Phil Galfond is many things: A multi-time WSOP bracelet winner, a legendary online poker crusher, an ambitious entrepreneur with Run It Once Poker, one of the nicest guys in the game, and likely a future Poker Hall of Famer. At his core, however, he’s also a teacher and has one of poker’s most brilliant and talented minds specifically in the realm of Pot Limit Omaha.
That latter bit has always been celebrated and admired in the poker world, but only recently has Galfond gone all-in with his talents to have created his first ever full-length course for Run It Once Training entitled This Is PLO.
For many serious poker players, just hearing that one of the game’s greatest-ever players and instructors created the new course was enough to have insta-registered. Others have chosen to wait on the sidelines a bit for some testimonials before deciding whether or not to take the plunge and purchase the course, the priciest one in the company’s history.
In this exclusive interview, we sat with Galfond himself to get a better understanding of the process that went into his creating This Is PLO and gain insight as to what guided his preparation and content production. We’ll also hear his true thoughts with regard to whom he feels would benefit most from the course and why it’s a worthwhile investment for players who want to improve their Pot Limit Omaha game.
While you’ve run one of poker’s best training sites for years and have created tons of videos and training content as an instructor, you’ve never created a full-length course of your own up until This is PLO. What drove you to want to do that in the first place?
I had the idea a long time ago! When I began my challenges, I immediately had the goal of creating a course out of the process. As the challenges played out, I realized that I didn’t have the time and capacity to create a course while I was playing them, so I put the idea on the back burner, never sure if I’d ever get around to it.
Prior to beginning to produce the videos, how did you decide how to structure the course’s content in the first place? Did you make any tweaks to your original structure along the way?
What stood out to me in the way that I learned and improved was how segmented the different board textures were. When I studied my delay c-bet strategy on paired boards, it had absolutely nothing to do with my delay c-bet strategy on unpaired flush boards, for example. So, I wanted a way to address every significant part of the game tree with that separation between board textures.
I wouldn’t say that I changed the plan once I started, but I did keep adding more and more videos than I expected to because I realized that there was more and more to cover.
For the most part, each of the course’s videos is approximately 20-30 minutes in length. How did you decide on that particular timeframe? About how long did it take to produce each video?
I aimed for 30 minutes a video, but because I separated things into so many different specific scenarios, occasionally the strategy for one of the spots was quite simple, especially once I simplified it from the solver outputs (which is a theme of my course), so I stopped short when I felt I’d be wasting students’ time reiterating the same points.
Some videos essentially took me just the recording time to create, while others took as many as 12 hours to plan and record.
How long did it take from initial conception and deciding you wanted to create this course until you released it in January? Did you sort of have a daily/weekly routine re: how much you worked on it, or was it more of a side project?
It took about four months. I decided to finally create the course because we (Run It Once Poker) were so occupied with the process of selling the company that I was unable to play any poker in between my obligations relating to that.
Essentially, I worked six days a week, 10 hours a day, making videos whenever I wasn’t actively working on RIO Poker deal responsibilities. There were a few days that I recorded over 10 videos!
What would you say were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the creation of your course content?
The sheer number of videos was the hardest part. That, and perfectionism. I would have never made a course if I didn’t force myself to get comfortable with just going for it, rather than waiting around and planning until it was perfect.
A big part of the reason we launched it in ‘early access’ was because it made me comfortable getting the course nearly finished, knowing that if I have some new ideas to round it out, I can continue to add to it.
Content creators often have an inner circle of people to bounce their raw work off, hoping to get constructive feedback in order to polish the final product. Undoubtedly, This Is PLO is your magnum opus. With that said, are there any shout-outs you’d like to give to some folks who helped you refine it along the way (and in what way did those individuals help)?
The entire RIO team was extremely helpful in facilitating my ambitious timeline of getting all of the videos edited, prettying up my PowerPoint presentations, etc. I actually didn’t bounce my work off of anyone from a strategy perspective. I had a very clear vision in my mind for how I wanted to teach what I’d learned.
This Is PLO’s landing page’s states that: “This course is for anyone who wants to improve their winrate at Pot Limit Omaha or who wants to think about the game at a higher level” and “You should purchase this course if you’re looking to improve your PLO game or if you’re interested in seeing how Phil Galfond, one of the best PLO players of all time, thinks about the game.” Realistically speaking, I wouldn’t expect a low-stakes PLO grinder to be shelling out $1,500 for any training course. So let’s ask sort of an inverse question: what “categories” of PLO players are not yet ready for a course like this?
I honestly think that players at every level above “I don’t know what a wrap is” can learn from this course, but the two major questions they need to ask themselves are:
- Is improving my game going to be worth this cost given my current level, my ambitions in poker, and my bankroll.
- If Heads Up PLO isn’t my focus, am I willing to learn key concepts in large part through examples of Heads Up PLO, and apply them to 6-max or 9-handed PLO, or will I find it unmotivating to see so many examples of a format I don’t play?
— Run It Once Training (@RunItOnce) March 4, 2022
One of your stated goals with this course is for it to act as kind of a shortcut for serious students, saving them hundreds of hours of solver study by training them to “think like a solver” in the first place. Similarly, you aim for players to “not have to rely on charts or solver outputs”. Is that to say that even players who’ve NEVER used charts or solvers to study would be able to make the most of this course, or is some basic familiarity with charts and solvers a prerequisite?
I don’t think any familiarity with charts or solvers is necessary, but realistically speaking, if someone has no familiarity at all with solvers whatsoever, they’re likely not at a stage in their poker journey where it makes sense to spend this much on a course.
Some of the course’s content includes you explaining how to use Run It Once’s Vision GTO Trainer. Please explain how this fits hand-in-hand with the methodology and approach to PLO that you’re advocating, rather than being in contrast to it.
I think that learning from solvers is integral to becoming an elite poker player, but I don’t think one needs to spend countless hours trying to memorize solver outputs. Instead, they need to turn solver outputs into heuristics that can be applied to whatever situation they might find themselves in. In this course, I walk them through doing just that, and I share my conclusions from my own solver study.
That said, I still believe that anyone looking to be great should study with solver tools, even after taking my course. I just believe that most people spend too much time and energy on it because they’re doing it the wrong way.
At $1,499, This Is PLO is by far the most expensive course that Run It Once Training has ever offered, and word on the street is that nonetheless sales have done really well since you launched it (congrats!). You’ve said that “when broken down by the number of hours, it’s very little per hour” and it’s quite clear that a serious student prepared to make an investment like this will undoubtedly recoup it swiftly at the tables. With all that said, $1,499 is still the “early access” price, featuring a $1,000 discount. Could you give our readers some sort of estimate as to when you expect the course to be offered at its full price of $2,499?
I’m working hard now with the goal of putting the finishing touches on the course before the World Series of Poker begins. That said, I decided to work with others to add some more 6-max focused content to the course, which could take some time and will be not fully within my control.
While This Is PLO is still available at the “early access” price, you’ve been gathering feedback and suggestions to decide what areas of the game tree to go even more in-depth on. What’s the nature of the feedback you’ve been getting thus far?
The feedback has been great, and I haven’t been asked for as many specific additions as I expected to be. The main thing I’ve been learning, not as much from those who’ve bought the course, but from those considering it, is that people want to see more 6-max focused content. So that’s my plan!
I’ll also be adding session reviews against multiple challengers and some 4-bet pot videos, which I haven’t yet covered in the course.
— Run It Once Training (@RunItOnce) January 28, 2022
You’re 4-for-4 in Galfond Challenges, and you’ve said that playing in those challenges was one of the key ingredients in you coming up with the material for This Is PLO. People used to ask Doyle Brunson back in the day if he was worried about giving away too many of his secrets in Super System. By the same token, is there any part of you that’s just a little bit concerned that some fellow online crusher is only too happy to pay for this course and use your own skills to their benefit in a future Galfond Challenge?
I was a little bit concerned about that, yes, but I have been struggling to find more challengers lately. Maybe this will make some people confident enough to step into the arena with me!
As far as paying for the course, I noticed that you currently offer three options: Skrill, PayPal, and credit card. In the future, will someone be able to purchase this – and other Run It Once Training materials – directly from an account balance in the eventually-relaunched Run It Once Poker client? Will any other payment options be added in the future?
At this time, we plan to stick with those payment methods, but we always welcome suggestions from users who can’t find an option that suits them!
Poker is constantly evolving, and players are constantly improving. Why do you feel that This Is PLO will “stand the test of time” and remain a top-tier poker training tool for years to come?
I think that the core concepts taught in This Is PLO won’t be invalidated by future advancements in the game. While study tools will continue to progress in the years to come, today’s solvers give the “real answers.” The advancements in the future of solver tools will mostly be related to speed, ease of use, and ease of drawing conclusions.
So, while I’m not saying that I’ll never progress as a PLO player, I do believe that I had all of the info that I needed to teach concepts that will stand the test of time.
In your public video on the This is PLO landing page, you say that the course is “the culmination of nearly two decades playing and teaching.” Does that mean it’ll take another 20 years until we see the next course by Phil Galfond? 😊
Haha! Honestly, maybe. This was hard work!
In all seriousness, the response to This Is PLO has been phenomenal. It seems like the poker world can never get enough Phil Galfond. In the event you DO someday decide to create another full-length course, what niche of poker do you think it would most likely cover?
The only other course that interests me right now would be a beginner course… teaching concepts that I believe all poker players need to know and that few are taught from the start. Let me finish this one and take a little break before considering it, though. 🙂
Of your 33 HendonMob live tournament results, 26 are from the WSOP, with your last non-WSOP result being almost a decade ago. Your last live WSOP result is from 2019. You’ve obviously got your hands full running the business, being an active father and husband, continuing to build out This Is PLO, etc, but with your fire to play poker newly lit once again, can we expect you to return to the WSOP this summer? If so, will you be playing a full schedule or just focusing on PLO events to try and claim bracelet #4?
Great question that I honestly don’t know the answer to! My passion right now is playing heads-up matches, so if I were to find one that excited me, I would probably even skip the WSOP entirely for it. That said, I haven’t played WSOP (other than 2-3 small online events) since before the pandemic, so I miss that a little bit, too.
I go into every summer with a plan, and I leave every summer having done something different. We’ll see!
I’ll likely continue to skip non-Vegas-based events, just because I prefer being home with my family.