Back in August, Phil Galfond announced that he was opening RunItOnce Poker in Q1 of 2017. Recently, Andrew Lichtenberger announced the opening of LuckyChewy Poker in free play BETA mode. Both pros have aspirations of opening and operating real money online poker sites to give players an alternative to PokerStars.
While this isn’t the first time that a poker pro has founded a poker site, Galfond and Lichtenberger will be the first to attempt to do so since the shift of the market to the “recreational” model for operating an online poker site.
What makes both pros think they can operate a site better than a company with 3/4 of the global poker market share? Will players go to their sites and what needs to be done to make the sites successful?
Why Do They Think They Can Do a Better Job?
What makes a pro like Phil Galfond or Andrew Lichtenberg think they can run a poker site better than those with years or even decades of experience in the industry? The most obvious answer is that they are actual poker players. While poker sites will hire current and former players on their staff, the majority of those players are far removed from the everyday player that frequents a poker site.
Sure, they may make the occasional appearance on the site or play in some games here and there but they are not everyday grinders that go through the ups and downs. Few, if any, have sat on PokerStars and worked their way to challenge for SuperNova or SuperNova Elite.
They haven’t been a rakeback grinder to the point where they can determine what part of their annual income will come from rakeback. These corporate suits don’t know what it is like to play 12 tables at a time so 8 hours a day in order to get enough volume to pay their monthly rent.
These pros know more about what players want because they are actual players. Furthermore, they are not just looking out for the “recreational” players but also for the pros and regulars on the site.
PokerStars has gotten away with being able to ignore high volume players because of their massive market share. Imagine if live poker rooms treated their regulars just like the random tourist that comes to the room. Chances are the regulars will go elsewhere.
Poker Players Will Show Up for the Novelty But Need to Be Convinced to Stay
Once Galfond and Lichtenberger launch their sites, there will likely be an early influx of players to the site to check it out and “kick the tires” so to speak. Some will come just for the chance to be able to play against OMGClayAiken or LuckyChewy while others will come over as a pure protest against PokerStars.
Like any other site, the novelty of the site will eventually wear off. When that happens, it will be up to Galfond and Lichtenberger to do what they can in order to convince players to keep playing there.
That may mean an incredible rakeback rate that you can’t get anywhere else. It may mean shelling out more promotional funds than the average site. They also need to have events that are unique and exciting in order to keep players coming back and to draw buzz to bring in new players.
Most importantly, it will require that both pros work diligently and publicly to draw attention to the site. They can’t just sit back, show up on occasion, slap on some patches and hope that people show up.
Sites like these will have a hard time competing against PokerStars, but it is not impossible. The key is providing a product that is appealing to all segments and offers an alternative or a supplementation to what is already out there.
PokerStars has over 3/4 of the global market share for online poker. It is simply impossible to overthrow that in the near future. What they need to shoot for is providing a product that draws people in and gives them an incentive to play there in addition to where else they are playing. In time, they may decide to make LuckyChewy Poker or RunItOnce Poker their full-time home.