There are a lot of poker fans out there who’ve heard plenty about Run It Once (RIO) Poker Training over the years, but don’t really know too much about it. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’m someone who fell into that category until just recently. After all, that’s the kind of stuff a poker writer with almost a decade of media experience is supposed to know about, no? Well, I figured it was high time to rectify that situation.
Over the last week or so, I’ve had a very enjoyable correspondence with the site’s founder, Phil Galfond. The two-time WSOP bracelet winner is of course well known for his legendary success at the live and online felt. While Phil is quite busy working on his next huge project, the Run It Once online poker site, he was kind enough to agree to this interview, in which he gives a full primer to the uninitiated on what RIO is all about. With much thanks to Phil, I hope you all enjoy the interview (PLUS, there’s a special offer for you at the end!).
When did you found the company and why did you decide to do so?
We opened our doors in December 2012, so we’ve just hit the five-year mark! I’ve always loved teaching poker, and my friend and I believed that poker needed a premium training brand and that we could create it.
In what way is the RIO approach to instruction different from the type of training people can get from taking other poker courses?
Compared to other training sites when we launched Run It Once, we came out with more videos from more top pros than anywhere else, and we were priced higher than the competition in order to land several pros who beat the highest stakes games available. We also rounded the roster out with pros of all stakes so that members can see pros in their games, but we’re very diligent in our selection process.
You’ll recognize many of poker’s best and brightest (both past and present) in our Meet the Pros section.
It looks like your poker courses section contains a lot of, well, courses! Run It Once is different in that we have a single (massive) video library covering a wide variety of games, from a wide variety of professionals. We release two new videos every single day, so we always have something current available.
There are benefits to each training style and I think each works better depending on how you learn. The main benefit of courses is that they tend to be more structured and incremental, which is great, especially for beginners.
The downside is that you’re often getting just one person’s knowledge, rather than insight from several professionals with differing strategies and teaching styles, which allows you to find the pros that you learn from best. It also – most importantly – allows you to make your own decisions about what is right rather than relying on the strategies of one pro. Nobody knows everything, even the best players in the world, and I personally prefer to take bits and pieces from everyone I can learn from. That way you’re less likely to follow someone down the wrong path.
Since I own Run It Once, it would be irresponsible for me not to also point out that membership at Run It Once gets you significantly more content for your money. You can sign up today for $100 and have immediate access to 3,700 videos, along with the 60 new videos that will be created during the next month of membership.
“Choosing a +EV option over a more +EV option is too often ignored as ‘good enough” @PhilGalfond
— Run It Once (@RunItOnce) March 28, 2017
The tagline for Run It Once is “The world’s leading poker strategy community.” How would you say that your community differs from other well-known online poker forum communities? Specifically, what is it that makes you guys “leaders”?
No other training site has the number of elite poker pros that Run It Once does.
I also really love our forum community. People in the Run It Once forums are generally skilled players who take learning about the game very seriously, yet they’re welcoming to newcomers and often happy to help out and answer questions. I can’t take any credit for the community turning out that way. I just think the type of training content and the pros we have on our roster must have attracted those types of people to the site, and I’m thankful for it.
Perusing through the list of 105 RIO instructors, I was proud to see the face of Bradley Chalupski, who is also a longtime contributing writer here at Cardplayer Lifestyle. What sort of experience and skill set does it take for someone to be considered as a RIO instructor?
Bradley is unique in that he’s one of only a handful of pros we’ve ever had who weren’t playing and crushing their games when we hired them.
Bradley is a poker player, but more importantly, an elite athlete who’s releasing videos in a really cool series in which he relates lessons learned on his journey to becoming an elite athlete to poker.
— Run It Once (@RunItOnce) May 17, 2017
We like to round out our pure poker strategy content with a little bit of psychology, mental game, and other away from the table training. There is a lot more to being a pro than just playing well, and we want to make sure our members have the resources they need available.
Otherwise, we look for players with a proven track record of strong results and an ability to teach.
We sometimes get applications, but we usually seek out our pros. Our searches are based on either impressive results or recommendations from our other pros. Once we make contact, they submit a demo video. I review every demo video that comes in, and we always have at least one other person (often more) review them as well.
There are numerous ways for people to learn how to play better. From reading poker books to watching poker vlogs to listening to poker podcasts and of course playing more, taking poker notes, and analyzing your own play. I can understand why pros would want to get better, as edges are getting smaller and the competition is improving; so you’ve got to keep up. But why do you feel it’s worth it for recreational players to pay for training courses like what RIO has to offer when there’s so much free content available out there?
I think it’s important to work on your game in a number of ways. I also have always believed that making an investment in your game early will pay off tremendously in the long term, which is why I’ve always belonged to a training site (long before RIO) and hired many coaches before training sites even existed.
For purely recreational players who don’t care about becoming strong players, I wouldn’t suggest signing up.
For recreational players who want to learn just to get better, or aspire to become semi-pro or pro, I think it’s crucial that you give yourself any head start you can.
There’s a lot of free content out there, but I think the majority of it will only take you so far. The other huge problem for recreational players is that they can’t always tell the difference between good and bad advice, and coming across a stream or book or vlog of a confident sounding player giving bad advice could send them far in the wrong direction.
“One of my strengths as a poker player is that I’m never sure of anything I do. I’m always questioning the plays I make” @PhilGalfond
— Run It Once (@RunItOnce) April 3, 2017
So the first reason it’s worth the money is that Run It Once has more advanced content, and the second is that we’ve curated a group of pros who won’t lead our members astray. For anyone who plays somewhat frequently, a RIO membership often pays for itself. If you’re a semi-pro or pro, it doesn’t take much to make it a great investment.
Improving your winrate, multiplied over tens or hundred of thousands of hands per year, multiplied by future years, very quickly adds up to a lot of money. Not to mention that improving sooner often means more improvement later, a larger bankroll to take advantage of good opportunities, etc.
I feel really strongly about this for anyone who plans on taking poker seriously for a while, so I want to be clear – this is true of any good training site, coach, book, or software – not just RIO. Investing in my game early and often is one of the best decisions I’ve made in poker.
“Don’t study a lot without playing and don’t play a lot without studying. They need to happen together if you want to improve.”-@PhilGalfond
— Run It Once (@RunItOnce) January 21, 2017
There seem to be two separate tracks you offer, namely Essential and Elite. What’s the difference between them and how should someone decide which track they ought to sign up for?
Our Essential videos generally cover stakes under 500nl/plo and similar levels for tournaments/limit games. Elite videos usually cover 500nl and up. There are some exceptions on both sides, but that’s the gist of it.
Elite membership gets you access to both the Essential pro videos and the Elite pro videos, and the Elite pro videos are made by higher stakes players, and are generally more advanced.
Essential is still pretty advanced. One thing I wish we did a better job of is creating an on-ramp for beginners to learn from the ground up. Essential is too advanced for a true beginner.
With a stable of over 100 professional poker players offering instruction on RIO, how does someone decide who they should be learning from first? Is it sort of like a game, where someone progresses from basic to intermediate to advanced to “end boss,” with you as the final master instructor?
There isn’t a set order one should progress through. It’s really up to each individual user to determine what areas of their game they want to work on and which coaches speak to them best. Everybody learns differently and everybody has a different natural play style. I think it’s important to try watching videos from everyone to see who best suits you.
DON’T MISS THE SPECIAL RUN IT ONCE SIGN UP OFFER, BELOW
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk at least mention Run It Once Poker. In September 2016, you announced to the world that you’d be taking RIO to the next level and planned on opening a brand new online poker site. What has progress been like on that front, and when can the world expect to see it debut?
Progress has been slower than I expected, but we’re still moving as quickly as we can and as passionately as ever. I can tell you you’ll see it in 2018, but beyond that, I’m not quite ready to make any promises.
I want a fair, honest, transparent poker site that believes in the dream that I have lived: https://t.co/Zl1AM6rHO8
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) September 1, 2016