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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.
Over the last five or six years, Chris Hunichen and Chance Kornuth have each bought dozens upon dozens of pieces of players in the World Series of Poker Main Event. This year the pair have teamed up, not only to be able to put more money to work, but to bring some sort of organization and professionalism to a process that quite often lacks both. For the uninitiated, players entering the WSOP Main Event will sometimes look to other players to buy pieces of their Main Event entry in exchange for an equal percentage of any potential winnings. For example, before the tournament begins Player A sells Player B 10% of his Main Event winnings for $1,400. For investors, the Main Event is a very unique tournament given the overall size and makeup of the field. Hunichen sees it as an opportunity to get a decent return on an investment with a real chance at picking up a big score. "It's not often you get to chase prize pools with $8.8 million for first place. Also, this is kind of a tournament where there's just so many rec players where almost anybody has a shot to go deep," said Hunichen. "It's so easy to get a lot of cashes in this tournament, and if you can get just one or two or three people to break through and have one or two them final table, then a lot of big things can happen." The deals are usually consummated via text message, a direct message or maybe sometimes a handshake and often has players running around to collect $500 or $1,000 from various players all over Las Vegas. "Usually I just buy a few of my own pieces or I have a friend that will buy a bunch and I'll buy a piece of that. But over the years, it's pretty unorganized, it's kind of a pain dispersing the money and then chasing all your horses around and collecting the money when it's all done," said Hunichen. So Hunichen teamed up with Kornuth to get aggressive in investing some money in players. They spread the word that they were buying pieces and as players reached out, Hunichen and Kornuth started doing their homework. In cases where they didn't know the player, Hunichen would look for friends they had in common and do a bit of a reference check. "I'd go on Facebook and look what mutual contacts I had and I would message those people and ask 'Is this guy trustworthy? Can you vouch for him?'. I know most of the poker world, but there's also people that offer Main Event action that I've never heard of before," said Hunichen. "We would also look for Hendon Mob links. People would send in their Hendon Mob links so we could see how much live success they've had." Hunichen and Kornuth each took 33.3% of the action with Chip Leader Capital, a fund set up by Kornuth for his Chip Leader Coaching business, taking the remainder. They invested a total of $230,000. "We got contracts and we posted up at a certain spot here (at the Rio) for a couple of days in a row so that everyone could have easy access to us," said Hunichen. "So we sat down, had them show their ID and then the contract basically just says you were paid X amount of money and we get X percentage of this tournament." The contracts became a bit of necessity after some of Kornuth's investors who come from outside the poker world started asking questions and showing some discomfort with the idea of investing in people without some level of legal protection built in. "A lot of the business people and the non-poker demographic had a lot of concerns about that area, so we decided to do contracts," said Kornuth. "It was basically just trying to reassure our investors that their money was safe." As much as the contracts should serve as a natural deterrent for players doing something unethical, there was one player, who tried to pull a fast one on Kornuth and Hunichen. Austin Bursavich sold $1,100 worth of action to the pair but never entered the Main Event. "He degened it off and then went home, but we have him under contract and we've already been in touch with the lawyers," said Hunichen. Realizing he could be facing legal action, Bursavich reached out to Hunichen to figure out a way to settle up. "We've already been paid $500 and we're told we're being paid the rest, while everyone else without contracts hasn't even been responded to," said Kornuth. "I think that will be the future for buying action and in fact for next year when we do this again, I'll have my own Chip Leader Capital contracts in addition to a basic blank contract that other purchasers can use as well." Players were required to send a picture of their buy-in receipt from the table as well. Kornuth expected some resistance from players at such a formal process, but that wasn't the case at all. "I think we got a lot more appreciation for professionalism than the opposite," said Kornuth. Along with the investment, which was the only way some of the players would have been able to get into the event, the pair also plan on providing coaching to any of their pieces that continue to run deep into Day 5, 6, 7 and beyond. "It's going to be a combination of Huni and I and maybe other coaches that are part of CLC, but there's going to be livestreams for days and days of coverage and I will definitely go over all the tape if somebody makes a final table, give them all the live reads if they get deep enough," said Kornuth. "We definitely plan on helping people that go deep, we're looking forward to it."