Review: Phil Galfond’s New Run It Once Poker Room In Beta Test

Shortly after the 2016 WSOP, Phil Galfond announced that he would launch his own online poker room.

Two years later and the site is in beta test where a few players and poker journalists have managed to try out the new software.

First, a quick recap on how Galfond got to this point.

The 2016 VIP scheme changes at PokerStars had angered many professional or high volume online poker players. These arose because the company had made the decision to move to a recreational player poker model.

Galfond felt that the changes weren’t in the best interests of poker or poker players:

“A poker site needs to believe in the dream of poker as a career. It shouldn’t cater to professionals over other players, but it must make every policy change with the viability of the dream in mind.”

“It should seek to build a fun and engaging environment that all types of players enjoy playing in.”

Run It Once is the embodiment of his dream to create the perfect online poker room.

Run It Once will release cash games first

Technical delays have pushed back the launch date and led to a decision to launch the site in two phases:

“Our Phase 1 platform will provide cash games that (we think) look and feel great and include some exciting and innovative features.”

Phase 2 will release tournaments, SNGs, an “awesome nosebleed stakes offering,” and software enhancements to improve the user experience.

The beta test software is a ring game only poker platform with very few bells and whistles. The VIP scheme is not yet in place, but Galfond promises:

“We will have an innovative player rewards system that I believe will make both pros and recreational players happy. One which will give slightly more rewards to dedicated pros while not leaving recreational players behind, will engage recreational players and pros alike, and will make it impossible for players to leave their rewards unclaimed – a big savings for many poker sites at the expense of uninformed amateurs and aloof pros like me!”

All this we take on trust, for now.

Setting up an account

Game play is in Euros, with four deposit options available; Skrill, Neteller, Visa and ecoPayz. I failed miserably to make my first deposit simply because I couldn’t see the right action button.

A quick and very rapidly answered query to support showed that I had failed to scroll down to where the button was visible.

Vince from the support team managed to fix the issue without pointing out my stupidity.

Once up and running the lobby showed that almost 40 players were online. Only a NLHE €0.05/€0.10 stake level was available for the beta test.

Nothing too radical about the table design

The table design and background were familiar. The standard palette made for a dark background with green baize table, although there are a limited number of options to change colors.

Tables are not yet re-sizable and the text at the top of the table window was very small. Older players will need to use their reading glasses to see the leave/sitout options at the top right, and the hand history tool at top left.

On sitting you get an option to play straight away or wait for the big blind.

Action buttons for check, raise and fold are simple with a bet slider that can be clicked or used with a mouse wheel.

On the other hand the avatars are something else

One of the first things that players from other online poker rooms will notice are the avatars. The head and shoulders view works well, and click on the avatar brings up options to send emoticons or simple pre-set messages to other players at the table.

But look more closely, and you will see that the avatars have an additional characteristic. Their expression changes depending on how the player is playing.

The avatar of a player who is very tight and only entering a few hands will change to look like he is sleeping. An angry expression implies that the player is aggressive, and so on.

Run It Once looks after the recreational player

This is all you will get about other players apart from your own impressions of their play. Run It Once poker will not allow HUDs. The only exception will be at the nosebleed tables.

Galfond is determined to stop predatory play:

“We will protect recreational players by eliminating or severely disincentivizing multiple forms of predatory behavior in many different ways, including some original concepts. As new threats arise, as they inevitably will over time, we’ll find a way to fight back. We have been and will remain dedicated to making Run It Once a level playing field.”

This extends to protecting player identity. The avatar shown in the images above is the one I could see. My opponents saw something different.

Game play could be faster

The game play was fast with smooth transitions for graphics. The flop was dealt as quickly as possible consistent with players being able to see the cards hitting the table.

Timebanks are available, but the exact timings players will be allowed will probably change before launch.

The only weakness that I found irritating was the gap between one hand and the next. It felt like the software was taking a big breath after each hand was finished. One long gasp and then the next hand was dealt.

This isn’t the sort of thing multi-tablers will notice, but recreational players sitting at only one table will.

When will Run It Once launch?

What Galfond and the Run It Once team have put together is a perfectly competent online poker platform.

Many of the features of PokerStars or partypoker are missing, but the software is usable and the innovative avatars really did make my session more enjoyable.

In April, Galfond announced a Summer launch for phase 1. It is now well past Summer and in this tester’s opinion, there is still a lot of work to be done before the site will be good enough to attract casual players.

If Mr. Galfond can get this poker room to market by the New Year he will be doing well. The software may not have tournaments or SNGs and it may not offer all the customization of the major sites, but it was fun to play and it worked.