming time with the 3D world" or "accepted a mediocre 2D experience, compared to the rivals which had been doing 2D for many more years than PKR.
PokerStars refunded the entire bankroll of PKR users
After PKR had to close its doors, their users were left in limbo with money on the line and locked bankrolls. The company behind PKR really only had two choices in dealing with their users' financial assets as part of the bankruptcy handling; either they had to "just close", or they had to sell their users to another interested part. This is where PokerStars stepped in, since they eyed an opportunity to convert a lot of former PKR poker players to their own platform, since the users had money on the line. So PokerStars did the noble thing, and purchased the rights to all of PKR's user details (including the bankroll statements), allowing PokerStars to email every single one of the 60,000 users at PKR, informing them that if they registered an account at PokerStars, their complete bankrolls - dollar-for-dollar - would be deposited into their newly registered PokerStars account's balance, thus refunding all the PKR users who were left with locked cash.
This was a huge relief for the players of PKR, who previously thought that all of their money on their PKR balances were lost for good. Which of course in the end meant, that PokerStars had a rather good chance of converting any players who might have some locked money at PKR, since if they didn't sign up at pokerstars.com, they would eventually lose all of the hard earning real money they had available at their PKR account's balance.
On the other hand, this of course was an expensive maneuver from PokerStars - on the short term - since refunding all the money meant (an estimated) millions of dollars had to be deposited from the company's own bank into players' accounts who had yet to provide any value for the company. Furthermore, the players could just simply open their accounts at PokerStars, withdraw their "lost" money and never again play poker. However, fortunately the reality is that players who regularly earn real money playing poker online, also really just love to play poker, and since they needed somewhere to play, they might as well just play at pokerstars.com since they now already had their old bankroll deposited there.
The official statement from PokerStars was this:
We’re not doing this to improve our bottom line and we are not acquiring or planning to revive the PKR software platform. We’re doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do for the poker world and to encourage others to join us in putting you, the player, first by segregating and protecting player balances from operating funds. PokerStars is proud that we’re in a position where we’re able to step in and help these players and encourage all companies in the industry to put players first.
Of course, the really smart players also went on and found a PokerStars referral code to further increase the value of the money they received at their accounts, which meant that some users actually were left with more money in the end than they had at their bankrolls at PKR, making the whole situation a profitable one - despite the uncertainty before PokerStars stepped in to refund the players.
What was special about PKR?
First of foremost, PKR Poker was all about its 3D. They created a world of different locations, beautiful poker rooms in which to host their live tournaments, and amazing things you could do with your character, such as buying new clothes, getting jewelry or glasses and even letting you tease your opponents during the poker games, to trick the others into reading your hand wrongly or forcing a mistake out of them.
No matter how you put it, PKR was a pioneer within the ranks of online poker rooms. They took the old traditional way of playing poker online, and redefined the idea of what could be done and how much more fun, entertainment and social interaction it would be possible to put into a game of poker.
Some of the best sign-up bonuses you could get
PKR had a lot of things going on for them, not to mention their highly innovative 3D world. But a lot of people sometimes forget that their are many factors which played role in their success, other than just "great software", and PKR poker is definitely no exception to this. For instance, one of the ways they managed to grow so quickly was because they provided their new users with extremely good no-deposit bonuses, allowing their users to start off with a much better position than if they had just launched an account and started playing.
One of the most popular referral bonuses they offered, gave you a 100% up to $800 bonus, meaning you could get a total of $800 for free simply by registering a new account at PKR. This was almost unheard of, and other poker rooms have been trying to copy this tactic ever since. Furthermore, it immediately got new visitors' on pkr.com their attention, and after that it wasn't that difficult to then get them interested in an amazing game of 3D poker - something which was completely unique to PKR, since no other poker rooms in the world were offering a 3D poker client - and there still isn't a proper alternative to this day.
Playing real-money poker on iPhone
Not only did PKR have an original concept for the desktop computers, but they also developed an iPhone App enabling their users to play real-money poker with a 3D poker experience directly on one's iPhone or iPad on the move. This again testified to the company's ability to shake up the market and innovate, and it took years before the other poker rooms began to offer iPhone applications for playing poker online and while traveling.
It doesn't take a genius to see the value in an App which allow you to make money (if you are good at poker) while in the bus, or just simply on the couch at home, since it is after all "just a card game", and a pretty casual game too. With the iPhone App PKR even allowed users to choose whether they wanted the full 3D world, or just a simple 2D game of poker with a table some cards.
Alternative 3D poker rooms
Sadly, we regret to inform that PKR left a huge vacuum, since no modern poker room has officially offered a 3D experience similar to the one PKR offered, since the company closed its doors and folded its hand. I wonder how many are eagerly awaiting for someone to launch a 3D poker experience, since there obviously is a huge market for it - based on PKR's growth while they were in business alone.
We will take a look at some who have been - albeit somewhat hesitantly - sticking their nose into potential 3D-like features, and may even be the top qualified contending poker rooms for launching a full fetched 3D experience similar to the one offered at PKR.
888 Poker - A worthy mention
Although there are no real 3D experiences available, there are still some who have implemented 3D into their poker software to a certain degree. One of these are 888 Poker, who - actually as the first poker room to do this - have enabled a 3D-glass experience, allowing users with 3D glasses to experience the avatars (as well as other elements in the layout and graphics) to spring to life when wearing the glasses. While this does of course not come close to the actual 3D world that PKR had built for its players, it definitely is giving some of the older fans of the poker room the opportunity to at least have some of the 3D experience back, just by playing their daily poker at 888 Poker instead - which of course, is one of the top reviewed poker rooms anyways, so most might even consider it an upgrade.
The future of 3D poker - Ending remarks
Personally, I really loved PKR and the way it could deliver a 3D experience to us (the users), and I still hope that someone will come along (hopefully soon) with another 3D concept to make PKR's dreams come real again. Perhaps it's possible now that web technology has come a longer way, with HTML5 and web progressive Apps, making everything that's needed to develop 3D experiences lightweight and available online, so you can basically play online poker in 3D in your browser. The technology is there, so hopefully someone will take advantage of it soon, and we can yet again emerge ourselves in a beautiful 3D world of poker without compromise.
Virtual reality poker might become a thing
Now, I feel I cannot end this article without mentioning virtual reality, because as we all know virtual reality headsets are really beginning to make a presence for online gaming, and especially generate some interest among people who play games which suit virtual reality perfectly. One such game is of course poker, since poker is a game where you sit at a table and play cards with other players, which would be perfect while wearing a virtual reality headset, if it could be combined with a 3D poker table, animated 3D avatars and some of the other features that PKR had implemented.
I am fairly certain, that if PKR had been alive and well today, it might have been the first online poker room to truly implement the VR technology into their real-money software, enabling virtual reality poker on both Macs, PCs and Linux machines.
So is currently no sign of a real money virtual reality poker client, but I doubt it will be long before we start seeing some development in this area, as it would be perhaps the most authentic way to play poker - without having to play it in real life.
I hope you enjoyed the post. It will be updated as we learn more about 3D poker software, and get more news about real alternatives to the good old PKR client.