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Phil Galfond Wins Third Consecutive High-Stakes Heads-Up Match After Chance Kornuth Concedes

by Erik Fast |  Published: Feb 24, 2021

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Three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Galfond issued a challenge to the poker world at large toward the end of 2019, an offer that has been accepted by seven opponents to date. The ‘Galfond Challenge’ pits Galfond against other nosebleed-stakes poker players in matches with predetermined limits and amounts of hands to be played, all with massive side bets on the line. In just over a year, Galfond has completed three of these matches, coming out on top in each one so far.

Galfond started off the challenge in dramatic fashion by mounting a €900,000 comeback to beat ‘VeniVidi1993’ in their final session to end with just €1,671 in profit. Galfond’s second victory saw him hold a lead throughout his battle against Ioannis ‘ActionFreak’ Kontonatsios, ending up ahead €114,765 after the final hand concluded. He earned €350,000 in side bets from those two victories as well, securing €200,000 from ‘VeniVidi1993’ and another €150,000 from Kontonatsios.

The third match saw two-time WSOP bracelet winner Chance Kornuth concede after playing 25,400 hands of the allotted 35,000 hands of heads-up $100-$200 pot-limit Omaha that was initially agreed upon. Kornuth was down $726,500 at the time that he decided to throw in the towel. As a result, he also had to pay out the $250,000 side bet he had put up against Galfond’s $1 million.

The two players were playing their 50th session, and were just shy of three-quarters of the way through their battle when Kornuth made the decision to concede. Kornuth had held the lead for the majority of the first 37 sessions, building his advantage to as high as $344,500 in profit before Galfond launched a late surge that turned the tables. In the three sessions that followed, Galfond booked consecutive wins to erase $313,000 in losses and nearly level the playing field.

The two hovered around even for the remaining sessions of November, but December saw Galfond go on the winning streak that ultimately proved decisive. He booked an $88,000 win on Dec. 8 to regain the lead in the match and then proceeded to win nine out of the next 13 sessions to increase his total profits to $680,500. Galfond won $126,000 on Jan. 22 in what proved to be the penultimate session of the challenge.

“It was a heck of a battle, and things didn’t really go my way down the stretch,” said Kornuth. “Phil played great.”

Kornuth went on to share that he sold action for the match based on a $1 million total. With the $250,000 side bet he was posting, that meant that he had set a $750,000 loss limit for himself. He was also undoubtedly looking forward to putting the challenge behind him so he could focus on his newborn baby, which he and his wife Emily welcomed into the world in December.

Galfond took to Twitter shortly after the match concluded, saying, “After almost five months, 25,000 hands and $730,000, another ‘Galfond Challenge’ is in the books. I was very unpleasantly surprised by how well [Kornuth] played. He tested my game in ways no other opponents had, exposing weaknesses I wasn’t aware of, and I’m stronger now for it. Good game.”

With this third match now concluded, Galfond’s only active match is now against entrepreneur and frequent high-stakes poker player Bill Perkins. Just two sessions of $100-$200 pot-limit Omaha have been played in this match so far with Galfond up $90,144.05 for the time being. The two have not played a session since April of 2020, however.

With a total of seven matches having been announced, Galfond has at least four more opponents to contend with.

Below is a look at all seven known challenges, including stakes and side bets: