Phil Galfond and Brandon Adams at Loggerheads in Latest Galfond Challenge Match

  • Phil Galfond and Brandon Adams took to Twitter to help settle a dispute in their heads-up clash
  • Adams claimed that Galfond was excessively time-banking to reduce the number of hands
  • Ike Haxton and Max Silver arbitrated, deciding to switch to a hand limit from a time limit 
  • Galfond and Adams eventually decided to quit in favor of an online, 10,000-hand contest 
Clock on top of playing cards
With a day left in their heads-up “Galfond Challenge,” Phil Galfond and Brandon Adams are starting a new, hand-based match, scrapping their time-based contest after a stalling dispute. [Image:]

Twitter consensus?

In poker, you would be hard pressed to find two more decent, fair, and non-confrontational players than Run it Once CEO Phil Galfond and Harvard Ph.D. Brandon Adams. Nonetheless, with large sums of money on the line, a dispute broke out yesterday between these nice guys of poker during their live “Galfond Challenge” match at the newly-opened Resorts World Las Vegas.

the player in the lead is incentivized to use the maximum allowable time

The argument came from a predictable source in a “time match” with a wager on the side. In this format, the player in the lead is incentivized to use the maximum allowable time, while the player behind needs to speed things up to get in more hands. 

The match – $100/$200 Pot-Limit Omaha with $20,000 starting stacks – was put on hiatus and Adams asked Twitter to come to the rescue…

…because, you know, a Twitter consensus…that’s definitely a thing. 

The Galfond Challenge

In 2019, Pot Limit Omaha legend Phil Galfond issued a challenge to the poker world. Willing to take on all-comers, the self-professed “washed up ex-pro” put his reputation and legacy on the line, booking matches with an eclectic mix of poker players. 

Galfond mounted one of the greatest comebacks in poker history

Galfond’s opening challenge versus “VeniVidi1993” really captured the imagination as he was down over €900,000 ($1.07m) about 40% of the way through the match, a seemingly unassailable position. Digging deep, Galfond mounted one of the greatest comebacks in poker history, eventually beating his opponent during a dramatic final day that saw him ultimately win the 25,000-hand match by just 8 big blinds

Since then, Galfond has booked wins versus “Ioannis “Action Freak” Kontonatsios and Chance Kornuth and he is currently leading his stop/start match versus Bill Perkins. Each Galfond Challenge match has a different set of terms baked in, but what is common to all is a side bet. In the match versus Adams, Galfond is laying $150,000 to Adams’ $100,000. 

Adams says check the tape

Adams has over $5m in tournament winnings, but he is primarily known as an experienced cash game player. A regular on the “High Stakes Poker” and “Poker After Dark” rosters, he has appeared on almost 70 episodes of televised poker shows. 

There would be no cameras this week, however, except the one brought by Adams himself. That decision, possibly made for reasons of posterity, took on a different significance, though, as the two players voiced their different opinions of perceived stalling tactics at the table. 

At the time of the dispute, Galfond was up $48,000 with just under two days of play left on the clock. 

Some observers commented on the “irony” of Galfond stalling given he was the arbitrator on the stalling of Daniel Negreanu in his match against Doug Polk. There are, however, two important distinctions which invalidate those comments. Galfond did not ultimately have to make a decision on that situation as Negreanu stopped stalling after Polk stopped limping. Also, the Polk/Negreanu match was determined by number of hands rather than time. 

Negreanu’s decision to stall was so that he buy more time to study the counter to a limping strategy, rather than it reducing the number of hands that could be played. Conversely, for this match, Galfond and Adams commit to five eight-hour sessions to complete a 40-hour time match. 

An amicable solution

With a little bit of arbitration from Isaac Haxton and Max Silver, who sensibly decided on a number of hands to complete the challenge, Galfond and Adams resumed play yesterday afternoon. 

However, by the end of the day’s play, both players decided on a new route. 

When you remove the stalling element, you are still left with the weird pseudo-ICM component in the endgame of a challenge structured like this. Some players would relish that injection of unusual and potentially extreme additional strategy, but for the two combatants who mostly get their kicks from playing chip-for-chip cash game ranges and bet-sizes, it seems to have sucked all the fun out of the contest. 

Raising the stakes 

In the original terms of the challenge, it was stated that if Adams emerged victorious in the match, a rematch would immediately follow, with the pair playing “battleship” style, an online/live hybrid poker variant where the players sit opposite each other whilst playing online on their laptops. It looks like that, too, is being scrapped now in favor of a five-day, 10,000 hand online challenge which will begin later today. 

Seeing two of poker’s friendliest faces at loggerheads has injected a bit of intrigue and drama into what was probably the lowest-key Galfond Challenge match to date. More eyes will no doubt be on the online clash now, especially as there will be a mouth-watering increase in the stakes as Galfond has agreed to lay 4-1.

It is important to note, though, that even though this match will be played over a number of hands rather than time, the same anomaly that both players did not enjoy may arise if it is close down the home stretch as the player trailing will be forced to bloat pots while the leader will be incentivized to play small-ball. 

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