Man, what's happening in this upside-down world in which Phil Galfond is stuck a cool million playing heads-up PLO? Galfond is a beast at the game and one of the all-time PLO goats. Yet, over the last three weeks, Galfond had been running beyond bad. It's one thing to lose a couple of sessions in a row, but it's nearly catastrophic to post just one winning day in 15 sessions during his self-named Galfond Challenge.
Galfond could not have picked a worst time to hit the skids. Hey, cold streaks happen and vast swings are a part of the high-stakes PLO game. But it's been unusual to see someone run so bad for so long at such a high-profile stage... all of this unfolding in real time with the world to watch on Twitch and everyone to comment via social media.
VeniVidi won €900,240 playing Galfond heads-up €100/€200 PLO for 9,927 hands. They agreed to play 25,000 hands of PLO in the first of many matches in the "Galfond Challenge" on Run It Once Poker. In addition to the cash stakes, Galfond put up 200K of his own money in a side bet against 100K for VeniVidi.
Galfond is stuck nearly a million with more than 60% of the challenge to go. If he quits, he'll be down 1.1 million including the side bet.
After 15 sessions of €100-200 PLO spanning nearly 10,000 hands spread out over the last three weeks, VeniVidi lost only one session. As a result, he banked over €900K. Not bad for 15 days of work, eh?
Galfond posted only one winning session since the first Galfond Challenge began. He posted two break-even sessions during the 15-day run for a 1-12-2 record. Just last week, Galfond was only stuck 550K after 10 sessions, but nearly fell twice as much behind in the last five horrendous sessions.
After an ugly 15 sessions, Galfond and VeniVidi were set to play against with session #16 on Tuesday. However, Galfond and VeniVidi both agreed to cancel Tuesday's session. Everyone expected Galfond to return on Wednesday, but Galfond posted his decision to postpone the Challenge until March 1 when he'll make a final decision on the fate of Galfond Challenge #1.
Galfond did not answer the bell on Wednesday. He didn't quite throw in the towel either. He opted for a break to think things over while paying a penalty that's worth €3K per day.
Galfond knows he should quit but wanted a couple extra days to think it through. It makes sense... it's a tough decision, but he knows....
- 1) he's up against a stellar player
- 2) he's getting crushed by this particular opponent who clearly has his number
- 3) he's off his A-game
- 4) the staggering losses have affected him on and away from the table.
In an ordinary situation, when a player is running awful over a short period of time, it's common sense and commonplace to step away and take a break from the game. Never play on tilt, right?
The length of a "break" varies from player to player and situation to situation. High-stakes pros can afford to take an extended time off to get their head straight. Grinders that must meet a nut to make can't take too much time off (like a month holiday in the Brazilian jungle that included multiple Ayahuasca ceremonies), but they know when bogged down in a shitstorm, it's time to take a break.
That's probably the hardest thing to do when you're running bad... stepping away from the game before you do more damage.
The late Lou Krieger always advised to take a break to clear your head after you take a bad beat or lose a big pot. Your competitive instinct tell you to dig in deeper, but you're obviously on tilt and don't know it, or being too stubborn to do the right thing.
Lou Krieger once told me to go see a movie if I'm running bad at the tables. Much like any great poker advice, it doubles as good overall life advice. If you're having a crappy day, duck into a movie theater. The two hours will be an opportunity to lose yourself in a motion picture, it will force you to sit and relax in the dark while collecting your thoughts. When you live in Vegas and there's gambling everywhere in sight, a movie theatre is one of the rare places in Sin City that does not have a slot machine or gaming table.
Right now, Phil Galfond needs a movie. A long one, like The Irishman.
I lost that hope, and it was replaced by depression, I'm proud of the way I kept it together for so long, but I found my mind's limit... I don't really know whether it was the gained and lost hope, fatigue from day after day of intense poker and study, or something else, but I know that I've become unable to play my A or B game.
Galfond posted his very-emo thoughts on Twitter, "I lost that hope, and it was replaced by depression."
Hey, when you're running bad, you have to step away. The hard part is that Galfond has to step away in the middle of a highly-publicized challenge that he's doing as a promotion for his long-awaited website Run It Once.
Of course, there are some old-school folks who think he should play through the rut. They have a point in a way because sometimes you have to force yourself to overcome fear (and fear of failure). But obviously if you're not playing optimal poker, you should never sit down. I mean, that's one of the basic rules of gambling right? Never play poker when you're overly emotional, completely blackout shitcanned on Xanax, and never-ever play on tilt.
We've all gotten paid by the spewing tilt-monkey before. Heck, we've also been the tilt-monkey. It's never fun when monkeys lose their minds and throw feces at themselves. Right now, Galfond is a tilt-monkey and before he flings more crap, he decided to call a time out.
Should he go back? If he knows he's beat, then might as well move on and try again some other day.
Then again, this is one of the moments that defines a person. It's like when Rocky lost to Clubber Lang. He wasn't prepared and lost the belt. Now it's up to Rocky to re-train and regain the title.
Galfond has a match coming up against Bill Perkins in the Thirst Lounge. Perkins knows he's at a disadvantage (exactly 4/1 according to their side bet €200K to €800K), but he's got deep pockets and Galfond's poker ego is fragile and bruised right now after a sick beating from VeniVidi. He should just pay VeniVidi €200K in their side wager and move on, especially because he has 50,000 hands on deck against Perkins.
In addition, Galfond has future Galfond Challenge showdowns against Brandon Adams, Chance Kornuth, Jungleman, and Luke Schwartz.