Chicago-based RSI acquired Phil Galfond’s Run It Once Poker (RIO) platform in March 2022. One year later, Galfond teased that RSI will retain the Run It Once name in a future rollout of online poker. Learn about RSI’s plans for the US online poker market and the potential impact on the industry.
Last updated: May 22, 2023
Up until now, regulated real money online poker in the US has been the domain of just three operators — WSOP, PokerStars US and BetMGM Poker.
A fourth operator, Run It Once Poker (RIO) US, could join them in the near future and change the United States online poker landscape as we know it.
RIO is by no means a newbie in the online poker industry. The room is an offshoot of Phil Galfond’s Run It Once training site, having launched in February 2019. It served the international dot-com players for nearly three years but had to close its operations in January 2022 to focus on the newly rejuvenated US market.
Its path to enter the US market was revealed after Rush Street Interactive (RSI), a leading iGaming operator in the US, announced that the company acquired Galfond’s online poker room in March 2022 and will use the RIO platform to integrate into its existing gaming vertical.
While details are scarce, it seems the rebooted US version of RIO powered by BetRivers (the flagship online casino brand of RSI), is expected to go live, either in late 2023 or 2024.
RIO Poker US launch states could be New Jersey and Michigan — which are likely to share the same player pool from Day 1. It could also potentially launch in Nevada — another state that is part of the US multi-state online poker compact.
The company could also consider launching in Pennsylvania — one of the biggest regulated online poker states — though the state has yet to join the compact. Other jurisdictions like West Virginia, and even Canada’s largest province, Ontario are potential long-shots for the company.
As RIO prepares to enter the US market, we have prepared an in-depth guide that will teach you about RIO’s unique online poker product and what made it stand out; its parent company RSI and how it acquired to help make it the fourth online poker provider in the US.
|Run It Once Poker US: Key Facts|
|🚀 Expected Launch||End of 2023 or 2024|
|📍 Potential Markets||New Jersey, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ontario|
|🕹️ Expected Games on Offer||Cash Games, MTTs, and SNGs|
|✨ Main Highlight||Low rake coupled with high rewards & innovative features|
While Run It Once Poker has been tight-lipped about details surrounding its US launch, a recent tweet by Galfond suggests that the company has settled on the name and it will maintain the RIO branding. However, the US version will be powered by BetRivers — the flagship casino brand of RIO’s parent company RSI.
Very recently, poker social media guru Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers asked Galfond on Twitter if he expects the launch of RIO in the US this year. To which, Galfond replied, “I have an answer to that but it’s not for me to disclose anymore.”
RIO’s parent company has also recently applied for the Delaware Lottery’s exclusive iGaming contract, which begins in November this year. If picked, the Lottery will likely hold the operator to specific deadlines for launching online poker, online casino gaming, and (possibly) sports betting.
So all things considered, pokerfuse understands that the room may be looking to open its doors to US players potentially late this year or in 2024 realistically.
BetRivers is live with online casino gaming in four states — Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Online poker is also legal in all four states, so RSI could decide to launch Run It Once Poker, Powered by BetRivers, in all four markets.
But RSI could also potentially launch Run It Once Poker in two new markets: Nevada and Ontario — although the latter, as a Canadian province, would not be able to share its player pool with any US states.
[Michigan joining MSIGA] reaffirms our belief that the US online poker market is poised for future growth.
RSI would likely want to launch multi-state poker first, and Michigan would be one of the first two states where that could be accomplished. That’s because it is a member of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state online poker compact that includes Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
Run It Once Poker MI would compete against three more established rivals: BetMGM Poker MI, PokerStars MI, and WSOP MI — the last of which is the most recent addition to the market after launching in March 2022.
Here’s what Galfond, the founder of Run It Once Poker, told us when Michigan became the fourth member of the multi-state online poker compact.
“Rush Street Interactive and Run It Once are pleased about the recent developments involving Michigan joining the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) and we believe more jurisdictions will continue to join the MSIGA over time,” Galfond told Poker Industry PRO in an exclusive. “This reaffirms our belief that the U.S. online poker market is poised for future growth.”
Like Michigan, New Jersey is a member of MSIGA and has multi-state poker. A launch in the Garden State makes sense for RSI because it would provide the biggest boost for the operator as it goes head-to-head against more established brands.
New Jersey is also a more crowded market than Michigan for online poker. Run It Once Poker NJ would face PokerStars NJ (which operates under the Resorts license), but would also get competition from WSOP NJ and 888poker NJ (on the Caesars license) and BetMGM Poker NJ, Borgata Poker NJ, and partypoker NJ (on the Borgata license).
Run It Once Poker NJ would likely operate under the land-based casino license of Golden Nugget.
Nevada is an entirely different animal — the state is a member of MSIGA and has online poker, but it also only has one operator active in the state: WSOP NV.
That could be changing. BetMGM has teased that it will one day launch online poker in the state. Other operators have been reluctant to move forward in large part because, despite being home to Las Vegas, Nevada is a small market for online gambling.
Things get a little different here. While Pennsylvania has legal online regulated poker and is a populous state, it is not a member of MSIGA. That means that while RSI could launch Run It Once Poker PA in the state, it wouldn’t be able to connect to its player pools in states like Michigan and New Jersey.
But the Keystone State is also a lucrative market for online poker operators because of its sheer size (13 million residents). Pennsylvania’s previous governor considered joining the compact, but left the decision to his successor, Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro, who took office in January.
Ontario isn’t a US state, but it’s the most populous Canadian province and has a growing online poker market. BetRivers was one of the first operators to launch in Ontario back in April 2022, and It has operated an online casino and sports betting there.
While Ontario is a segregated market, RSI could be interested in the cross-selling opportunities it would have with online poker running alongside its casino and sportsbook products.
Jason Senti, Head of Run It Once Poker, told Poker Industry PRO in an exclusive interview in March 2022 that RSI was focused on US states, but added that a launch in Ontario would also be considered.
Like Pennsylvania, West Virginia is a state with legal online poker that is not a member of a multi-state compact like MSIGA. But unlike the Keystone State, the Mountain State doesn’t currently have any online poker rooms in operation.
The West Virginia Lottery has said that it is interested in applying to join MSIGA. But the Lottery also said that it won’t apply for membership until an operator says it wants to deploy multi-state poker and asks the Lottery to apply to join the compact. Run It Once Poker WV could be the operator that gets the ball rolling.
It’s been more than one year since RIO ceased its dot-com online poker operations and paused plans to introduce its innovative platform in the US.
Galfond and his team won legions of fans in the global online poker community when RIO was first announced as a project back in 2016. The site’s innovative and unique features generated significant buzz among players when the platform finally went live in 2018. At the time, RIO stood out from the crowd.
Despite its best efforts, RIO failed to gain enough traction with players to remain open. Galfond cited decreased traffic, development problems, and mounting costs as reasons to shut the site down on January 3, 2022. All real money games and sit & gos were suspended.
But two months later, a strategy for how RIO could enter the US market began to emerge after RSI announced that it had acquired RIO for $5.8 million and would integrate the poker platform into its existing gaming vertical.
In March 2023, Galfond issued a tweet suggesting that RSI had selected the name “Run It Once Poker, Powered by BetRivers” as the name of a future online poker platform.
As RIO prepares to enter the US regulated market, here are seven unique features that previously set the platform apart from other online poker rooms and that will likely return for US players:
Splash the Pot (STP) was arguably RIO’s most innovative feature. It was a unique system where rewards were added to the pot at random.
The loyalty program was first set up to return 51% rake of all rake taken at the table in the form of extra money distributed and added to cash game pots. RIO later change this to 30% when it unveiled its weekly cashback program, Legends.
How big the pot “splashed” was based on the pot size of the previous hand. Bigger pots yielded higher rewards, with splashes ranging from 1 to 1,000 big blinds. Every time a splash of 100 big blinds or more was triggered, players were forced “all-in or nothing,” which meant that they were only competing for the splashed pot.
The feature added a new dynamic to the game. It also served as an additional method for keeping bots off the platform. STP was such a big innovation that it would be surprising if it was not included in the US relaunch. We expect some tweaks to be made to the STP once the site goes live in US markets.
Another unique feature of the RIO platform was Dynamic Avatars, a system where players had a random avatar with a unique expression based on the player’s recently-observed play style. Eight facial features were included — among them, asleep, passive, and angry.
The expressions were based on vital preflop statistics available in heads-up displays (HUDs), such as Voluntarily Put Money in the Pot percentage (VPIP), Pre-Flop Raise percentage (PFR), and 3-Bet percentage.
The 'asleep’ expression would be applied to a player playing too tight, while an aggressive player would get the 'angry’ avatar attached. The expressions only changed after a player had played ten hands.
Dynamic Avatars were introduced to discourage the use of third-party tools such as HUDs and to help protect casual players by removing any advantage that players might gain by circumventing the platform’s rules and illegally operating HUDs.
Six months after RIO debuted, it launched an optional built-in HUD called HeroIQ that integrated seamlessly with Dynamic Avatars.
The built-in HUD provided the three most common pre-flop statistics — the VPIP, PFR, and 3-Bet percentages — which have long been considered the “default” heads-up display statistics in third-party software. Similar to Dynamic Avatars, the HeroIQ stats were displayed after a minimum of ten hands were played.
The VPIP and PFR statistics were shown next to the avatar of all players at the table, including their own. The stats were color-coded with a heat map ranging from green to red. When the player hovered over the display, the 3-Bet percentage was shown, along with two gauges and the number of hands observed.
While the Dynamic Avatars categorized the player into one of eight different expressions, HeroIQ showed the numbers behind the avatar.
When Run It Once Poker US is re-launched, HeroIQ would be the first built-in HUD in the US regulated online poker market if it is also made available.
SNG Select was RIO’s unique interpretation of lottery jackpot sit and gos. The game offered both standard sit and gos, called Classic, and lottery sit and gos, called Cub3d. RIO used the same player pool for both types of games so the action would often start quickly.
Under the Classic version, players competed for a fixed prize based on the total prize pool minus the rake. The Cub3d version worked like a lottery-style SNG format, where the prize pool was randomized — prizes could range from 2- to 1,500-times the buy-in.
Regardless of which game players chose, they were three-handed and in the winner-takes-all format. Players on Cub3d had access to “Glitch” — random prizes awarded with a bonus, even if players lost.
RIO also offered a standard loyalty program called Legends. The rewards system encouraged high-volume play by returning more money weekly to players that reach specific play-through targets.
Legends had five reward levels — from the basic tier, “Clubs,” to the highest tier, “Legends.” Each tier included five levels, except for Legends, which had unlimited levels. Upon completing a level, players were awarded cash for their bankroll, plus they received a level-up boost (free points toward unlocking higher levels).
Players earned one point for every €0.05 in rake they paid.
The Clubs tier started at 10% rakeback and was given to anyone who earned at least 60 points — the equivalent to paying a €3 rake. The cash rewards increased as players generated points, creating an incentive for players to increase their volume.
The Legends tier guaranteed €900 in cash rewards for every 90,000 points (€4,500 in contributed rake) that a player accrued during a week.
There were also opportunities for players to earn points faster, including bonuses for starting tables, stopping tables from breaking, playing regularly, and for weekly “streak” bonuses — creating higher rakeback percentages.
Combined with STP, the rakeback returned to players ranged between 30% to 75% (for those on the Legends tier).
RIO will likely retain its Legends weekly cashback program, but it could be changed at a later date.
In addition to STP and Legends, RIO also offered a secondary rewards program called StreamR. The program encouraged players to stream their play live on Twitch in exchange for 50% to 110% in additional rakeback based on the number of hours viewers watched in a given month.
StreamR included four levels — the first level required 200 hours of watch time for 50% rakeback, while the fourth level, the highest tier, required 20,000 hours of watch time for 110% rakeback. This level automatically qualified a player for the RIO Team Pro status.
RIO’s international version offered cash games through the blind lobby system of auto-seating. Buy-ins were fixed at 100 big blinds, under a policy to keep games quick to join and fair to play.
Seat selection was eliminated after RIO removed the list of tables and players playing on the table. Players were instead presented with a choice of buy-in and were automatically moved to an available seat. The system reduced a player’s ability to look for specific opponents.
A fixed buy-in system was also instituted, in part to create “force bankroll management” on recreational and professional poker players.
If RIO implements auto seating and fixed buy-ins, it would be the first online poker room in the regulated US market to offer a blind lobby.
Like most online poker rooms, Run It Once Poker also had a generous welcome bonus for new players including the traditional 100% deposit bonus offer. It often spiced up the welcome offers with extra prizes on top.
The 100% deposit match was valued up to €600. The bonus was released incrementally with a value of either €5 or €10.
For example, if a player deposited €250, they were credited €5 for every €25 rake they contributed. Once the €100 bonus was cleared, they received €10 for every €57.10 for the next €100 batch and so on.
What made the welcome bonus more appealing was that there was no expiration date to clear the bonus as long as players played at least 1 hand every 30 days. Furthermore, all deposits in the first 30 days counted towards the bonus and not just the first deposit.
On top of the 100% Welcome Bonus Deposit offer, the room also spiced up welcome offers with lucrative deals from time to time. For instance, when the site introduced its sit and go game, SNG Select, it awarded all depositing players €50 in tickets distributed over their first four weeks.
It also boosted the welcome offer with “Earn and Learn” — which was thought to be one of the most lucrative deals offered by any online poker room in recent history. The deal which ran for a few weeks included:
So when the RIO relaunches for US players, expect similar generosity for both new and existing players by Galfond’s team.
Besides offering a generous rewards program and a high-paying welcome offer, Run It Once Poker also ran promotions on a daily basis, effectively increasing the value of the rewards up to the equivalent of 80% rakeback and sometimes even higher up to 101%.
These promotions often gave a boost to its traffic, with many times seeing an all-time high during the period of promotions. The site also ran direct rakeback promotions, Splashy Hours which increased Splash the Pot pot during designated hours, bigger pot “splashes,” rake races and more.
The leaderboards ran for both Hold’em and Omaha variants as well as for SNG Select. RIO also offered free SNG ticket bundles of value up to €100 from time to time.
Expect similar generous promotions to be spread once the US version launches.
Run It Once Poker was known to offer lower rake despite being very generous in rewarding its players. At cash games, the site charged 4% to 5.75% rake, with the rake cap from €0.50 up to €3.75, depending on the stakes and the number of players playing at the tables.
At No Limit Hold’em, rake was set to 5.75% at the micro stakes; 5.5% at the low to mid-stakes, and 4% at the NL2000 tables, the highest stakes available. At PLO, it was fractionally lower—4.5% at micros, going up to 5% at PLO50 to PLO5000, then back down to 4% at high stakes.
|Stakes (100bb buy-in)||NLHE||PLO|
In general, when compared with other sites, the rake on RIO was notably higher at similar games and stakes. However, with its generous rewards scheme, the “net rake” was much lower than its competitor
Assuming RSI adopts a multi-channel strategy, Run It Once Poker US will likely include links to the trove of poker content it has recently acquired.
RSI completed its acquisition of Poker Night in America — a popular series that features cash games and Sit & Go action and airs nationally on the CBS Sports Network — in August 2022. At the time, CEO Richard Schwartz lauded Poker Night for its “deep library of poker TV content and media creation capabilities that will help to further build out the BetRivers network.”
Schwartz added that the Poker Night and RIO acquisitions represented “two tuck-ins [that] will position us well for when we eventually launch online poker, and the associated strong cross-sell opportunities that poker will bring to our casino and sportsbook verticals.”
Aside from those two developments, the company has been opaque on its US online poker plans. Schwartz hinted last year that poker would play an important part in RSI’s plans to turn profitable by the second half of 2023, so a launch could be coming soon.
Here are some possible names for an online poker platform released by RSI, but rooted in RIO architecture:
Galfond tweeted that this was the name RSI ultimately chose, so it’s considered the most likely moniker for the new online poker platform. But it’s a long name, and historically companies that unveil a product with a lengthy name attached tend to revisit the issue and tighten up the name at a later time. That could lead to …
This was the name of Galfond’s online poker platform when RSI acquired it in March 2022. RIO was a popular platform with players back in its heyday because of its innovative features. It’s possible RSI could look to keep that feeling of nostalgia by retaining the RIO name — without BetRivers.
BetRivers is RSI’s flagship brand for online casino and sports betting (online and retail). The BetRivers brand is active in 14 states and Ontario, including four states with online casino gaming. Considering more bettors in the US are aware of the BetRivers brand because of its popularity as a sportsbook, RSI could decide to ditch the RIO name entirely and go with just BetRivers.
It’s a long shot, but it’s possible that RSI could use this name for an online poker skin in Pennsylvania to run alongside BetRivers Poker PA. That’s not unheard of — although the circumstances are slightly different, consider that three racinos in Delaware each have online poker skins running 888poker software. Entain also runs Borgata Poker PA and shares its player pool with BetMGM Poker PA, a 50/50 joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts International.
Rush Street Interactive (RSI) is a Chicago-based gaming and entertainment company. It has online casinos in four US states, conducts online sports betting in 15 states and runs retail sportsbooks in eight states. RSI also has online casino and sports betting operations in Ontario, Colombia, and Mexico.
BetRivers is RSI’s flagship brand in Ontario and most US states where it operates, with one exception — RSI also uses its SugarHouse brand for online casino and sports betting in Pennsylvania. However, RSI runs BetRivers alongside SugarHouse in PA and doesn’t actively promote the latter.
SugarHouse Casino NJ was RSI’s first online casino when it launched in September 2016, but RSI rebranded its online casino and sportsbook as BetRivers in August 2022.
RSI is not to be confused with Rush Street Gaming, an affiliate of RSI that owns and operates two brick-and-mortar casinos in Pennsylvania and one each in Illinois, New York, and Virginia.
Phil Galfond is an American professional poker player and entrepreneur. Known in online circles as “OMGClayAiken,” Galfond currently ranks 646th on the All-Time Money List, which is maintained by The Hendon Mob, the world’s largest poker database. He has nearly $3 million in total live earnings and has won three WSOP bracelet events.
Galfond launched Run It Once Poker (RIO) in 2018. The platform was praised for its innovative features but also missed others, including support for multi-table tournaments and a sit-and-go option.
RIO ceased operations on January 3, 2022. At the time, Galfond said RIO was being shut down as a necessary precursor to entering the regulated US market.
Two months later, RSI acquired RIO in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5.8 million. RSI planned to integrate the RIO poker platform into its existing gaming stack.
RSI hasn’t shared a time frame for when it could start offering online poker, but it recently applied for the Delaware Lottery’s exclusive iGaming contract, which begins November 1, 2023. If selected, the Lottery will likely hold RSI to specific deadlines for launching online poker, online casino gaming, and (possibly) sports betting.
Yes, there will very likely be an app for Run It Once Poker, Powered by BetRivers. RIO was reportedly developing an app when RSI acquired it in March 2022.
Yes, there will also very likely be Run It Once Poker tournament action on RIO, Powered by BetRIvers once the platform is launched. Although RIO did not support tournament play before RSI acquired it, inclusion in a future rollout is considered essential if it’s to compete against BetMGM Poker, PokerStars, and WSOP — each of which regularly hosts tournament play.
Yes! Based on all we know and the recent updates, it looks like there will be a new Run It Once US online poker platform powered by BetRivers launching at some point, either in 2023 or 2024.
No, Run It Once Poker will be exclusively for US players once the site relaunches. It will operate under BetRivers branding but will operate on the same Run It Once Poker platform as was seen before.
Run It Once Poker US is expected to go live in New Jersey & Michigan from day 1. Its parent company already has gaming licenses in these states as well as in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The operator could also go live in Nevada.
Pennsylvania, however, could be a likely candidate as it is one of the biggest online poker markets and is expected to become the next state to join the multi-state online poker compact.
Yes, Run It Once Poker US will likely have multi-state online poker network from Day 1. Since RIO’s parent company has a gaming license in NJ & MI — both of which are members of the multi-state online poker compact, RIO would take advantage of this compact and launch the shared liquidity network right away.
While RIO’s primary focus would be the US market, it has also considered Ontario, Canada’s largest province. Down the road, it could also make a return to the international dot-com market, but that is unlikely to happen any soon.
Yes, RIO has confirmed to Poker Industry PRO that Galfond will have a similar role to his previous one. The company also stated Galfond will be the brand ambassador of the room and will be involved in all decisions involving the product, game feature and game policies.
Yes, the 3-handed lottery-style sit-and-go, more commonly known as “Spins,” will be part of the RIO US game offerings under the name “SNG Select.”
Run It Once Poker ceased operations on January 3, 2022. At the time, Phil Galfond, the professional poker player who founded Run It Once Poker, said the platform was being shut down as a necessary step before launching in regulated markets in the US. RSI acquired Run It Once Poker two months later with plans to integrate it into its existing platform.
RSI operates online casinos in Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia under the BetRivers brand. It also runs SugarHouse Casino PA alongside BetRivers in the Keystone State but doesn’t promote it. Each online casino offers video poker, but real money online poker against other players is not currently available.
BetRivers does not currently offer online poker, but its parent company, Rush Street Interactive (RSI), acquired an online poker platform called Run It Once Poker (RIO) in March 2022. RSI has said that it plans to offer online poker in the future.
BetRivers is RSI’s flagship brand for online casino gaming and sports betting. BetRivers is live in 17 US states, including four for online casinos. North of the border, you’ll find BetRivers Casino Ontario and BetRivers Sports Ontario.
The BetRivers brand is active in 14 US states and the Canadian province of Ontario. It offers online and retail sports betting in seven states (IL, IN, MD, MI, NY, PA, and VA) and runs online sportsbooks only in an additional seven (AZ, CO, IA, LA, NJ, OH, and WV). BetRivers also runs online casinos in four states (MI, NJ, PA, and WV). In Ontario, BetRivers offers online casino and sports betting.
Yes, BetRivers is a brand owned by RSI, a legitimate and well-respected gaming company. The appropriate authorities license it in all jurisdictions where it has operations, and like all gaming companies, it is under intense regulatory oversight at all times.
We have a trove of information about BetRivers, including details about the withdrawal process in various jurisdictions. Information is available through the comprehensive and unbiased reviews conducted by pokerfuse for BetRivers Casino MI, BetRivers Sports, BetRivers Casino Ontario, and BetRivers Sports Ontario.
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