Dan O’Callaghan on why PKR will always have a place in his heart

Dan O'Callaghan on why PKR will always have a place in his heart

Lee Davy sits down with former PKR pro-Dan O’Callaghan to seek his opinion on why PKR ended up applying for an administration order and what he believes will happen to the player funds.

I never did quite get PKR.

If it was my first site, things might have been different. But the migration from PokerStars and Full Tilt was painful. I felt like I was ten again begging my parents not to move from England to Wales.

The site functionality bugged me. I couldn’t multi-table, and the pace was snail-like compared to my previous homes.

Dan O'Callaghan on why PKR will always have a place in his heartBut I was there on strict orders from my coach to win some money. It was a smart decision. PKR remains the only online poker room I have walked out of with a cash game profit.

There were a few things I remember from my days on the site. They had very generous bonuses. As soon as I accomplished one they were sending me an email to start another.

There was also a community, and I had never felt that in an online poker room before. PokerStars and Full Tilt may have had regs, but it never felt like a community. PKR did.

What I liked most about PKR was the way they promoted from within. The only time they decided to look outside for a star, they chose wisely, bringing Jake Cody into the fold before his move to PokerStars. It gave the PKR players hope that they could one day climb the pro ladder and represent an online site they loved and trusted.

And as PKR goes through its death throes, those trusting connections are going be tested more than ever, because the poker media is reporting a clause in the PKR Terms & Conditions, that in the case of insolvency these funds {the players} would not be protected.

Dan O’Callaghan is one of the fortunate few that managed to use his status in the PKR community, along with some decent card playing savvy, to earn a sponsorship with the 3D online poker room. I reached out to him to seek the thoughts of a man who once belonged to one of the tightest group of players in the industry.

How did you feel when you first heard the news?

“I was pretty sad. Not like a balling my eyes out sad, but more like when you drop a cream cake on the carpet, and there’s no three-second rule option sad. But I saw it coming. It wasn’t a surprise.

“It’s gutting because it was the first site I ever played on. PKR had such a good concept, were responsible for a load of stuff that other sites implemented later, like the graphs that monitor chips in tourneys for example. If more business savvy people had owned the software, and when they added the 2D version to run alongside the 3D, I think it could have been one of the very best market leaders. But there were some poor decisions.”

What do you mean when you say ‘it wasn’t a surprise?’

“The whole thing was a slow painful death. The site was hit hard when all of the Belgian, Spanish, French and whoever else started to move to their individual markets. That hit the traffic hard, and when those players left, numbers dropped massively. This led to cuts in guarantees, which deterred more players. And shortly after the site started using “expected prize pool” instead of guaranteed, which made things worse because there was now $20 tournaments, with 2k expected prize pools, but only $500 guarantees and I think when people saw $200 up top, they just moved. Let’s face it, recreational players are the heartbeat of online poker, and they don’t want to play for $200, they want to gamble and chase the big scores.

 “I remember having a conversation with some of the staff there, and them saying that they were asking for investment for growth, but that it wasn’t happening. I think that when player numbers started to drop, they needed to look at it and say, ‘How can we get more players?’ Instead of ‘How can we stop losing money?’

“Partypoker were overlaying massively for a long time. But they had eyes on the long term and have pumped money into the site, and now they’re thriving. Since I saw the PKR purse strings tighten, even more, I knew it was only a matter of time.”

 One of the biggest attractions for PKR players was (a) intimate customer service (b) a sense of community. When did those two start to fall apart?

 “The whole community was massive. That’s what I miss about the site, and will miss the most. Poker is poker anywhere, but PKR has its own community. During the slow demise, there were countless forum posts of people pleading with PKR to change stuff. And when a new CEO came in, he even opened a thread in which he was pretty active asking for feedback. But things never seemed to change. Maybe because suggestions required investment, and they weren’t in a position to do it? Who knows? But the live events became less and less flamboyant, which made them less worth the travel for the non-regulars, and this had a knock-on effect. There was always a loyal following of people you would see at every event, but of course, it wasn’t big enough to fuel the whole site.

 “It’s just like a nightclub. People follow people, and people were moving because of the prize pools. I think the gutting of guarantees showed that PKR put too much energy into the cash games and casino, and neglected tournaments – areas they made the most money from (which makes sense business wise I guess). But poker’s weird, and I think they underestimated how good tournaments were at keeping people logged into the site and injecting money into the cash games. It was a numbers thing. Numbers started dropping, and there wasn’t enough effort or investment being made to keep them.”

Where will those players go now?

 “Since PKR was a skin on Microgaming, it makes sense that people will sign up with some new skin on a new Rakeback deal and keep playing. I think most people that played there liked the smaller player pool and already played other sites anyway.”

Have you heard any word from the inside about what happens next regarding the player’s money?

“Not from the inside. But I’ve seen some stuff about the T&C’s and to be honest; I’m pretty shocked. I know players funds were held in a unique account, but I saw something on the website that said they are safe unless the company goes into insolvency, which kinds of bewilders me since that’s the only time a player would be concerned about the money. I think if PKR had their way, they would, of course, pay players back, but it’s in the hands of the creditors.

“I believe that the T&C wording is just a formality. The money is there being held, and it’s not PKR’s so how can a creditor touch it? Surely they can’t. I hope. I’d be surprised if players don’t get the money back, to be honest. PKR may have made some bad decisions, but they were one of the most straight up companies in the industry. They even had their offices onshore, not in some seedy offshore tax haven like other sites. I don’t think people are too worried. Beyne even joked to me about his play money account being safe.”

 Do you want to add anything else?

“I just want to reiterate what I wrote on my social media channels last week. The news saddened me. PKR is the reason I got into poker and why I play today. They will always have a place in my heart, and I have a lot to thank them for. Oh, and that things might have gone downhill after they signed me, but I hope that’s just coincidence!”

Here is the latest news from PKR:

Further to earlier announcements, PKR Limited and PKR Technologies Ltd have filed applications to Court for Administration orders, which will be heard in the week commencing 8th May 2017.

The blog post comment from Alex Scott of Microgaming that seems to have spooked everyone:

PKR has repeatedly assured us that player funds are held in a segregated client account, for the express purpose of storing such funds, in accordance with their licence obligations in the United Kingdom and Alderney. We believe this to be true.

Microgaming does not hold any player funds whatsoever. Player funds are held only by PKR and it is now the duty of PKR’s administrator to return the funds to players.

It is important to note that simply maintaining a segregated bank account for player funds does not automatically mean that player funds will be returned immediately or at all. PKR’s administrator will ultimately decide how to return money to players.