PKR.com Launches “Live” Online Casino
Internet gambling operator PKR.com, best known for its 3-D poker room, launched a new live casino product last week, giving its customers another way to try to immersive themselves in the site’s unique online gaming world.
PKR.com was one of those ideas that did not seem like it would last when it was launched a decade ago. As online poker rooms were catering more and more to multi-tabling pros, providing ways to make the virtual tables as minimalist as possible and deal more and more hands per hour, PKR took the opposite approach: it opted for a graphically intensive, 3-D poker room in which each player had their own, full-body, animated avatar (rather than just a picture) that would physically go through all the normal paces at the table. The games were staged like they were at a televised final table. Naturally, because of the animation and realism (realism in the same way that, say, World of Warcraft feels real), the games are much slower and lend themselves to casual players who are more concerned with having fun than they are with maximizing their big blinds won per 100 hands.
But survive PKR did and the niche site is still around. It was independent for a long time, but finally gave in and joined the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) this past March.
The live casino launch, while it is something that may seem a bit strange to online poker players, actually makes a lot of sense for a site like PKR. While it is still played online, the live casino is pretty much just what it sounds like: a personal casino gaming experience with real, live dealers. The product is powered by Evolution Gaming, which has also partnered with the likes of PokerStars (and Full Tilt before that), 888, bwin.party, Unibet, and William Hill to offer customers the same thing.
“Poker is still in our DNA but on the back of record casino revenues this year, the addition of live casino is really exciting,” said PKR CEO Chris Welch in a press release. “Further radical transformation of the business and continued growth can take us to the next level, with more products which fit our ‘realistic’ ethos coming soon.”
From a player’s perspective, the live casino is fairly simple, very much like playing in a real, brick-and-mortar casino, just through the computer screen. There are a limited number of tables available, each with a limited number of seats and a real, live dealer passing out the cards or spinning the wheel. In blackjack, for example, there are seven seats per table – players can sit in any open seat and have a view of a flesh-and-blood blackjack dealer who is actually dealing out cards. Bets and decisions are all made through mouse clicks like in a regular online casino.
Of course, since this is a casino, there are other opportunities to place wagers even if a player isn’t sitting at the table. Using blackjack as an example again, those waiting for a seat at a table can use the “Bet Behind” option to live vicariously through someone – or everyone – occupying a seat. Those who “bet behind” essentially put action on the result of someone’s blackjack hand. The person sitting is the one who actually plays and makes all the hit, stand, split, and double decisions, but the person betting behind can put money down, as well; he wins if the player wins and loses if the player loses. If a player doubles-down, the person betting behind does, well.
Evolution Gaming streams its live games from studios in Riga, Lativa and Malta. The studios are filled with physical tables manned by dealers (both male and female). Some tables are shared amongst sites, while others are branded specifically for online casinos. The studios are monitored by a Mission Control Room so that staff can step in if there are any issues. Several different languages are spoken by the various dealers so that customers can have a more intimate experience.
Live online casino games have been around for a number of years, but initially they were all limited to sites that strictly dealt in these live games. Those sites did not generally succeed, as there wasn’t enough demand for the slower paced games. When used as complements to standard online casino gaming offerings, such as what PKR is doing, they seem to have done much better. It probably helps, too, that Evolution Gaming has specialized in providing live casinos to sites, as specialization leads to expertise, refinement, and a higher quality product.
Live online casinos used to be something that conspiracy theorists were interested in, those players who did not trust random number generators and thought all online gaming was rigged (yet still wanted to play, for some reason). As online gaming has become more established and accepted, live online casinos are more the domain of recreational players who just want to have a little gambling fun that feels more genuine than computer pixels.