One of online poker’s newest and most innovative operators has halted operations while preparing to enter the regulated US market.
Run It Once Poker — the brainchild of popular poker professional Phil Galfond — called it quits on January 3, 2022, just shy of three years after first opening its doors to international poker players.
Galfond announced the closure in a blog post on December 30, 2021 along with the company’s plans to bring its modern online poker platform to the newly rejuvenated US online poker market.
“Run It Once Poker is now headed down a path to enter the legal & regulated US market,” Galfond revealed. “The very unexciting part of this news is that, in order to head in that direction, we’re shutting down our Rest of World operations and focusing fully on getting our platform complete and prepared to operate in the US regulated environment, he continued.
The global online poker community has been rooting for Galfond and his team to succeed ever since the project was first announced in 2018, but despite introducing innovative features, the software lacked multi-table tournaments and, for most of its existence, had no sit and go option. As a result, Run It Once Poker failed to gain enough traction to keep its doors open.
Potential Paths Forward for Run It Once Poker in the US
While it is unfortunate that the international community has lost a quality online poker room, the thought of RIO coming to the US will undoubtedly be a source of excitement for poker players in states that already have legal regulated online poker as well as those in states where online poker is expected to launch in the near future.
Since Galfond is playing his virtual cards close to the vest when it comes to the specifics of the forthcoming US entry, we at pokerfuse decided to explore some of the potential paths forward for Run It Once Poker’s future in the US.
US States with Legal Regulated Online Poker: At a Glance
- Michigan — legal and active
- Pennsylvania — legal and active
- New Jersey — legal and active
- Nevada — legal and active
- Delaware — legal and active
- West Virginia — legal but not yet active
- Connecticut — legal but not yet active
Whether it is a land-based casino or an established online gaming company, Run It Once will need to establish a partnership in order to offer its services to US online poker players. Some of the characteristics that would be appealing in a partner include market access, brand recognition, a large customer base, and experience in online poker.
With those traits in mind, here are 8 of the most likely options for RIO:
- DraftKings — With one of the biggest footprints in the US iGaming space, DraftKings could benefit from adding another vertical to its online gaming portfolio, which currently includes online sportsbooks, online casinos, and daily fantasy sports. The company’s iGaming experience, regulatory expertise, large customer base, strong brand recognition, and close ties to the online poker industry make DraftKings a top contender to partner with RIO.
- Standalone Operator Partnership — Run It Once could look for land-based casino partners in states with regulated online poker. With much of the US still ringfenced and the vast majority of states still without legal regulated online poker, there is still an opportunity for a smaller operator with a high-quality software platform to compete with the bigger companies.
- Hard Rock Digital — One of the newer operators in the iGaming space looking to make a big splash and joining forces with RIO would certainly be one way to do it, Hard Rock Digital emerged onto the poker scene a little over a year ago with a team of poker industry heavyweights behind it. HRD’s Executive Managing Director & President, Matt Primeaux, comes with an impressive resume of poker industry experience — as the former President of FOXBet as well as former SVP Strategy & Operations USA for The Stars Group (PokerStars). The HRD exec team also includes Ray Stefanelli, a poker industry veteran who most recently served as Director of Operations/Director of Poker for BetMGM.
- BetRivers — With greater market access than Hard Rock, BetRivers could be a potential suitor in an attempt to broaden its iGaming presence in the US.
- Caesars — Though it already has a poker product through its partnership with 888poker, its recent international success and sponsorship deal for the World Series of Poker with GGPoker has already sparked rumors that its relationship with 888 could be fizzling out. But unlike a deal with GGpoker, Caesars could own the tech outright if it were to buy Run It Once Poker.
- GGPoker — This may be a longshot, but GGpoker gobbling up RIO could protect its market share and head off future competition. It may also provide a “cleaner” path forward in the US for NSUS — who is licensed in Pennsylvania — depending on how regulators view the differences between how the two platforms were used in their unregulated markets. Obviously, GGPoker also has expertise in online poker management, marketing, and development.
- PokerGo and the World Poker Tour — These two companies both have strong brand recognition in the US and could be looking to acquire the tech and then partner with a land-based operator that has market access.
- The Rest — Wynn, PointsBet, and TwinSpires could all be looking to compete with the larger iGaming companies by adding poker to their online gambling offerings, but perhaps the most intriguing dark horse is probably Barstool, which appears to be the brand best positioned to connect with poker players.