Fortunes Reversed, Phil Galfond Pulls Nearly Even With VeniVidi1993 in Heads-Up Challenge

  • Galfond considered quitting after being down €900,240.17 in February
  • After taking a break, Galfond has surged, now down only €40,607.06
  • Took the lead for a short time on Thursday before falling back slightly
  • Challenge has just 5,000 hands remaining
Poker player peeking at A-K during live game
On Thursday, Phil Galfond pulled to within only €40,607.06 of VeniVidi1993 in the heads-up challenge. [Image:]

Galfond was once down almost €1,000,000

Phil Galfond, former poker pro and founder of the Run It Once online poker room, has been on a tear in his heads-up challenge against VeniVidi1993. A couple months after considering calling it quits because of the hole he was in, Galfond nearly pulled even on Thursday. He is now just €40,607.06 ($44,007.70) behind.

Galfond and VeniVidi1993 are playing €100/€200 ($108.37/$216.75) Pot-Limit Omaha on Run It Once, each buying-in for 100 big blinds at a time. Their contest will end once they have completed 25,000 hands or someone gives up; the players are competing on two tables at once. The players keep their winnings at the end and whoever finishes ahead also takes the side bet. In this case, Galfond has risked €200,000 ($216,749.00) to VeniVidi’s €100,000 ($108,374.50) for said side bet.

Through the first 15 sessions, Galfond was down €900,240.17 ($975,630.78). He became so frustrated that he decided to take a break from the challenge in the second week of February, even paying his opponent for missed days.

I could tell that I abandoned my gameplan for plays that felt better (emotionally)”

“I could tell that I abandoned my gameplan for plays that felt better (emotionally), and I couldn’t seem to gather my thoughts coherently, or to make reads like I normally do,” Galfond said on Twitter.

After evaluating the situation, Galfond decided to continue and the two players got back to it on March 4th.

Took overall lead briefly on Thursday

The break was apparently just what Phil Galfond needed. In the 17 sessions since then, he has come out on top 13 times. Six of those times were six-figure wins, the largest of which was the very first session after the break, in which he won €183,481.38 ($198,847.03).

On Thursday, Galfond was up about €170,000 ($184,236.65) at one point, finally getting into the black overall. He dipped back down in the last couple hours to fall back into the red, but the total of €40,607.06 is only two buy-ins in this game.

As Galfond said afterward, it’s anybody’s game now.

The highlight of the session was a hand in which Galfond made a massive hero call. In a three-bet pot, the flop was 2h-6h-Kc. Both players checked to bring the turn 6c. VeniVidi1993 bet about half the pot and Galfond called. The 9c was dealt on the river, producing a backdoor flush possibility. VeniVidi1993 then bet around two-thirds of the pot and Galfond again called.

Galfond revealed Kd-Js-Qs-3h for only two pair, Kings and Sixes, not the strongest of Omaha hands, especially with a full house and a flush possibility on the board. VeniVidi1993 had just Jc-Tc-Ad-7d, however, which amounted to absolutely nothing. Galfond made a fantastic read and scooped a pot of more than €18,000 ($19,507.41).

Believes VeniVidi1993 feeling pressure after losing massive lead

In an interview immediately after the 664-hand session, commentators David Tuchman and Kevin Rabichow asked Phil Galfond if he was aware of his running win/loss total while he was playing on Thursday. He said he wasn’t exactly, but was “pretty sure I got above even, but now I’m back down.”

…at the beginning of the day, I was hitting everything and at the end of the day, I was missing everything.”

They followed up by asking how he thought he played.

“It’s really hard to tell…” he replied “…at the beginning of the day, I was hitting everything and at the end of the day, I was missing everything.”

Galfond said that though he was in a terrible position in February, he feels that VeniVidi1993 has more psychological pressure on him now because he was up by so much and now it is almost even. He admitted, though, that he does feel more pressure himself now that he has made a comeback.

With about 5,000 hands remaining, the end of the challenge is in sight. Galfond said that while he will “absolutely” scoreboard watch with about 500 hands left if it’s close because of the side bet, it is still too early to base decisions on that.

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