2021 World Series of Poker

Galfond Hops in Run It Once Streets, Asks for Player Feedback

Phil Galfond is in the streets on RIO Poker now, mixing it up with his players.

The games on Run It Once Poker just got a little tougher, but if you ask Phil Galfond, they're still plenty great.

That was one of the big takeaways for Galfond, who has spent dozens of hours over the past couple of weeks streaming on his nascent online poker site.

Thanks to a recent policy change — either by the company, regulators, or both — Galfond was approved to begin playing on RIO. Whereas every other player appears with a table alias, making the tables anonymous, Galfond's identity is in plain view, and he's been moving up and down the stakes to mix it up with as many players as possible. He's been showcasing his site and his play for thousands of fans worldwide on the company's Twitch channel.

Galfond Boosts the Traffic

While some might be a little apprehensive about a world renowned crusher appearing in their small-stakes games, fear not. A bounty was attached to Galfond's head as one of many recent promotions on RIO. Anyone who stacked Galfond for at least 100 big blinds got a €20 bonus, which can be quite a haul for some of the players against whom he's facing off in the smallest games on the site.

The chance to play with one of the best ever and win some bonus money appeared to be quite attractive to the Run It Once players, according to Galfond.

"It's clear that people have been excited to play with me, but I don't know how much is due to the €20 bounty on my head," he told PokerNews. "Traffic was great last week (I streamed 6 days in a row). It has dropped a bit since, but is still at levels clearly higher than before I began streaming so far."

Thanks in part to Galfond's efforts — he said he streamed about 40 hours — traffic levels reached a peak of around 300 concurrent cash game players.

Still, the company ranks well down the board according to PokerScout's traffic numbers, on par with PokerStars New Jersey, a small fenced-in market.

"It's clear that people have been excited to play with me"

Galfond said he's hanging up his mic and mouse for the time being as he has to head back to the U.S., so those numbers may dip a bit. However, he said he expects to be back in the RIO streets soon and may continue to make streaming a regular part of his schedule if feedback continues to be strong.

Liking What He Sees

The chance to conduct some "field research" gave Galfond a new perspective on RIO, and he wasn't displeased with what he saw.

Phil Galfond
Galfond's fears that the games on RIO would be too tough proved unfounded.

For one thing, Galfond wrote on his blog that recent software improvements have things moving in the right direction on that front. Not one to dance around the truth — Galfond admitted the site is "not close" to being profitable — Galfond may raise some eyebrows when he boldly writes that he thinks there's a good chance RIO has the best software in the industry a year from now.

Perhaps more intriguing to the players still sitting on the sideline and watching the RIO happenings from afar, Galfond proclaimed the games to be "very soft."

That runs contrary to what Galfond said was one of the main criticisms of the site pre-launch, which was that the games would be too tough. Galfond admitted it was one of his own fears as well, but his own experience and the feedback thus far has pointed to the reality being quite the opposite.

Still, it's natural to be skeptical for two reasons. One, as Galfond admitted himself, he's incentivized to tell everyone the games are good, hoping to lure more players to RIO. Second, Galfond's own stratospheric skill level relative to many of the games he's in means he's always likely to think they are soft.

Well aware of this, Galfond told PokerNews his observation came from only about one-third his own play. Galfond said he does have some experience between .25/.50 and €1/€2 via video reviews and making his own training videos, which gives him more perspective than one might expect.

However, most of his evidence came from engaging with RIO players via his streams and the company's Discord channel.

As for why the games are so good, Galfond made a surprising discovery: many grinders have been avoiding the site because they're unhappy with the Splash the Pot rakeback system, among other policies. According to Galfond, not being able to table select or play short has also driven some away.

Looking for More Feedback

While Galfond is happy with where the site is heading, player feedback remains among the most important inputs for him. After all, his goal was to build a site that provides a great poker experience for all while still providing a platform for the "poker dream" of a highly skilled winner making a living.

Galfond's recent time engaging with users on the stream and through other means has lit a fire in him, inspiring him to seek more dialogue. In that vein, he's asked for poker players the world over — be they RIO players or not — to fill out a survey and provide him with means of contact in case he wants to discuss things with them individually.

Response to the survey has been strong thus far.

"I'll chat with as many people as possible in between other commitments, but it is looking so far like I won't be able to have meaningful conversations with each and every respondent," he said.

Still, Galfond wants to gather up every piece of feedback he can from anyone who is willing to respond. Building the highest quality site in poker is hard work and a lofty goal, and Galfond's looking for all the info he can to continue shaping his brainchild.

For more from Phil Galfond, check out his recent appearance on the PokerNews Podcast.

  • After more than a week of streaming, Phil Galfond looks to continue shaping his young poker site.

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