The pandemic has been tough across the board, but online poker and other online gambling entities thrived during the global shutdown. When casinos had to shut their doors, even in Sin City, many gamblers headed online to virtual options. Online poker and online gambling spiked across the board. The pandemic was an awful thing and disrupted business on a global scale, but online poker saw a huge surge and a wave of new players that hit the virtual felt to get their gambling fix.
Run It Once (aka RIO) had a nice bump even though they did not accept American players. However, when the shutdowns ended and when brick and mortar poker rooms and casinos re-opened for the first time, gamblers flocked to their favorite gambling locales. In some areas like Las Vegas, poker rooms were shuttered by bean counters and lack of staffing. Heck, even Caesars trimmed their fat and you can only find a couple places to play live poker on the Strip -- and that's from the folks that bring you the World Series of Poker. You know it was a sad day when the iconic Mirage shut down its poker room in November 2020.
After a nice spike during the earliest days of the pandemic, online poker saw their numbers dip across the board. Run It Once took a big hit as well. Phil Galfond penned a state of the union address that read a little bit like a eulogy. But not to fear. He's shutting down his passion project until he can legally open it up in the USA. Right now, online poker is not legal on a federal scale, but it's legal on a state-by-state basis. Only six states offer legal online poker including Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and Michigan.
Keep an eye on Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and New York in the immediate future. Those look like the next four states that could finally spread legal online poker. It's crazy to think that sportsbetting and marijuana was legalized in so many states in the union before online poker, but American politics is never logical.
California came close to online poker, but it's fallen to the wayside more times to count. In 2022, there will be a big push to bring sportsbetting to the great republic of California, but online poker is still a long way from becoming a reality for the biggest potential market in the union.
Galfond made the tough decision to shut down Run It Once so he can position himself to enter the US market.
"Run It Once Poker is now headed down a path to enter the legal & regulated US market," penned Galfond. "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!"
Galfond had a game plan to set up shop overseas and then move into the American market as soon as things were groovy and profitable. But the pandemic reared its ugly head and Galfond had to pivot.
"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," continued Galfond. "While we're on our way to half of that, it makes me sad that we didn't first achieve the other half."
Games will end of January 3, 2022 and players have until April 3, 2022 to cash out.
Galfond admitted that he made several costly mistakes early on that put Run It Once in a tough position.
"Our initial tech leadership, which I put into place, came nowhere remotely close to their targets," said Galfond. "Part of that was on them, but part was on us, too – not communicating early and clearly enough that we weren't looking to launch a cookie-cutter poker site. We wanted to innovate at every turn. We planned around their estimates, including hiring operational staff long before we were able to launch, costing us money that we could've used to increase our marketing efforts post-launch."
Yup, in the online gambling world, a lot of revenue is used to market sites. That's why there was a huge cold war between PokerStars and Full Tilt back in the day with both sites competing for the hearts and minds of online poker players. Galfond wish he had a bigger war chest to fund aggressive marketing campaigns, but he churned too much money too soon and too fast with trying to get the site up and running.
The lack of players were a huge disappointment, but it's a hurdle that every online poker site faced. Even with the excitement of the Galfond Challenge heads-up matches, including the sick comeback against VeniVidi, it was an uphill battle to draw in new players and retain them. Once the pandemic eased up and online poker players returned to live poker, Run It Once incurred a huge hit.
Stay tuned for more info on the future of Run It Once. For now, you have a couple more days to play on RIO before January 3.