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Fearless Chance Kornuth Details His Rise Up The Ranks

WPT Champ And 3-Time Bracelet Winner Talks About Deviating From GTO Play

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Sep 21, 2022

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High-stakes phenom Chance Kornuth has spent the last decade in the game steadily climbing the ranks, transforming himself from an online pot-limit Omaha specialist into a star on the high roller circuit.

The last two years have been especially fruitful for the Colorado native. He started with a fourth-place finish in the pandemic-delayed WPT Gardens Poker Championship main event for $195,085. In the summer, Kornuth won the MSPT Venetian main event for $412,086 and a Wynn Summer Classic event for another $353,891.

In the 2021 WSOP that was moved to October, Kornuth won his third career bracelet and $194,670 in the $10,000 short deck championship. A few months later, he opened the year with back-to-back victories at the Stairway To Millions for a combined $132,240.

Then in March, he finished third at the Hard Rock Poker Showdown $25,000 high roller for $522,571. He continued the hot streak with his first World Poker Tour title in May for $486,600, and at this summer’s series, Kornuth earned a career-best $721,144 in the WSOP $100,000 buy-in high roller bounty event. The 36-year-old has banked over $12 million in live tournament earnings.

Kornuth may have learned the game at family gatherings and gotten hooked by the Moneymaker effect, but unlike his origin story, his play is anything but typical. While he has recognized the value of implementing a GTO strategy at the highest levels, he spends his time at his training site Chip Leader Coaching instructing his students on the right time to ignore the numbers and follow their gut.

Card Player recently caught up with Kornuth to learn more about one of the game’s brightest minds.

Craig Tapscott: Did you really learn to play cards at your grandma’s house growing up?

Chance Kornuth: It’s true. I saved up change all year to play with grandma on our family vacations.

CT: And Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP main event run really did inspire you to look a little deeper into the game during your college years?

CK: Definitely. In college we played $5 tournaments and small buy-in cash games. During my sophomore year, I moved out of the dorm, and began to grind more online. That’s when I took the game more seriously.

I had a little success here and there, and then my first $20,000 tournament score. The summer before senior year, I went to Vegas and played in my first WSOP event. I’ll always remember it. I entered a $1,000 satellite to the main event. For a brief moment, I was excited. I got it all-in with aces versus A-K of spades. Then he flopped the nut flush. Oh well.

CT: Brutal. So, it was back to school in the fall.

CK: At the beginning of senior year, I kept grinding and continued to run up my roll. It was then that I decided to drop out of school.

CT: You left school close to a degree in architectural engineering.

CK: In truth, it was my math professor who gave me the courage to pursue poker. “You’re good at this,” he said. “You enjoy it. So, why are you still here? You can always come back to school. You found something you’re great at, you should give it a try.” I left college soon after that.

I was much more serious about the game after I dropped out, playing eight or nine tables at a time on partypoker. I was playing $1-$2 PLO and beating the games pretty soundly. I also played some MTTs on and off.

CT: You were a little ahead of the curve by focusing on PLO back then.

CK: I wasn’t really grinding during the days when people were just giving away money in No Limit. By the time I had turned professional, PLO was the game where people were giving the money away.

I learned back then that people’s four-bet range in PLO was pretty much aces. The EV (Expected Value) of calling a four-bet with any four cards that didn’t contain an ace, when people were stacking off way too wide post-flop, was quite high. You could get it all in with 60 percent equity in these 200 to 400 big blind pots. It was a very profitable way of playing at the time.

CT: When was the biggest growth spurt in your game as you laddered up the stakes?

CK: When I first came to Vegas, I began to play some of the tougher games. At one of them I saw [2011 WSOP POY] Ben Lamb. He was raise-folding every hand at this tough table.

Then there was this hand where he folded from under-the-gun, and the cards got ‘accidently’ got exposed. He had folded A-J.

I thought to myself, if this guy is raising every hand, why would he fold A-J? I thought about it for a few minutes and turned to him and told him, “You did that on purpose.”

He said, “My name’s Ben. We need to be friends.”

I moved in with him a month later. That period was definitely my biggest growth as a player. He was already playing higher stakes than me. I was able to buy pieces of his action and watch him play and learn. That really took my PLO game to the next level and changed my poker career.

CT: You also met your future wife Emily at the WSOP, and now you have a beautiful daughter Ryan. Those long days and nights at the table must be tough.

CK: All I did was play poker for those two months. I didn’t spend a ton of time with my girls. Balance is something I’ve always had trouble with. But I do strive to at least strike a balance between family and poker.

CT: Emily was kind of a good luck charm recently, wasn’t she? She told you to go play the WPT Choctaw event which you won.

CK: I knew I was going to be playing a ton of events at the WSOP and my plan was actually to skip Choctaw. I wanted to spend more time with Emily and Ryan. But Emily was kind of funny. She said that me playing poker “was our best source of income. So go make some money.” (laughs)

CT: Let’s talk about the poker training business you started a few years ago – Chip Leader Coaching.

CK: It began first as a coaching-for-profit business, [meaning we would only make money if the student made money.] We would work with hand-picked students and charge nothing, and do one-on-one and group lessons.

When our players would cash in an event, we had an agreed upon percentage for the coaching. But that didn’t always work out in our best interest. We eventually switched to a subscription business model.

CT: How did you and recent WSOP bracelet winner and high roller Alex Foxen begin to work together?

CK: I was looking for the first five students I wanted to work with when Chip Leader Coaching began. He and I were playing together in an event. I told him he definitely had what it takes to be a huge success, but he was missing a few little things in his game.

CT: Is it possible to be more specific?

CK: I thought some of his bet sizings were a little off. And I told him he didn’t have to remain trapped inside the GTO (Game Theory Optimal) box. You don’t have to do what the solver says all the time. For example, just because you’re at the top of your range, doesn’t mean you always have to call if you know a particular player is never bluffing.

CT: When a player subscribes, what should they expect to walk away with after working with the different modules available? I recently interviewed Mark Davis about his $1 million WPT win. He told me that before joining CLC, his biggest challenge in MTTs was failure to let go of a pot. He had always been very, very aggressive. But you helped Mark learn the times to reign it in, and the times to push aggression even more.

CK: Mark was fun to work with. I think anybody who joins will be more comfortable trusting their instincts in key tournament moments, which ultimately leads to extracting more value from deep runs. They’ll learn which tendencies are the indicators for executing an exploit strategy, which is critical for $1,500 buy-ins and below. They’ll get plugged in to a network of Chip Leader AI users who are passionate about sharpening their games and crushing their poker goals. Alex and I love being in the channel every day providing input on hand histories and chatting about anything poker related.

CT: Are there any players that you don’t like to see at your table during a tournament?

CK: Alex is definitely one of them. Then there’s always [former Card Player POY] Stephen Chidwick. I also like what I see when I watch Michael Addamo, although I haven’t [faced off against] him yet. But Stevie and Alex are head and shoulders more difficult to play against than most all the other high-stakes regs.

CT: What is the best advice you can give most players when times get tough? What is the most important part of the mental game when you’re under pressure?

CK: Always have fun. Because that’s a big part of the passion for anything. You’ve got to continue to keep learning no matter how good you become.

I find one of the most vital aspects of the game that I’ve learned from my mind coaches is the importance of self-forgiveness. Perhaps I called that river, and it was a bad call. I should have bet the turn and or not bluffed a river. You can sit there and dwell on your mistakes, over and over. You might even be tilted. But if you learn to forgive yourself in the moment for those mistakes, you can mentally move on, and make better decisions. This is imperative to play at the highest levels of the game.

CT: What’s your best advice to handle the ups and downs of variance in the game?

CK: I started this year off great, some wins and deep finishes in the PokerGO [Stairway To Millions] events. But then in February, it wasn’t going so well. I busted multiple bullets during the Wynn series. It makes your skin thinner and thinner by taking those losses and beats.

Think about it. If someone flicks you on the hand, it doesn’t hurt. But if someone flicks you on the hand over and over, the pain is progressively worse. Poker works the same way. When you’re fresh it’s really easy to shrug off the first couple of bad beats. But over time your resilience decreases.

I’ve learned that sometimes you need to step away from the flicks, so to speak. Reset. You can then become resilient again, and over time your skin thickens. Taking time away from the game has been incredibly important for my mental and physical health.

CT: What stands out as the best decision you’ve made along your poker journey?

CK: Focusing more on my health and my ability to play long sessions with a clear mind and strong body. I’ve developed a much better diet. I also meditate and exercise. The combination of all those things have been a huge upgrade to my well-being overall. I’ve even worked with a few mindset coaches, Dion Jagroo and Matthew Ewing, and added a new program to CLC called Optimize Your Mind. I believe it’s a game changer for both your game and life essentials.

CT: I’m definitely going to check that out myself.

CK: Actually, can I change that answer? I think the best decision along my poker and life journey to date has been getting sober. For the bulk of my adult life, I knew I had a problem with alcohol, but had always been afraid to quit. Thankfully, it was the birth of my daughter that finally gave me the courage I needed.

Over the last year and a half, my sobriety journey began, and it hasn’t been easy. Most people with addiction will tell you it’s a constant struggle and something we must work at every day. And although I haven’t been perfect, the impact it has had on my life and my poker game is undeniable. If anyone is reading this, and can relate, I can’t recommend this journey enough. I would advise people to seek whatever help works for them. ♠

*Photo credits PokerGO and World Poker Tour

Top Tournament Results

|Date Buy-In Event Place Payout
|June 2022 $100,000 WSOP High Roller Bounty Event 2nd $721,144
|Jan. 2015 $10,000 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure 3rd $641,140
|Jan. 2016 AUD$25,000 Aussie Millions High Roller 1st $553,392
|July 2014 $10,000 Bellagio Cup X Main Event 1st $526,224
|April 2022 $25,000 SHR Poker Showdown High Roller 3rd $522,571
|June 2010 $5,000 WSOP Pot-Limit Omaha Event 1st $508,090
|May 2022 $3,500 WPT Choctaw Main Event 1st $486,600
|June 2021 $1,500 MSPT Venetian Main Event 1st $412,086
|Feb. 2016 €25,000 EPT Dublin High Roller 2nd $404,052
|July 2017 $3,000 WSOP No-Limit Hold’em Event 2nd $399,132
|April 2016 €10,000 EPT Grand Final No-Limit Hold’em 1st $398,771
|July 2021 $3,500 Wynn Summer Classic No-Limit Hold’em 1st $353,891
|June 2018 $3,000 WSOP Online No-Limit Hold’em Event 1st $341,598
|Nov. 2021 $10,000 WSOP No-Limit Hold’em Main Event 16th $305,000
|July 2016 $10,000 Bellagio Cup XII Main Event 3rd $285,956