Yesterday, one of the first-ever online poker rooms, PokerRoom.com, got the virtual wrecking ball. Parent company bwin announced last month that it would be closing down the site for good. Last week, an email from the company stated that "the option to play poker on PokerRoom…will be disabled on Tuesday, April 14th." PokerRoom players were given the option of cashing out or transferring their accounts over to bwin – with special bonuses being offered to entice the exiled players to transfer and play at bwin.
PokerRoom was one of the few online poker sites that could actually trace its history back to the 20th century. The site was launched by Swedish poker players Oskar Hörnell and Claes Lidell in 1999, when online poker was still in the embryonic stages. They saw the potential for poker on the internet, and Oskar brought in his brother Karl, a computer programmer, to help design the software. With their combined know-how, the three men soon had the fledgling poker site up and running.
PokerRoom grew exponentially early on. In 2003, the breakthrough year that saw Chris Moneymaker take down the WSOP Main Event and kick off the poker boom, the site revamped its software and expanded its hold'em-only offerings to also spread Omaha, Omaha hi/lo, and seven-card stud. Within the next few years, PokerRoom grew to be one of the most popular online poker rooms and became a part of the Ongame Network (then known as the PokerNetwork), establishing itself as Ongame's most recognizable poker site.
2006 would prove to be another pivotal year for PokerRoom. Early in the year, Austrian gaming giant bwin (then called BetandWin) finalized its acquisition of Ongame e-solutions AB, bringing PokerRoom under the bwin aegis. Shortly after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act in September of that year, PokerRoom's withdrawal from the US market was announced. Despite losing the massive base of American players, the Ongame Network continued to draw impressive numbers, ranked by one industry tracking outlet as the fifth-largest online poker network today. But PokerRoom itself did not keep pace, leading to bwin's decision to turn off PokerRoom's lights and close up shop permanently.
At its peak, PokerRoom was one of the world's leading poker sites, boasting a huge player base and a superior reputation. One of the first sites to offer a Mac-compatible client, along with Linux and mobile phone applications, it was also known for excellent, innovative software. PokerRoom was truly a pioneer in the world of online poker.