The Phil Galfond Challenge: Galfond Winning The Battles, Confirmation Bias Winning The War

When I became lost in the maze of professional poker dreams, Bluefire Poker, showed me the way out.

For that reason, I am a Phil Galfond fan. 

When he threw down the high stakes heads-up gauntlet, I didn’t care who picked it up. In the 90s, when someone squared up to Hulk Hogan, you knew they were going to be on the end of a leg drop. I had the same faith in Galfond. 

It didn’t matter how out of touch he was.

The quality of his opponents didn’t matter.

Phil Galfond would win, and win as only Phil Galfond can. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the recipe for a big dollop of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is your brain’s tendency to interpret new evidence that favours your beliefs. After the first 15 sessions, and 9,927 hands of a 25,000-hand, €100k/€200k Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) war, ‘VeniVidi1993’ had Galfond at the point of a knife with close to €900k in losses. 

There is always a badass villain, whom, you later find out, wasn’t as badass as you thought. Another villain with a badder-arse lurked in the shadows. While we all thought VeniVidi1993 was badass, it transpires that Galfond’s mind is the biggest baddest ass of all. 

Unable to curtail the beast, Galfond pressed pause, and either bought a Run It Once Elite subscription, flew to Thailand for a meditation retreat or dived straight into the karmic habit of cleaning shitty nappies. 

Either way, he left the poker world on a Netflix show cliffhanger, and the sound of kazoos was deafening when Galfond picked up the megaphone and announced to the world that he would rather be dead than give up on this challenge.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

10-Sessions In

10-sessions in and the belief that Galfond is a ‘nice guy, has-been’ feels like a bad joke. The former surgeon of high stakes online cash games has taken VeniVidi1993 apart, winning 8 of their previous ten sessions, winning €405,638.93, through 15,864 hands.

I knew I did not need to worry.

I knew he still had the scent of dried blood under his fingernails from the days of million-dollar swings against introverted Swedes with a penchant for J.R.R. Tolkien.

My bets were safe.

Galfond is the best poker player in the world; the best boss, the best leader, the best father, the best husband, the best beard wearer, and the best improv star.

Then he went onto Twitter and burst my bubble.

“To you, it looks like I was outmatched, but I stepped back, regrouped, studied, shook off some rust, and now I’ve figured Veni out and am crushing him,” Galfond wrote before continuing. “To me, it looked like I was right – that I was a favourite, the whole time and was experiencing an extremely improbably run of bad luck, and that lately, I’m running just slightly good.”

Then the gem.

“That is what our minds do to us – we are drawn to the story that we most want to believe.”

With VeniVidi 1993 currently ahead €494,601.24, and 9,136 hands left to claw it back, what story does Galfond now believe?

“The evidence suggests that I’m likely the underdog,” Galfond tweeted. “This is something I need to keep reminding myself of. “One important thing to keep an eye on is that my motivation I feel to study and improve right now is naturally at a lower level than it was while I was getting crushed. I need to stay on top of this.

“I’ll try to keep as much focus as I can on continuing to improve and as little focus as I can on hoping or expecting any result. You can all root for the most improbably come back in poker history without me!

“I hope you’re enjoying the show.”

He’ll do it.

Of course, he will do it.

Galfond is the best, and will always be the best. 

The Facts

Day 16

574 hands played

Galfond +€183,481.38

Day 17

582 hands played.

VeniVidi1993 +€21,571.51

Day 18

555 hands played

Galfond +€27,198.94

Day 19

638 hands played

Galfond +€26,018.41

Day 20

566 hands played

Galfond +€92,803.89

Day 21

576 hands played

Galfond +€3,766.94

Day 22

556 hands played

VeniVidi1993 +€88,465.60

Day 23

598 hands played

Galfond +€23,821.05

Day 24

628 hands played

Galfond +€19,099.65

Day 25

664 hands played

Galfond +€139,485.78


Ten sessions, +€405,638.93 to Galfond.

Galfond wins 8 of 10 sessions.

VeniVidi1993 currently ahead €494,601.24

15,864 hands played.

9,136 hands left.