PKR.com Adds New Dimension to Online Poker
By Aaron Todd
Jez San has added a new dimension to the Internet poker landscape.
San, the President and founder of PKR.com, has played poker with friends for years. When Internet poker became popular, he started playing online but found that the experience lacked several important components of live play.
"The interactions that you get when you play in real life are different when you play online because you are missing so much information," San says.
PKR.com is San's solution.
The latest and most innovative Internet poker room, PKR.com is nearly finished with beta testing. Play money games are up and running, and players will be able to play for real money in the near future.
The site brings 3-D graphics technology into the previously two-dimensional Internet poker world, changing the avatars filling online poker rooms from static placeholders to interactive characters.
Users can choose to watch the action from the traditional overhead view, rotate around the table at any angle they wish, or let the software pick a view with the "dynamic" option, which switches angles to look and feel like a televised poker game.
"My idea was that if I could combine the 3-D graphics experience with the game of poker to make an online game that played like a real-life game, then I'd have something that was different, and hopefully something that people would want," San says.
So far, PKR.com has generated plenty of interest. The beta-testing phase began on May 15. Just over a month later, more than 7,000 users have downloaded the software and more than 15,000 users have signed up for accounts.
You Say You Want a Revolution
Producing revolutionary technology is nothing new for San, the Englishman who pioneered 3-D video games with Starglider, which he wrote in his bedroom as a teenager in the mid-1980's. He used his profits to build Argonaut Software from the ground up, and the company later produced Star Fox, Nintendo's first 3-D game, and the first two Harry Potter games.
While San and his team have designed three-dimensional Internet games in the past, PKR.com is the "most ambitious" project he has tackled.
"We had to learn about gaming," San says. "We had to learn about payment processing systems and fraud control, cheating and collusion. We had to learn all that stuff so we attended (a few trade shows) and we literally learned a new industry."
San took a good look at the competition at those trade shows and noticed that very little separated one Internet poker room from another, aside from marketing campaigns.
"What you ended up with was a market crowded with companies all offering the same product," says San. "They weren't differentiating on price, they weren't differentiating on the product or the experience that they gave to the customer. All they were doing was flooding the market with 'Me Too' clones. For me, that was an opportunity to do something different."
The PKR.com experience truly is different. Players can edit their avatars by choosing gender, complexion, face, hairstyle, clothing and accessories. PKR.com even offers a face-genning feature for real-money players, taking digital images and scanning a player's face directly into the game with astounding accuracy.
At the table, players can prompt their avatars to laugh, curse bad luck, do chip tricks, taunt other players, and dance in celebration all with the click of the mouse.
While most of these functions are available to players as soon as they sign up, some functions, such as chip tricks, require a player to gain experience at the PKR.com tables.
"In our game you have to earn chip tricks by spending loyalty points that you've earned throughout play," San says. "The people that can do the chip tricks in our game are the people that have a lot of experience. Just like real life, if you play at a poker table and someone is doing this really cool trick opposite you, you know that they've actually had far too much time to practice that, and therefore you should worry about the fact that they might be a good player. It's the same dynamic in our game."
While chip tricks are earned based on volume of play, the game once again mirrors real life as PKR.com bracelets are earned for quality of play. Players who win major PKR.com online tournaments will earn digital bracelets that their avatar can wear in future games to announce their previous success to the table.
Considering all the extras offered by PKR.com, the pace of play is surprisingly brisk. PKR.com currently only runs play money tables, with 10-person ring games averaging between 35 and 45 hands per hour, a rate similar to PKR.com's two-dimensional competitors' play money tables.
"We're not going to be exactly the same because we're not trying to be the fastest poker game in the world; we're trying to be the most enjoyable, most realistic poker game in the world," San says. "If we can do that at approximately the same speed as everyone else, then we're very happy."
PKR.com combines a three-dimensional video game experience with the Internet poker phenomenon. While the result isn't quite the same as playing in a casino or in a home game, it's the closest anyone has come so far.
San believes that the unique aspects of PKR.com will draw people to play at his newest venture. Based on his past success, it would seem unwise to bet against him.
In his previous life, Aaron Todd was a sports journalist by day and a poker player by night. He can now be found covering the poker beat for Casino City and making horrendously unsuccessful bluffs in his home game.
Write to Aaron at email@example.com.