Tuesday April 7, 2020 at 3:53 pm

With less than 3,000 hands remaining in the inaugural Galfond Challenge, Phil Galfond seized the lead and posted his first "double green" day since this began in late January. On Day 35, Galfond booked a session win worth €121,486 to put him ahead of VeniVidi for the first time. After 22,097 hands of heads-up PLO, Galfond is now ahead €81,064 after wiping out a €900K deficit.


Sick. So sick. So so so sick. So damn sick. So insanely crazy sick. Who would have thought Phil Galfond could comeback after he was down €900K? Obviously, Galfond knew he could storm back. To be honest, I thought Galfond was toast after the first 15 sessions. I thought he had been spending too much time on the business side of poker and away from the nuts and bolts of grinding every day. If I was in his corner, I would have thrown in the towel to avoid more damage. But that's why I'm not in the fight game and not in poker full-time anymore.

Breaks work. Seriously. Breaks work. That's one of the worst things a gambler can do during a downturn... keep pressing without a break. It's difficult to gain perspective when you're down on the ground and getting your head stomped in. Your instinct is to keep fighting even though you're in a bad spot. In Galfond's case, he knew he was down and called the timeout to gain better footing to gain much-needed perspective and to fight on even ground upon resumption.

Hey, we all go on runs. Good runs, bad runs. It happens. It's part of the game. Everyone can play amazing poker when everything is going your way. But the best of the best are the ones that can hunker down and post a winning session amidst a crappy run of cards.

Right now, the tables have been turned. Ah, sometimes cliches fit. In this case, Galfond went on a heater over the last five weeks and obliterated VeniVidi. Even though VV called a timeout of his own, it was not enough time to re-focus and get a new read on Galfond.

But it's not over yet. Heck, it's far from over. If anything, Galfond is in a vulnerable spot. VV has a chance to catch him feeling "fat and sassy" after booking another six-figure win. At the same time, Galfond knows he can't get too complacent. It's time to go in for the kill.

The two have less than 3,000 hands to determine the final outcome. We're still 4-5 sessions away, but the next session will be one of the most important days in the first Galfond Challenge.

In case you have not been paying attention to the drama, or perhaps you're finally getting back into poker again during the pandemic, let's give a quick recap.

Phil Galfond, otherwise known as OMGClayAiken during his dominating Full Tilt Poker days, had been well regarded as one of the premier online sharks in the history of online poker. The American wunderkind emerged as one of the premier PLO players in the world.

A decade later, online poker is only legal in a handful of states in America, but Galfond launched his own site that he had been diligently working on during the last few years. He finally launched Run It Once Poker, which had its gaming license in Malta. It's a global site but did not allow Americans to play along with the Southern Europe junta (France, Italy, Spain).

To commemorate the long-awaited release of Run It Once, Galfond threw down the gauntlet and offered to play anyone heads-up PLO in what is now known as The Galfond Challenge. Some of the biggest names in the high stakes world agreed to battle Galfond in heads-up €100/€200 PLO over 25,000 hands. They would be playing for table stakes and side bets. Energy trader and shark slayer, Bill Perkins, is anxiously waiting on deck to take on Galfond. But the first match would be against an unfamiliar foe named VeniVidi. Galfond gave him 2/1 odds and put up €200K against VV's €100K.

In the first 15 sessions, which began in June and continued through February, VeniVidi jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. After 15 sessions, VeniVidi inflicted serious damage. Galfond found himself down €900K (or $1 million USD) with a significant amount of their 25K-hand match to go.

Galfond almost quit because he realized he would be climbing out of a hole that's as high as Mt Everest. But he didn't because Galfond is a gamer and not a quitter. He did ask for a break and paid a costly penalty of 3K per day of non-action. He gladly paid the fines while he got his head screwed back on straight. Maybe it was the time off, maybe it was studying game tape, maybe he saw a Haitian voodoo priestess to alleviate a hex. Whatever Galfond did in those precious days during the layoff helped. Big time.

When the two resumed at the start of March, Galfond started to chip away. At the least, Galfond stopped the bleeding and could save face finishing the match without VV inflicting more serious damage. But something happened... a combo of Galfond regaining confidence and his footing, while everything that could possibly go wrong for VV happened.

A week or so ago, Galfond looked like he would seize the lead. However, VV put up a heck of fight and tried to maintain his lead... albeit a small one that continued to shrink with every session.

And then it happened. On Day 35, Galfond booked a session win worth €121K. He came into yesterday down just 40K and ended the day with a slight lead worth €81,064. For the first time since the Galfond Challenge began. Galfond booked a double green day with a winning session and an overall lead.

Miracles do happen. But something tells me this isn't exactly a miracle. It was only a matter of time. Why? Because PLO is super swingy, then again Phil Galfond is the GOAT and he just reminded everyone about his mad skills.

After 22,097 hands, VV now is in the red for the first time. He's got less than 3K hands remaining to regain his own footing. For now, VV's on the ropes. Can Galfond put him away?

Tune in to find out.

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