Phil Galfond Talks Run It Once US Poker Plans: ‘We’re Obsessed With Improving the Player Experience’

Written By Valerie Cross on March 17, 2022
Phil Galfond shares Run it Once US plans

One of the highest regarded poker players (and pot-limit Omaha masters) of our time, Run It Once (RIO) founder Phil Galfond sought out to develop “a fair, honest, transparent poker site that believes in the dream that I have lived.” Now, he enters a new phase of that mission.

After nearly three years of battling for liquidity in the well-established rest of world (ROW) poker market, Galfond is now going all in on a legal US product. And naturally, online poker players in current and future legal markets are curious about what they can expect.

Run It Once shifts sights to legal US poker market

Galfond announced via Twitter on March 2 that his company (himself and his team included) had struck a deal with Rush Street Interactive ($RSI) that clears the way for launching RIO in the US. While it came sooner than he originally expected, Galfond wrote in a Dec. 30 blog post that it was always in the cards.

This has been a dream of mine since well before we first launched. I didn’t initially think it would be an option for us for another half-decade, so I’m very excited to be on our way to achieving it!

To achieve his goal of making RIO what a poker site should be, Galfond and his team launched several player-friendly and innovative features during their time overseas. Many of those features, as Galfond explains on the RIO blog, help achieve their goals of making games fair and curbing predatory behavior, creating a sustainable poker site for all parties. Some of those features include:

  • Table aliases
  • Dynamic avatars
  • No HUDs allowed
  • Auto-seating and fixed buy-ins
  • Splash the Pot and other unique rewards systems
  • StreamR rewards
  • SNG Select

Players in regulated US markets are likely to get the chance to experience some or all of them, in due time. We caught up with Galfond to get some details on the future US debut, and what online poker players in legal markets can look forward to — even if it is in the relatively distant future.

Can you provide any insight on the potential of bringing RIO to PA, NJ and MI?

At this point, that’s not a question that I can answer with certainty, but we are hoping to eventually bring poker to all states where it will be legal and possible.

Right now, all states besides NV/NJ/DE are ring-fenced which clearly limits the potential for growing player pools, but states like MI and PA will likely join the interstate compact eventually. Can you share your vision for legal poker in the US? Where do you see the regulated US poker market in the short-term and long-term?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball as it relates to how things play out from a regulatory perspective, but we hope that many states will ultimately migrate towards offering legal poker. We hope to delight as many poker fans as possible when we launch and continue to grow as regulated poker grows.

You mentioned in your December blog post that your team needed to focus “fully on getting the platform complete and prepared to operate in the US regulated environment.” Can you elaborate on the work left to do ahead of launch?

There is still a good amount of work to be done, so still a bit premature to get into details, but we are very excited to have the support of the seasoned RSI team, many of whom have a long history in the poker space, collaborating with us on the remaining improvements!

Are there any specific lessons from launching/being live in the ROW market that you feel will help contribute to RIO’s success in the US?

It feels like a lifetime ago that we planned out everything for the ROW market, and we’ve learned a ton of things since then. If I had to pick two lessons:

  • Liquidity compounds even more than you think (and we all already knew it would be extremely important going in!)
  • It’s worth taking the time to over-prepare, rather than come in under-prepared, from a product perspective.

Can you elaborate on why Rush Street Interactive is an ideal partner from a product/tech perspective?

It’s a few things here, but ultimately we share a philosophy that offering players the best possible experience, with as little friction as possible, is what will create a long-term loyal following. RSI has spent over a decade building and perfecting their technology and product. They know what their players value, and having a partner with that kind of vision and development experience will help us achieve our goal of creating a market-leading poker experience in the US.

RIO stands out for many unique, player-friendly features. What are the key core features you think will be especially welcomed by US-based players?

Run It Once Dynamic Avatars

In the ROW market, several of our innovations and key features were well-received: Splash The Pot, SNG Select, and Dynamic Avatars, to name a few. While I see no reason that we wouldn’t launch with these in the US, I’m not ready to speak in absolutes, given that we’re reviewing every feature and policy decision we made several years ago for the new circumstances we’re heading into, both from a regulatory perspective and a company structure and size perspective.

What I can say is that we’re obsessed with improving the player experience, from key features and game offerings, all the way down to the way that the buttons feel when you click them, and the way your cards look when they’re folded. I think US players will really enjoy the product we put in front of them.

In most states where you launch initially, most likely, there will already be a number of established poker sites with significant head starts. How does RIO plan to compete in established US markets?

Our biggest differentiators will be our unique features and our connection with the poker community. While some will have a head start, they won’t be nearly as big as the head starts others had on us in the ROW market, especially considering RSI’s established Casino and Sports player bases in so many states.

I know you don’t have an official launch timeline but are there any ballpark timeline goals you can share? Perhaps a state or states you might be targeting for the US debut?

We have not spoken publicly about any kind of timeline or anticipated states for an initial launch as it’s still very early days. We will make sure to share any relevant information on timing as we can.

Note: PlayPennsylvania will continue to provide updates on the pending RIO launch as they become available.

Lead image via Run It Once YouTube channel.

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Valerie Cross

Valerie Cross is a senior content manager for Catena Media's Play-branded sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She studied Spanish and Psychology (BA, Furman University) and Language Education (MA and Ph.D., Indiana University) and played Division 1 college softball. A former college English instructor, Valerie is a poker enthusiast and has been a writer and editor in the poker and legal gambling industries since 2016. She is a Cincinnati native and lifelong Reds and Bengals fan.

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