Phil Galfond to Launch Online Poker Room

Back in 2005, my first year in the online poker industry, I worked for an online poker affiliate that launched a poker news website. As such, that was also my first year in the poker news biz, during which I spent half the summer in Las Vegas covering the World Series of Poker. My colleagues – the three founders of the company – also spent that time in Vegas attending to affiliate business. One night, we went to some hip bash at The Palms, one of those disorienting parties with girls dancing in suspended cages. It was totally my scene (hint: sarcasm). On our way in, a couple 20-somethings stopped us, recognizing one of my company’s founders as a member of an online poker affiliate panel from earlier in the day. They told him they wanted to start their own online poker room and asked him if he could impart some advice, particularly on the matter of whether or not they should join a network or launch an independent room.

His advice, coming when the poker boom was erupting and people were more than happy to spend money on anything relating to the word poker: “Don’t.”

And that was in 2005, when I could sneeze on my keyboard and make money in the poker industry. Now, in 2016, poker pro Phil Galfond has announced he is about to take the plunge and create his own online poker room. I have a feeling I know what my former colleague would say, but I also have a feeling it wouldn’t matter.

Phil Galfond is the founder of the poker training site Run It Once and, of course, a legend of the online-poker age. His site is one of the most respected training sites around, featuring a fairly popular message forum and training brain trust that includes such names as Ben Sulsky, Jason Koon, Stephen Chidwick, and George Danzer, amongst many. And now he wants to take his foray into online poker even further with his own poker room.

In a post on Run It Once yesterday, Galfond explained his vision for what he feels an online poker room should be. He believes a poker site can and should value the gamut of poker players, from casual players to serious amateurs to hard-grinding pros. He is convinced that a poker room can make plenty of money and run fair, fun games for anyone and everyone.

In recent years, poker players have demanded more of a window into how poker rooms operate, more of a say in how they are treated, an attitude whose catalyst was Black Friday, when tens of thousands of players lost millions from online poker rooms who only had the business’s and executive’s best interests in mind. Galfond is one of those players and says he would hold his own company to same standard that he demands as a player:

A poker site should be transparent. It can’t respond to every little idea, thought or wish, but it should do its best to explain its actions. It can’t seek to please everyone by making changes that hurt the business, but it shouldn’t ignore the public. It should be held accountable for the decisions it makes. It should be able to explain itself in a way that reasonable customers will understand.

While I am pessimistic about Galfond’s chances to grow a new online poker room into something of any significance, it is not an impossible task. I certainly wish him the best. It will be interesting to see the initial approach that he takes regarding software and independence. Are he and his team developing their own software? Did they buy an existing product? Will his poker room simply join a network?

At the end of Galfond’s announcement post, which can be read in full below, a graphic depicts “Run It Once Poker,” which is presumably the name of the new room and a launch date of the first quarter of 2017.

A poker site should value poker players.

It should value the casual player for the money he’s willing to put on the line to play a game he loves. For choosing poker over other hobbies, and for choosing their site over other sites.

It should value the enthusiast and semi-professional for the liquidity they provide and for growing the game. For spreading the word, across different mediums, about their favorite site.

It should value the professional for embodying the dream that brings so many people to poker. For proving that poker is a game of skill. For promoting the game of poker to their fans, students, followers or subscribers.

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.

A poker site needs to be a software and user experience company. Like other software companies, it should be eager to mine the trove of knowledge, experience, ideas, and feedback that is its player base. It should seek to build a fun and engaging environment that all types of players enjoy playing in.

A poker site should be transparent. It can’t respond to every little idea, thought or wish, but it should do its best to explain its actions. It can’t seek to please everyone by making changes that hurt the business, but it shouldn’t ignore the public. It should be held accountable for the decisions it makes. It should be able to explain itself in a way that reasonable customers will understand.

A poker site should believe in fairness. Not fairness for the sake of public image and profits, but fairness for fairness’s sake. It shouldn’t let honest players, professional or recreational, be taken advantage of by others exploiting unenforceable rules. It should seek to put a stop to predatory behavior and to cheating of any kind. It should strive to create as level a playing field as possible.

A poker site should be agile in this ever-changing online environment. New ideas for improvement should be acted on. New advances in technology should be responded to. New problems should be met with creative solutions.

A poker site should understand that it doesn’t have to lose for the players to win. Poker operators, professionals, and non-professionals all have their goals/wants/needs and these lists aren’t mutually exclusive. It is possible for policy changes to be a win-win-win, or a win-win-tie. The search for these changes should be never-ending.

A poker site shouldn’t obsess over where poker was five or ten years ago. It should seek to build a sustainable economy in the conditions of the present. It must continue to adapt to the climate.

I want a fair, honest, transparent poker site that believes in the dream that I have lived.

I’m going to give it my best shot.


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