When Phil Galfond sent his heads-up challenge shivering throughout the poker stratosphere, some expected the odd starling to reply. Instead, he received a murmuration of interest.
Millions of dollars would be on the line, won and lost through high stakes cash games, across a variety of formats, both live and online. Add side-bets into the equation and all the hogs in the yard stop searching for walnuts, and instead, start looking for ways to open a Twitch channel.
The Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) star, ‘VeniVidi1993,’ became the first person to step into the arena. €100/€200 were the stakes. Heads-Up Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) the game. January 22, first blood, and Veni, not Phil, has been crushing the action.
The pair have duelled through 7,583 hands, throughout 11-sessions, and Veni has won all but one of them, with Galfond picking up a measly €2k win on the day the Poker Gods decided to pick him up out of the mud and dump him on a beach somewhere.
The damage is $574,394.83.
Galfond: Beaten & Bloody?
After speculation that Galfond was stuck like glue to an elevator floor heading for a stop called ‘Out of Your Depth,” he took the time to respond to his fans.
In a series of Tweets, Galfond urged people to keep their powder dry. He is taking a good kicking, but downswings like this are part of poker life, and he wants to take the opportunity to teach his followers how to handle them.
“Nobody is immune to the psychological effects of a string of consistent losses, myself included,” Galfond wrote.
It was an illuminating self-assessment rarely seen in public. The more unusual considering the three-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet holder still has 18k hands to play, and a myriad of future challenges to come.
Humility and vulnerability aside, Galfond has not walked through his mistakes. Still, he has admitted that he has been making them despite trying to keep a ‘positive attitde’ in his play.
Galfond’s advice to people experiencing a similar situation is twofold. First, identify the emotion that’s creating the feeling that’s leading to the mistake, and then work on turning down the volume. It’s an aspect of the game that Galfond feels is crucial, and he hires poker’s mental game coach, Elliot Roe, to help with that.
Secondly, Galfond insists that while in the storm of emotional turmoil, you have to focus on logic and rational thinking. You have to ask yourself: “Is this the right play, or is it just the play I want to make for bad (emotional) reasons?”
Knowing When to Quit
Despite wanting to use the experience to coach his followers, Galfond doesn’t want to go broke. Top pros need to assess their performances, and their opponent’s performances to understand when they’re dog enough to quit.
Once again, humility comes to the fore as Galfond admits that he has often thought too long about whether his opponents are much better than him, and then dissects his thought process when applying that same internal question to his current scrap.
“Whatever the (unknowable) truth is about how VeniVidi1993 and I match up, I can be confident I am running poorly. But, if I’m a significant underdog, this has maybe been a bottom 15% run. If I’m a significant favourite, it has been more like a bottom 0.5% run.
“So, if I knew nothing but the results so far, I could conclude that it’s something around 30 times more likely that I’m a significant underdog than a significant favourite (and a sliding scale for edges in between that.”
“I then need to factor in m educated (but somewhat inherently biased) opinion of how I am playing compared to him. Had I somehow been unaware of the results thus far, my opinion would be that I’m a favourite. And to be clear – by that, I mean that I think I am probably a favourite. I always am aware that I could be wrong.”
The tweets end with Galfond remaining steadfast – he will keep on fighting, and anyone who knows him wouldn’t expect anything less.
The reasons for Galfond continuing his tussle with Veni are numerous and astute. He wants to continue teaching his followers how to handle a downswing while in the midst of one. He knows that he is running bad, and is hoping the tide turns. He is still shaking off that ring rust, and with more challengers in the wings sharpening their axes, he needs the action. He has side bets, and if he quits, he forfeits them, including losing an additional €200,000 to Veni. And he has an online poker site to promote.
“As difficult, exhausting and risky as it is to battle a tough player at very high stakes, I absolutely love this shit.”
Day 1: 655 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €72,572.68
Day 2: 715 hands, Phil Galfond won €2,615.26
Day 3: 557 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €84,437.52
Day 4: 581 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €17,544.87
Day 5: 726 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €155,063.52
Day 6: 703 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €13.31
Day 7: 823 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €52,057.13
Day 8: 940 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €60,743.37
Day 9: 446 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €12,706.51
Day 10: 696 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €100,993.30
Day 11: 741 hands, VeniVidi1993 won €15,647.36
Total: 7,583 hands with VeniVidi1993 +$574,394.83.