In the early and mid-2000s, poker players were treated like kings and queens by online poker operators. Many players were able to become professionals and make nice livings on the sites through a combination of rakeback, bonuses, and a plethora of fish. Everyone seemed to benefit through the years of the poker boom.
We all know what happened next. The UIGEA pushed PartyPoker out of the US, and Black Friday destroyed the American market. The results of Full Tilt, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker mismanaging funds and taking advantage of players put many players out of business. Individual countries began to break from the global market and regulate their own sites and players. It was a mess.
When the market began to restructure, online poker companies had to find ways to recover and thrive again. The new regulated, segregated, and minced reality forced companies to develop new game plans, which did not include the professional grinders and high-stakes players. The focus switched to attracting new players and looking to the recreational online poker scene, as well as crossing over to online casinos and sports betting in many cases.
Professional poker players like Phil Galfond were mostly left in the dust. The elimination of programs – like PokerStars’ Supernova Elite – made it increasingly more difficult for players to maintain their lifestyles in the new age of online poker.
Galfond had enough. By August 31, 2016, he had a plan to launch Run It Once, an online poker site that will value players.
I want a fair, honest, transparent poker site that believes in the dream that I have lived: https://t.co/Zl1AM6rHO8— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) September 1, 2016
According to Galfond’s blog post about the project, the main focus is to value all players who play online poker. The casual players should be valued, as well as the enthusiasts, semi-pros, and career players. Each brings something to the table and should be rewarded for that.
“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,” wrote Galfond. He then posted a logo that exposed the name of his site as Run It Once Poker, set to arrive in the first quarter of 2017.
@PhilGalfond It's a formidable task, but there is a clear market opportunity today for a site like you write about. Good luck!— Jeffrey Haas (@TatsuTweets) September 1, 2016
As more and more players feel that the largest site in the world (PokerStars) is leaving them behind in favor of profit and others sites are merging in a way that offers fewer options, Galfond has been taking notes. He not only knows how they feel but believes he has the solution. It doesn’t hurt that he has had success with the operation of his Run It Once training site, has more than a decade of experience as a pro player, and is widely respected by the poker community.
As a team of ex-pros we completely agree @PhilGalfond. It's good to see more people in the industry trying to do the right thing. Good luck.— Unibet Poker (@UnibetPoker) September 2, 2016
Less than two weeks after Galfond’s announcement, there is little information available about how he plans to incorporate all of his objectives into a new, unique, top-notch, and competitive online poker site.
Joss Wood at Online Poker Report laid out some of the most obvious challenges that Galfond will face in this endeavor, including liquidity, navigation of regulations, and decision to create a stand-alone site or join a network. In addition, there is the considerable expense of creating and launching such a project, decisions to be made about partners and staff, and outlining a timetable that will fulfill his plan of launching within the next seven months.
All of this is a tall order. Many in the poker community have faith that Galfond is up to the task, and the encouragement he is receiving combined with his own desires and motivation may be enough propel him forward. But how he will make all of the initial decisions, put it all into motion, and prepare for an early 2017 launch leave some with doubts that the totality of the project is realistic.
Yes, He Can.
In the poker world, skepticism is rampant, and with good reason. Poker players were hurt in many ways when Black Friday happened. They have gotten their hopes up about regulated market liquidity and seen little cooperation between countries. They have pleaded with lawmakers and lobbying organizations to help legalize poker in places like the United States to little avail. They have been let down by online poker sites that have left loyal players behind for new profit opportunities. They have been excited and then disappointed by failed initiatives like Epic Poker that were going to revitalize the industry.
Why, then, are so many poker players and fans showing enthusiasm for Galfond and Run It Once Poker?
Galfond is invested in the poker community. He is a poker veteran in many senses of the game. He is young and determined and seemingly unstoppable thus far in his career. He has proven successful in various endeavors. He is not naïve when it comes to the challenges involved with online poker. And notably, he is not soaking up the spotlight after his announcement, only working behind the scenes to turn his words into action.
If anyone can start an online poker site that can compete with the biggest and become the greatest, it might just be OMGClayAiken, better known to most as Phil Galfond.