We get the opportunity to speak to Phil Galfond ahead of the much-anticipated launch of Run It Once Poker to ask him who it’s for, who it’s not for, and much more.
The poker community has called Phil Galfond many things.
The world’s greatest poker player.
The perfect poker spokesperson for our generation.
Today, I’m going to go with iconoclast because it’s a lovely looking word, I’ve never used it before, and when it comes our beautiful game, it drives at the heart of the inception of Run It Up Poker.
On September 1st, 2016, sucked off with the chipped cup, rusted key way that the online poker operators were treating their customers, Galfond, decided to do something about it.
In his now legendary blog post: A Poker Site Should Galfond set out his expectations of how an online poker site should operate, ending with the lines that led to even the most hardened online poker sceptic fist-pumping in private.
I want a fair, honest, transparent poker site that believes in the dream that I have lived.
I’m going to give it my best shot.
Suddenly, we could see the cavalry coming over the hills, and although it took them two-years and five months to get here, the mob will be happy to learn that Run It Once Poker opens for business, in a public-beta format on Wednesday, February 6.
In Galfond’s final blog post on the matter #8: A Poker Site, all the man asks of you is to do two things.
1# Play one hand.
2# Share your experience with others.
I land in the UK on February 9th, and one of the first things I will be doing is:
1# Playing one hand.
2# Sharing my experience with others.
“The deck may be stacked against us, but I believe that with just a little bit of help from you, we can make our poker dream a reality – we can conquer threats to online poker’s future through the innovations we launch with and the countless more still to come, we can be a driving force for positive change in the industry, and we can make Run It Once Poker exactly what a poker site should be.”
There’s one more ‘thing’ that we need to start calling Galfond, and it’s the most recent ‘thing’ of them all.
From one Dad to another, thanks for taking the time out to answer my questions, when your list of priorities must have been longer than the fishing rod in the hands of the little boy who used to fish from his perch on the moon.
Who is RIO Poker for?
“RIO Poker is for anyone who loves playing poker, especially those who place a lot of value in fairness and fun.
“It’s not a prerequisite that you be frustrated with other operators, but if you are a recreational player frustrated by things like being targeted by the players, tables instantly filling when you sit down, players instantly sitting out when you leave, losing the majority of your sessions, RIO Poker is for you.
“If you’re a pro or semi-pro who’s tired of how much you need to keep up with to stay on a level playing field with other pros (seating scripts, shortstacking, the latest HUD tech) and who misses just sitting down and playing the game you love, RIO Poker is for you.
“If you’re scared about the direction that online poker is heading, if you have no confidence that the operators care about whether or not the professional online poker player exists, RIO Poker is for you.”
What’s the worldview of the audience you’re trying to reach?
“Well, my view, at least in terms of online poker, is that poker is a beautiful game, and the winners should be those who play it best, not those who take advantage of every possible angle, within or outside of the rules, to maximise their advantage.
“We’re trying to reach everyone who loves to play what I consider to be ‘real poker’: A game in which if you outwork and outwit your opponents, you can be a winner.”
What do they fear about playing online poker?
“They’re afraid that online poker won’t be beatable one day, either due to bots or to policy and game structure changes.”
How do you allay these fears?
“We’ve made bot prevention a priority, even as we were first designing our platform. I’ve talked about bot deterrents in many of my posts on runitonce.eu, but we’ll also obviously be working hard on bot detection as well.
“As far as policy and game structure changes, I think this is where I believe Run It Once has a big advantage. Many poker sites have players who represent them, and yes, I am the face of Run It Once Poker. The difference is that in addition to representing the site, at the end of the day, I can decide to introduce or remove a game type, to raise or lower rake, or to enact a new policy.
“Having been an online poker player for essentially my entire adult life, I know and care about the impact each decision can have on the players. Fortunately, the community has clearly shown that it trusts me to make responsible decisions with them in mind, and I have every intention of proving them right.”
From a marketing perspective, how do you approach your beloved RIO tribe, compared to poker players who have never heard of RIO?
“I think, for the poker enthusiasts who already know about and support Run It Once, our policies will speak for themselves. As long as we remain thoughtful, fair, and ethical in the way we run our poker room, I believe they’ll respond.
“For those who don’t yet know about us, we’ll have several marketing initiatives, but within a budget that doesn’t approach those of our largest competitors.
“One of the things we’re counting on, and what our data suggests, is that the segment that we already reach extends further into the casual poker player demographic than we originally assumed. That, plus the word of mouth that we will benefit from if we deliver on our promises, can go quite a long way.”
Why will they join you? How do you intend to gain permission to talk to them?
“We intend to operate an ethical poker site that has the best interests of the players in mind. We want to do this because it’s who we are and what we believe in, but it happens to be an excellent marketing tool in the online poker community.
“There are two very important facts about the online poker community: Word spreads fast, and you can’t trick them. Attempting to hide negative policies, or announcing negative changes with spin and misdirection – these are things that will not work on the poker community.
“I believe that being honest and direct is what the poker community will respond to, even if there comes a day when I have to announce some bad news (other than development delays!).”
What change are you seeking to make in the industry, and within the individuals who you attract to the site?
“Honestly, when we started RIO Poker, my primary goal was to stop the changes I was seeing in the industry.
“The policies we came up with – No HUDs, Table Aliases, Dynamic Avatars, AutoSeat, etc. – none of these were planned at the inception of RIO Poker. They were decisions we came to after countless discussions on the subjects.
“I wouldn’t say that they represent policies that I want for the industry – they are the direction we decided to take for Run It Once Poker. When combined, we believe our policies and features create a great playing experience, but they don’t necessarily work as standalone changes, and I don’t believe whatsoever that they are the only way to go.
“Ideally, I want there to be different kinds of poker sites that offer different experiences, because we’re not all the same type of player. Are there specific changes that I think certain sites should make – absolutely – but on the whole, I just want the industry to strive for fairness and to allow poker to remain a beatable game of skill.”
Who is RIO Poker NOT for?
“I guess I’d say RIO Poker is not for those who want to seek their edge in poker through bumhunting, shortstacking, datamining, and the like. I want to be clear that I’m not claiming that all of these things are all unethical – it’s just not what we want on Run It Once Poker.”
RunGood and RunItUp have shown that successful live tours don’t have to be huge to be successful. Any thoughts on RIO Live?
“It’s something I’m interested in, but not in the immediate future. We have so many other goals to accomplish that I don’t want to split our focus any more than we have to. Even if the tours could be small, we would be so picky about the quality of everything that it would require a lot of resources.”
What will people tell their friends about RIO Poker and why?
“I hope people will tell their friends that RIO Poker is the most fun place to play online poker.”