A weekend tweet by professional poker player and entrepreneur Phil Galfond suggests that Rush Street Interactive (RSI) has settled on the name for a forthcoming real money online poker US platform based on Galfond’s Run It Once Poker (RIO), which RSI acquired a little more than one year ago.
On Saturday, Galfond responded to a tweet asking if he had any player patches left over from RIO Poker’s first run between 2018 and its final day in operation, January 3, 2022. The original tweet included images of two patches for European players on the platform from that time.
Galfond responded that he was “running low” on the old RIO Poker patches but that he had “plenty of [version 2] though.” His reply included images of two patches emblazoned with “Run It Once Poker, Powered by BetRivers.”
The poker pro’s response strongly suggests that RSI plans to maintain the RIO name in the title of the online poker platform that is still in development rather than using its flagship brand, BetRivers.
. That could prove to be a wise marketing decision. Consider that Galfond is revered in the poker community for developing a player-centric poker platform. He also maintains a significant social media presence, offering players tips and tutorials.
RSI is likely banking on making players who once frequented RIO Poker nostalgic for the former platform, giving it some form of leverage against its three established rivals in the vertical — BetMGM Poker US, PokerStars US, and WSOP US.
Chicago-based RSI acquired RIO Poker in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5.8 million in March 2022. In an exclusive interview with Poker Industry PRO that month, Jason Senti, Head of Run It Once Poker, said conversations on what the brand would be called were “ongoing.”
BetRivers is RSI’s online casino and sports betting brand, live in 14 US states and Ontario. RSI is live in a 15th state with its other brand, SugarHouse.
Michigan, New Jersey Launches Likely First
The discussion over where RSI would launch Run It Once Poker US usually begins with four states where the company provides online casino gaming — Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
But of those four, Michigan and New Jersey are considered the best two markets for RSI to start. Both are members of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state online poker compact that includes Delaware and Nevada.
RSI could combine its player pools from a future RIO Poker MI and RIO Poker NJ. The shared liquidity from such a merger would create larger prizes and a two-state network via MSIGA that would probably be dubbed RIO Poker US.
Pennsylvania and West Virginia aren’t members of MSIGA, so RSI doesn’t have as much incentive to launch there. Neither is Ontario since it’s a Canadian province and not eligible for membership in the compact, But that doesn’t mean RSI won’t entertain the idea of launching in segregated markets — considering that Pennsylvania is the fifth-largest state in terms of population (13 million) and Ontario has 14.2 million residents — the largest regulated market in North America.
Although it doesn’t have a land-based casino presence in Nevada, RSI could potentially receive a license from state regulators for online poker. If that happened, RIO Poker NV would provide the only competition for WSOP NV (unless BetMGM Poker NV beats them to the chase).
RIO Poker Could Also Come to Delaware
Delaware could also figure into RSI’s plans, but it’s considered more of a longshot.
Earlier this month, RSI emerged as one of two finalists for the Delaware Lottery’s exclusive iGaming contract. The news was surprising because the company doesn’t have an online poker platform live in another jurisdiction, and the Lottery hinted it wanted an operator with such experience.
But the Lottery also emphasized that it would give equal consideration to operators with a more significant presence in online sports betting than casino gaming, so it appears that is how RSI became one of two finalists for the five-year contract — the other being 888 Holdings, which first won the contract back in 2013 and held it for a decade.
The Lottery is scheduled to decide on a primary vendor within days. If 888 is awarded the contract again, the WSOP/888 US Network will hold its monopoly in Delaware. Otherwise, RSI will likely celebrate clinching an agreement in Delaware by first reaching out to regulators in Michigan and New Jersey to see what it needs to do as a precursor for launching multi-state poker in those jurisdictions.
Find out about new developments as they happen on pokerfuse’s Complete Guide to RIO Poker US.