Why The Galfond Challenge Is Becoming A Disaster For Phil

It has been the talk of the poker community for the last month or two – a return to the Full Tilt days where nosebleed sessions had us enthralled as $millions exchanged hands – but has Phil Galfond bitten off more than he can chew with his PLO Challenge?

A couple of weeks ago, it looked like the man behind the legendary OMGClayAiken online account was on to a winner. Matchups with Bill Perkins and his Thirst Lounge crew, and Fernando 'JNandez' Habegger were set, and despite the side-bets odds Galfond was offering, Galfond could be expected to outplay such opposition.

The news broke that JNandez, the Swiss PLO player and coach, had reneged on the deal, citing “the responsibility of maximizing my shareholders EV”

…not entirely unexpected from the man who walked out on Doug Polk’s Upswing Poker only 3 months into an 18-month contract…

At around the same time, it was announced that Daniel 'Jungleman' Cates would be taking on Galfond over 7500 hands of €100/200 PLO – an entirely different proposition, and one in which few would bet against Jungleman.

Then Brandon Adams was thrown into the mix, the WSOP bracelet holder another player who will be expected to give Galfond a tough test, this match to be played out live rather than online…

It had suddenly gone from an interesting series of matches to Galfond setting himself up for potential disaster!

More than three years have passed since his OMGClayAiken and MrSweets online personas have played a hand in anger at such stakes – can he bridge that gap?

Well, it won’t be made any easier now that he has two more online phenoms facing him as well, VeniVidi1993 joined this week by ActionFreak

…and so far, the clever money has been landing on the opposition to take Galfond’s hard-earned cash – Galfond receiving more support in individual bets (the man has a lot of fans!) but the bigger money backing VeniVidi1993 and ActionFreak.

There are still two spots up for grabs in Galfond’s PLO Challenge…one coaching spot and one ‘online superstar’ space left to fill, but it already looks like Galfond will be a serious underdog overall.

Here is a rundown of the sidebet odds he’s been offering, the $ figure on the left what he stands to lose:

Perkins 4-1 $800k:$200k
Adams 3-2 $150k:$100k
VeniVidi1993 2-1 $200k:$100k
Jungleman TBD TBD
ActionFreak Evens $150k:$150k

And remember, those are only the sidebets – there will be literally $millions on the table throughout the match-ups.

When Galfond announced his RIO-promoting PLO challenge, the question was could he find opponents good enough to make it worthwhile? The more relevant question now might be – is Phil good enough to survive it?

Hot off the press is the news that Chance Kornuth has joined the fray and signed up to take on Phil Galfond in his PLO challenge.

The 33-year-old American hotshot is a two-time World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner and highly rated as a PLO cash player. $7.4 million in live tournament winning illustrates what a quality opponent he will be.

Kornuth is also the founder of Chip Leader Coaching, a stable dedicated for turning mid stakes live MTT players into high stakes crushers. This adds an extra element of competition between coaching sites, even if they are not direct rivals.


It is now being questioned online whether or not the five confirmed opponents are all willing to play on Run It Once Poker. Phil Galfond’s integrity has never been called into question at all, but maybe paranoia will get the better of some potential opponents who would rather any match took place on neutral ground.

This is somewhat of a shame as Galfond is clearly doing the challenge in the spirit of promoting his fledgling site. A lack of high stakes action is one of the points that he was most disappointed with following the launch of the poker room.

This public challenge is great PR and will encourage people to make an account to be able to rail the action, even if they have no immediate intention to play there right now.

Even PokerStars has been mooted. We await further news on whether or not this is under consideration.

Changes Day-By-Day

When news first broke about the “Galfond PLO Challenge”, it immediately invoked memories of the “Durrrr Challenge” from a decade ago. This was exciting to hear and we awaited news of opponents and scheduling.

More than a month after the initial challenge we still don’t have any concrete dates. Early to mid January was first mentioned and we are already here and non the wiser. It feels like the original excitement is starting to abate because people want to know when the action will begin.

To begin with we felt like all the play would be completed in a short timeframe. None of the ridiculous postponements we saw with durrrr and Jungleman.

A final point is the varying deals that have been handed out. What started as a call to action challenge has morphed into whatever deal can be reached. This is definitely not what Tom “durrrr” Dwan offered a decade ago.

Surely an open challenge is best done by keeping all opponents under the same conditions? This approach would garner the maximum respect for Galfond putting himself under the microscope against top quality opposition.

The most exciting part of the challenge was could Phil Galfond roll back the clock and show he still has what it takes. He might be able to do it in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio, Las Vegas, but against online sharks is a different matter entirely.

Just how well has Galfond kept abreast of developments in PLO strategy over the last few years while he has been concentrating on his training site and the launch of Run It Once Poker.

We look forward to seeing some of this action when it finally kicks off, hopefully sometime this month.


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