Kornuth Concedes, Galfond Wins Third Challenge For $726K

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Phil Galfond won his third Galfond Challenge after Chance Kornuth conceded the heads up match. (photo courtesy Poker Central/World Poker Tour)

The latest Galfond Challenge came to an abrupt end over the weekend when challenger Chance Kornuth conceded the heads-up match roughly 10,000 hands shy of the finish, awarding Phil Galfond another challenge victory and a payday worth over $976,000.

Kornuth booked the $100/$200 heads-up Pot Limit Omaha heads-up challenge with Galfond at the start of 2020 in what was expected to be a 35,000 hand event. In addition to the money on the table, the pair agreed to a side bet in which the favorite, Galfond laid four-to-one to Kornuth, risking $1 million to Kornuth’s $250,000.

Over the past four months, the pair battled online each taking turns holding the lead. However, as the challenge approached the 25,000 hand mark, Galfond extended his lead up over $680,000. On Saturday, during session #50, Kornuth lost a pair of critical all-ins. Then, during a break in the action, Kornuth conceded the challenge.

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

In a joint interview after the match, Kornuth was asked if he knew that he was going to call it early. He discussed the fact that he had sold a package that was based on $1 million. Once he had started the day on a downswing he took a look at the numbers which showed that his in-game loss of $726,500 plus the loss of the $250,000 side bet would put him critically close to his maximum loss amount. So, during the break he let Galfond know that he was ready to quit.

“Even though I lost, I actually, surprisingly, enjoyed the battle,” Kornuth said. “I’d been grinding tournaments for the last few years and I really forgot how much I truly do enjoy the heads up battle.”

Once again, Galfond was a gracious winner. Galfond joined the interview and praised Kornuth’s toughness as an opponent while discussing the strategies that did and didn’t work against him.

“The beginning of the challenge was definitely, especially, mentally draining because Chance was playing so many spots that in ways that were very exploitative or my tendencies or population tendencies. And he was adjusting quickly,” Galfond said.

“It funny when you’re playing an exploitative player and you’re one as well because I would imagine that, like, 70% of the things that I thought he was doing – he was. And then 30% was just in my head and I was counter-adjusting to things that weren’t even there,” Galfond said.

Galfond is now three-for-three in his string of challenges. His first victory came in dramatic fashion when he battled back from a roughly $1,000,000 deficit to defeat online cash game pro ‘Venividi1993’ over 25,000 hands for the €100,000 side bet. In May 2020, he completed another 15,000 hand challenge against Greek grinder Ioannis ‘ActionFreak’ Kontonstsios where he booked a €114,000 profit plus an additional €150,000 in side bet action. Over the course of the three challenges, Galfond has won more than $1.4 million in on-the-felt and side bet earnings.

After his victory against Kornuth, Galfond talked about the differences in preparation and study against online specialists like ‘Venividi1993’ in comparison to a more exploitative player like Kornuth.

“At first, I kind of approached it the same way but it was way, way different. Because I feel like when I found something that I could take advantage of against ‘Veni’ or ‘ActionFreak’, not that there were very many things, I felt like I could rely on it for weeks,” Galfond said. “But with Chance, that’s not the case. It kind of became almost a waste of energy to spend a ton of time looking back on hands and trying to figure out his range construction in different spots and a counter-strategy.”

“So I started to, towards the end of the challenge, prioritize resting my mind because I felt just too burnt out trying to make all these reads and strategy adjustments and plans and I feel like I wasn’t performing as well and so in the second half of the challenge I feel like a lot more of my focus went to performance than specific strategic studying.”

Galfond wasn’t alone in feeling burnt out as Kornuth expressed some relief at the challenge coming to an end. Additionally, in between the time that he accepted the challenge in early 2020 and the conclusion, Kornuth became a father for the first time.

“It’s really weird, I almost feel better not that it’s over than I did yesterday,” Kornuth said. “It’s almost a relief that it’s over. Obviously, I gave it my all and tried to win but it’s kind of a weird feeling. I expected to be more dejected today than yesterday but I actually feel surprisingly good.”

When discussing what’s next for him, Kornuth said he planned to “focus on being a dad” as well as marketing the latest programs of his online poker training site Chip Leader Coaching. Galfond also expressed that he planned on spending time with family and putting work in on his own Run It Once training site.

Although the start of the next Galfond Challenge is still up in the air, Galfond did note that there are a number of battles left on the horizon. There’s a challenge with Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates, a live challenge against Brandon Adams, and the resumption of his challenge against Bill Perkins but with no plans to travel out of the country, Galfond indicated that those will have to wait.