Phil Galfond RunItOnce Poker

Phil Galfond Explores Table-Cap Options as RunItOnce Poker Development Progresses

It’s time to check in on the latest from RunItOnce Poker, the perpetually under-development poker site fronted and partly owned by prominent pro Phil Galfond. In the fourth and latest in a stretched-out series of blog posts penned by Galfond, the site’s ongoing development considerations have turned to table caps, and their impact on the site’s operational profitability, playing environment, and a host of other considerations.

Galfond’s infrequent blog posts have been (at the very least) an entertaining look at some of the aspects of pulling the software side of an online poker site together. One could argue that despite the RunItOnce team’s intention to build the site organically, block by block, they’ll still likely end up doing a lot of reinventing of the wheel, incurring significant additional development time and expense. On the flip side, Galfond’s and RIO’s openness offers casual players a look into the why, rather than the what, of a site’s structural framework.

Phil GalfondThis time, Galfond’s all about table caps. Galfond implies early on that he’s talking about caps on cash-game tables, not tournament ones, as he references PokerStars Italy’s recent decision to implement a six-table cap on that site’s cash-game tables. Galfond, though, didn’t specify that in connection with RIO’s plans, so there’s still an element of doubt.

That there will be table caps of some form, however, is a given. The number is likely to be four or six, and Galfond breaks down some of the considerations into three generalized categories:

  • Table Cap and Game Quality
  • Table Cap and Bots
  • Table Cap and Rake

Without going into too much detail, as you can read Galfond’s blog for that, we’ll just summarize a couple of points. Galfond duly and correctly notes that the lower the table cap, the less the disadvantage for lesser-skilled and newer players, simply because massive multi-tablers have a far more difficult time in soaking up all available seats and waiting for one of these less-skilled players to wander by. Then again, one has to program for plenty of extra empty tables, otherwise the same pro-player overload occurs, just in a condensed version.

Galfond also touches on the bot topic, noting that the lower the table cap, the tougher it is on bot operators, who generally profit by earning tiny amounts in the long run over lots and lots of tables and seats. Cut back that table cap, the logic goes, and bots can’t achieve that massve hands-played baseline, and it also adds to the presumed difficulties for the bot owners in setting up more and more accounts.

Where Galfond’s post really gets interesting, however, is when he turns to the relationship between a cap on tables and the overall rake earned by the site. He readily admits that ROI’s preliminary studies indicate that the site would take in more rake in the short and medium term by implementing a higher table cap, or even none at all. Yet that mathematically truism comes along with the historical knowledge that too high a table-max (or no maximum at all) tends to turn out very bad for a site’s player ecosystem in the long haul, something almost every poker site in existence now knows and understands.

Yet cutting the maximum number of tables too low is bad business as well, simply because there’s a point where there’s not enough gain from the balanced player ecosystem to justify the loss of all the extra rake. And that’s where the argument hangs, in Galfond’s viewpoint; finding that tipping point as soon as possible might be the key to ROI’s overall success. Galfond himself favors a four-table cap, but admits that his development team is split, with many others favoring a six-table cap.

That leads to the other part of this interesting post, where Galfond and ROI announce that the matter is open to public input. Anyone can register on the site, then vote on whether they prefer a four- or six-table cap.

It’ll be interesting to see if Galfond will continue waving his four-table-cap banner in the face of the significant response bias he’s likely to receive. Galfond’s invitation to vote is far more likely to be seen and acted upon by dedicated, multi-tabling online grinders than it is by a casual, semi-interested player. As a result, I’d expect Galfond will find at least 80% of the responses recommending the six-table cap rather than four.

Then add in the fact that the six-table cap is financially safer for the site overall, and Galfond has essentially set himself to be allowed r convinced that the six-table cap is the way to go. I’d make a small wager that’s how it’ll all play out at the RunItOnce tables, Galfond’s stated preferences notwithstanding.


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