Author: Arved Klöhn

Run it Once Poker in hiatus (plans return in the US)

Run it Once Poker in hiatus (plans return in the US)

The poker operator Run it Once Poker will cease its online poker operation starting January 3rd 2022 and offer players the opportunity to withdraw funds until April. The provider is thus drawing the consequences from the decline in players in recent months. However, it is leaving the back door open to a new market entry and wants to try to become licensed in the regulated US market in the future.

Run It Once was the vision of a better poker site

In September 2016, poker player and coach Phil Galfond made it public that he was planning his own poker site that would put player welfare before profits. The site was to have a fair game offer, provide beginners and casual players with an entertaining game selection and reward professional players with a good VIP program. At the same time, the rake should be kept low and transparent.

The feedback on this was overwhelmingly positive, especially in circles of active frequent players who were disappointed by PokerStars, partypoker and also iPoker at that time, as the VIP programs were becoming increasingly meager and the game offer was increasingly aimed exclusively at casual players.

The start of Run it Once Poker, however, was a little bumpy. The launch of the platform was delayed several times and it wasn't until February 2019 that players were able to sign up for the public beta test. The game selection at the time was spartan - the site launched with cash games only - but with numerous smart new features that were not available on other sites. The games were completely anonymous. There was an indicator that showed how active a player was (this worked via facial expressions of the avatar). There was a so-called splash-the-pot feature where an amount of 1 up to 200 big blinds was regularly thrown into the pot as a bonus at randomly selected tables to boost the action.

Run it Once Poker offered up to 75% rakeback to frequent players. Over the last 35 months, more game variations have been added, including tournaments.

Player numbers stagnated

However, Run It Once Poker had never managed to attract many new players. Casual players in particular were few and far between on the site. The number of players at the tables was accordingly very low and the game selection rather thin.

During the pandemic, the number of players did increase a little, but in recent months the number of active players had reached a record minimum.

Out at the turn of the year

It is only logical that the provider is now pulling the ripcord and shutting down its business (for the time being).

In a long blog post, the creator of Run it Once, Phil Galfond, let his players know, among other things:

With traffic having dwindled below pre-pandemic levels after all of the progress we’d made, it became clear to me that we weren’t going to break through and reach the volume we needed to just by completing our platform and doing a bit more marketing. The hill was too steep. It was going to take a lot more.

If we wanted Run It Once Poker to survive so that it could hopefully, one day, thrive, we needed to do something differently. I hear that in business, they call this a pivot!

I won’t be getting into too much detail now, but I can tell you that we thoroughly explored a number of (very) different options over the past year+.

There were some exciting opportunities for growth and for our business that didn’t pan out. Chasing these meant making sacrifices elsewhere.

I don’t necessarily have regrets here – sometimes you call with the right pot odds and miss your draw – but this played a very big role in our continued traffic decline in 2021.

The consequence for the players is:

  • Play will cease on 3 January 2022.
  • Players can withdraw their funds from the client at any time from now until 3 April 2022.
  • If players are unable to log in and/or withdraw funds for any reason, please email support and the team will help resolve the issue.

New target: USA

According to Galfond, the company now wants to focus on going to market in the US in a licensed and regulated manner. To this end, he writes:

Run It Once Poker is now headed down a path to enter the legal & regulated US market.

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!

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.

My goal when we started this was to become a major competitor in the markets we launched in, and then work towards getting into the US. While we’re on our way to half of that, it makes me sad that we didn’t first achieve the other half.

It remains to be seen whether Run it Once Poker will manage to gain a foothold in the USA. The software and the idea behind the poker provider are definitely worth it. It would be a shame if this project failed after less than three years. Due to the lower international competition in the USA and a smaller player pool at the moment, the provider has a chance to establish itself. However, it will still take some time until all legal hurdles are cleared.

» Galfond's full blog post on the closure of Run it Once Poker

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