In case you missed it, Ongame will permanently shut down their online poker rooms next month. This brings a somewhat sad end to a once great online poker company. For those of you unfamiliar with online poker’s past, the Ongame Network used to be one of the largest online poker networks.
Many online poker players got their start playing online poker on PokerRoom.com. Personally, I used to frequent PokerRoom because they had juicy Five Card Draw games and was literally the best site for Draw poker back in the day.
I have a personal connection to the Ongame Network, at least the pre-Amaya and NYX versions. They were my first long-term client in poker, a relationship that lasted nearly four years. While I haven’t worked for them since 2012, it is still a bit sad to see this once great online poker network fade to black.
Personal Connection to Ongame
Following a stint as a blogger for PokerNews during the 2008 World Series of Poker, I started my journey as an everyday “Freelance Poker Writer.” For the first month following the WSOP, I worked a couple small clients while trying to find steady work.
Then in September 2008, I answered a blind ad looking for someone to “answer poker questions.” The gig seemed a little too good to be true, but they paid me half up front and after the first batch, they prepaid for the rest of my work.
After about six weeks answering various mundane questions, my client asked if I would be interested in writing articles for some of their sites. It was at this point that I learned that my client was content manager for sites owned by the Ongame Network, a subsidiary of Bwin.
From October 2008 through August 2012, I provided a myriad of content services for Ongame and later Bwin directly. My primary job was managing content for as many as 10 sites at a time but there were several larger projects that I also managed during my time.
Some of you may remember that PokerRoom.com was resurrected for a time back in 2012. All of the promotional articles that were floating around the internet at that time came from my desk. (I still get emails from different sites asking if I want to renew link deals.)
My tenure with Ongame and Bwin game to an end officially in August 2012 after the sale of Ongame was completed. Our department was considered redundant and everyone in the division was either let go or transferred.
Sadly, most of the sites that I provided content for have either been eliminated or they merely show the NYX logo on them. However, the Ongame Network served as my primary client for nearly four years and I consider myself fortunate to have them as my first major client.
Ongame Suffered from Being “Secondary” Network
Back in 2005, BETandWIN.com (later bwin) purchased the Ongame Network and while Bwin was the flagship site, Ongame still had some decent sites and held its own as an online poker network for a few years.
The UIGEA clearly didn’t help matters for the network in 2006 and by 2009, the iconic PokerRoom.com closed its doors. I remember when this happened as I was new with the Ongame Network and even wrote a couple of pieces on how I used to play Draw there.
Afterwards, much more focus was placed on bwin and later bwin and partypoker once merger talks began. Ongame got a bit of attention in 2012 when it was put up for sale and then PokerRoom was reopened. However, the relaunch of PokerRoom lasted about a year.
Sadly, by the time Ongame was sold, it was considered a secondary network at best. When Amaya purchased it, I had hopes that they would try and possibly develop it as an alternative for PokerStars for the U.S. market. After all, Ongame pulled out of the United States post UIGEA and would have been a perfect fit.
However, that didn’t happen and the network was later sold to NYX Gaming Group Limited. Since that sale, there’s been little from the company regarding the network and now they are shutting down the online poker network.
I wish I could say that the recent announcement shocks me, but the truth of the matter is that I was surprised that anyone purchased the network following Amaya’s choice not to develop it. While the network was once popular, it suffered from being second fiddle to major providers to the point of becoming irrelevant.
In my opinion, Amaya missed an opportunity to develop Ongame. The company could have focused their efforts on getting Ongame licensed in California and could have revived PokerRoom for the US market.
PokerRoom could have been the PokerStars of California under the right circumstances. If nothing else, it could have been used as a bridge to eventually bring PokerStars into the state. Maybe I am being idealistic, but it seems a waste of time and money for Amaya to buy the network and not use it.
Now Ongame’s poker network will be put to rest with a company many have never heard of after becoming a mere shell of its former self. Sadly, this is the reality of today’s online poker market, but I don’t have to like it.