Monday April 13, 2020 at 4:31 pm

After 2.5 months and 39 sessions, the first Galfond Challenge with 25,000 hands of €100/€200 PLO has come to a conclusion. Phil Galfond completed his epic comeback by rallying from down €900K to secure a modest +€9,843 victory and win a €100K side bet against VeniVidi. But even Galfond admitted he didn't think they'd finish it off on Sunday, but they played 699 hands to cap it off.


Sick comeback, bruh. I mean, it's a silly, sensational, sick comeback any way you cut it for Phil Galfond. Okay, a few high-stakes ballas would scoff at my half-baked, lazy assessment, but none of them read this site anyway. For the rest of us stuck in the back end of the Snowpiercer post-apocalyptic gambling train, here's no other way to really look at what happened other than to acknowledge the obvious (ho hum... PLO is swingy and variance is a bitch of a beast), but let's also almost marvel at the feat.

A man stood at the edge of the abyss and €900K in the hole.

It's one thing to get run over by an opponent for several weeks straight, but it's a true testament of mental toughness to rally back and secure a win.

"When a man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him... at that moment, the man finds his character and that's what keeps the man out of the abyss."

That's a quote from Oliver Stone's "Wall Street", but I always felt it was appropriate to keep it as a mantra for gamblers during dire times.

We always knew Galfond was the GOAT during the peak OMGClayAiken phase of the halcyon glory days of the online poker boom in the 00s. No one slayed more PLO-denizens and ninjas during the boom.

But that was then... a decade later, Galfond might have lost a half-step, but he's mentally tougher than ever before. He put on his deft PLO skills for the world to watch through social media prisms and Twitch streams. Kudos for him to sticking to his guns and believing in himself, especially during a pandemic, when the first 15 days of the Galfond Challenge went sideways.

Last week, Galfond stormed back to pull even. But with a few days remaining, would he lose his focus? You see that happen to teams all the time when they're down 20 points in the fourth quarter, or down two goals late in a game to rally and tie it up... only to run out of gas and fail to fend off a counterattack.

Galfond and VeniVidi went back and forth in the final days of their heads-up bout. But neither could really surge ahead.

With less than 700 hands to go, the entire poker world got all greased up and geared up for a conclusion on Sunday during Day 39.

However, both players expected the action to slow down a bit and perhaps they'd get in 500 or so hands and then hold off the last 200 or so on Monday.

But with both players deviating from their game plans, a significant amount of pre-flop folding or fop-folds occurred as they race through the first 500 hands.

"Until 300 hands left, my goal was to play the best poker that I could and not necessarily do anything too crazy to the adjustment of the situation, than adjust to what he's doing," said Galfond. "I was trying to figure out what kind of strategy he was doing, and then counter."

The last 100 hands saw both player switch up their strategy.

"I did not think we would get under 200 hands," Galfond admitted. "Did my best to think about all the scenarios. But I didn't spend too much time thinking about under 150 hands. I never thought we'd get that far (on Day 39)."

Many moments in which Galfond could have lost the match in any given hand if he lost a monsterpotten. He had put up 200K against VeniVidi's 100K. Then again, VeniVidi was playing a little too conservative too early on Day 39, when many of the GTO-experts felt should have been pushing it and playing a tad more aggressive.

"In the last 80 hands, I got some of the best hands I had the entire Challenge," said Galfond. "I had to fold them. It's scary to build pots. After it gets a certain size, I'm not allowed to fold anymore."

Coming into Day 39... Galfond had a +23,581 winning session for Day 38. VeniVidi led by 8,171 going into the final day.

On Day 39, Galfond posted another double-green day with a +9,843 score. He finished +1,671 overall after 25,001 hands to secure the victory in the first Galfond Challenge against VeniVidi.

When asked about his level of play on Day 39 and if he brought his "A game", Galfond responded with "B+. There were a lot of weird adjustments. I doubt either of us played it perfectly. This is definitely the weirdest I've ever played. Very strange for a cash game."

Poker is a zero-sum game... for every winner, there's a loser and vice versa. While the poker world celebrates Galfond's achievement, many pros tipped their hats to VeniVidi.

"They say heroes come and go, but legends never die," tweeted Nick Schulman. "To our King, we say salud, thank you for the memories. Heartfelt congrats and condolences to the kid. You'll bounce back."

Pro Ryan Daut summed it up best, "Let's pour one out Veni the legend. Poor guy lost 7 figures in a month of quarantine where he would normally be absolutely printing money against inferior players blasting out of boredom. One of the best PLO players of all time."

Watch the final day of action here...

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