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Phil Galfond Seeks Challengers for HU PLO Battles

Challenge Sign

Phil Galfond was once a feared competitor in the professional poker universe although he has since pretty much taken a back seat in active competition. Then again, he does hold three World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets and has had 23 money finishes in this premier poker series as well. And while his more recent ventures have seen him create the Run It Once Poker site and connected training platform, Phil Galfond is now looking to take on high-stakes poker players in an open Pot Limit Omaha challenge.

Phil Galfond Issued a Heads-up Challenge

Galfond Officially Lays Down the Challenge

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As part of the Run It Once Training site, Galfond took to his own blog on Nov. 19 and decided to lay down an open challenge to “anyone who currently makes training videos for a site other than Run It Once.” This challenge, Galfond said in the post, is aimed at pro coaches who want to participate in some high-stakes action with the goal of promoting Phil's Run It Once Poker platform.

Galfond also wants to build some hype around the challenge and, obviously, around the Run It Once Poker and training sites at the same time. This isn’t surprising, considering that he actually started the Run It Once Training site back in 2012, bringing in fellow high-stakes players Ben Sulsky, Di Dang and Hac Dang as coaches. The poker site to accompany this wasn’t announced until 2016 but went through a series of delays, not officially getting its online launch until February 2019. So, it stands to reason that he would want to garner the interest of poker players in Run It Once, and what better way could there be than with a challenge like this?

The Open PLO Coach Challenge, as Galfond refers to it, echoes the now notorious Durrrr Challenge in terms of what it involves. He’s preferably looking for 50,000 hands, which will be played at $100/$200 stakes or higher. There will be a sidebet of 10 buyins at odds of 3:1 in favor of Galfond's opponent.

It didn’t take Phil long to take to his Twitter feed and remark on the response he received to the challenge. Just one day after the blog was posted online, Galfond sent out a Tweet stating that he had been contacted by 11 challengers already, and that he was “blown away” by such a response.

11 People Expressed Interest in Battling Galfond

It’s Not Just for Coaches, Though

In the original blog post, Galfond did say that he didn’t really expect to have many takers if the above-mentioned challenge were his only one. After all, the set of all poker coaches working for other sites is quite a limited group to target a PLO HU match at. Therefore, Phil stated, he would be looking for challenges from pretty much everyone else too.

While he is actually looking for $100/$200 through to $300/$600 PLO games, he did state that he would potentially drop the stakes to as low as $25/$50 if it allows him to participate in some action although he has a preference for a bigger game so that more viewers can be enticed in to watch it all unfold. Additionally, Phil indicated that he’ll consider playing PLO/NL, PLO/Limit games, and potentially even straight NL, should he “get desperate enough.”

Phil GalfondPhil Galfond Is Looking to Play PLO But Is Willing to Consider Other Formats Too

To add to this, Galfond also made mention that while he would like to play on Run It Once Poker, he’ll consider doing some or all of a match elsewhere should that be necessary. It’s also important to note that all challengers must consent to the potential for some training material to be built around the match and that it may end up being streamed as well. What’s more, any opponent who actively wants to stream some of the match via the Run It Once Poker site will be given preferential terms.

Names of Challengers Secret for Now…Except One!


Despite the fact that Galfond stated that he has had 11 challengers within one day, he did not share any details on who most of those challengers actually are. This, he said, would remain the case until the actual challenges were confirmed.

However, one person who seems to be very close to securing a challenge is Bill Perkins. Known to be quite the dabbler in super-high roller poker events, the multimillionaire hedge fund manager and film producer went through negotiations with Galfond via Twitter before they managed to settle on most of the terms.

Bill PerkinsInvestor and Poker Player Bill Perkins Appears to Be the First Challenger

This comes as quite a surprise, considering that in October 2017, Perkins was challenged to a $25,000 heads-up poker match by Phil Nagy, the CEO of the Winning Poker Network, and Bill declined it for reasons unknown. However, it seems as though Bill is willing to face off against Galfond – inarguably a tougher opponent than Phil Nagy – and the two of them negotiated on Twitter regarding a cap on the number of allowable buy-ins, the odds that Perkins will receive, potential promotional opportunities for his upcoming book about philanthropy, “Die with Zero,” and other matters.

After quite a bit of back and forth between the two would-be combatants, they agreed to the following terms:

  • 50,000 hands
  • 100/200 blinds
  • 20 buyin limit
  • 4:1 odds in Perkins' favor on 10 buyin side bet
  • Bill Perkins can switch between NL Hold'em and PLO at any point
  • If Phil wins, 15% goes to a charity of Bill's choice and another 15% will be used to buy people copies of Perkins' book

After all of this was agreed to, Phil Galfond posted the following tweet:

Phil Galfond Accepts Bill Perkins' Terms

This tends to indicate that all the major terms are acceptable to both parties although they will probably have to negotiate a bit more on some of the finer points.

[UPDATE: Dec. 11, 2019]

Shortly after agreeing to a challenge against Bill Perkins, Phil Galfond has managed to line up a second contender. It's none other than PLO coach Fernando “JNandez” Habegger.

Just as with the match versus Perkins, this one will consist of 100/200 blinds and 50,000 hands with a 20-buyin stop loss limit. However, Habegger was able to book even more favorable odds on the 10-buyin side bet: 5-1. This is because Galfond temporarily upped the odds to this figure in an effort to drum up more action after several initial challengers backed off, and Fernando was not one to pass up such an opportunity.

Should Phil Galfond prevail, he'll collect $200,000 from Habegger in addition to whatever he wins at the tables. However, because of the 5-1 odds, Phil's potential liability on the side bet is a cool $1 million.

[UPDATE: Dec. 20, 2019]

In a tweet sent out on Dec. 17, Fernando Habegger backed out of the challenge against Phil Galfond. He claimed that the reason was that he realized that the match “would call for a much more extreme preparation and execution than I originally intended.” Habegger was roundly mocked on Twitter for this withdrawal, and many questioned why he only now realized the level of preparation required to go up against a player of Galfond's skill.

All is still well for the PLO Challenge as a whole though because Phil has booked matches against three other players. They are Daniel “Jungleman” Cates, Brandon Adams, and online expert “Venividi1993.”

The game versus Jungleman will be short: just 7,500 hands at €100/€200 blinds. There are plans to institute a side bet at 1:1 odds, but the details of this bet have not yet been arranged or announced. Both competitors intend to stream the match live.

Galfond aims to begin his 25,000-hand challenge against “Venividi1993” on Jan. 22, and they will play at least two tables simultaneously for four hours per day at stakes of €100/€200. Little biographical information is known about “Venividi1993” although he is a big winner in high-stakes online PLO. Galfond is putting up €200,000 on a side bet while his opponent is risking €100,000.

The matchup of Phil Galfond versus Brandon Adams will be unusual in that it will take place live rather than online. The two will fight it out at a physical PLO table at blinds of €100/€200 for 40 hours. At the end of this time, Adams will get an extra $150,000 from a side bet if he should prevail while Galfond will score an additional $100,000 if he is victorious.

Galfond Seeking to Avoid Reprise of Durrrr Challenge

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In the original blog post by Galfond, he did state that his HU PLO challenge has similarities to the Durrrr Challenge made by Tom "durrrr" Dwan, with the first of these coming in January 2009. This was known as the Million Dollar Challenge, and Dwan actually requested to play anyone “with the exception of Phil Galfond.”

The Durrrr Challenge was also a heads-up affair for 50,000 hands. Durrrr and his opponent would four-table at $200/$400 limits or higher in No Limit Hold’em or PLO. Dwan made the agreement that if his opponent was ahead after the 50,000 hands, he would provide them with $1,500,000 more. On the other hand, if Dwan was ahead at that time, he would get $500,000.

Finnish pro Patrik Antonius and fellow US player Daniel Cates accepted Dwan’s challenge, although neither of these matches have actually been completed in their entirety despite starting close to a decade ago.

Tom DwanTom “durrrr” Dwan May Have Bitten Off More Than He Could Chew With His Challenge

After about 40,000 hands played, Durrrr established a sizable lead of more than $2 million over the first challenger, Patrik Antonius. It was at this point that the two players agreed to a buyout with Antonio forking over an undisclosed sum to Dwan.

The resolution of the next Durrrr Challenge against Daniel Cates was more controversial. By October of 2013, Cates was actually ahead of Dwan by around $1.2 million after having played about 20,000 hands.

Yet, it seems as though Dwan was having difficulties with actually following through with the challenge as Cates has publicly stated on several occasions that his opponent had stopped playing and was not responding to his queries about it. However, in August 2017, Cates made the statement that Dwan had paid him around $800,000 in penalties for not continuing with the challenge and that Dwan was still committed to completing it. At this point, the challenge was expected to be finished by the end of 2018, but this did not come to pass, and it still remains in limbo.

Galfond did say on Twitter that he’s working on the terms of his own challenge so that there won’t be such issues as the Durrrr Challenge suffered. As it happens, both he and Dwan came up through the online poker ranks at the same time, so it’s certainly hoped that Phil's challenge doesn’t degenerate into the delays, broken promises, and unsatisfying resolutions that Tom Dwan was responsible for.

Phil Galfond's Poker History

Book and Glasses

Throughout his poker career, Galfond has won three WSOP bracelets. These came from the $5,000 buy-in PLO with rebuys event that took place in 2008, the $10,000 No Limit 2-7 Single Draw Lowball Championship of 2015, and the $10,000 PLO Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship of 2018. It was because of his success as an online poker player that he appeared on multiple seasons of the High Stakes Poker television program, which was broadcast on the cable GSN network.

Galfond, who referred to himself in his blog post as a “washed-up ex-pro,” has earned more than $2.9 million in offline tourneys, with his 23 cashes at the WSOP contributing the lion's share of that amount. He is known for using the poker nickname of “OMGClayAiken” at Full Tilt and “MrSweets28” on the PokerStars platform.

Often cited as one of the most successful poker players of all time, he has managed to secure a net profit of more than $8 million from online poker cash games alone. In order to continue playing after the events of Black Friday in the United States, he relocated to Vancouver, Canada.

PLO Games Available Online

Pot Limit Omaha

Whether you intend to crush Phil Galfond himself in a challenge or just wish to enjoy the action and the profits available at lower stakes, Pot Limit Omaha certainly merits your attention. There are strategic nuances that differentiate it from its fellow flop game No Limit Hold'em. If you're a NLHE player looks to make the switch over, then you may wish to peruse our eight-part PLO series, Pot Limit Omaha Poker From Square One.

Of course, you'll need to find a good place to play online too, but this poses a bit of an issue if you're an American because Galfond's site, Run It Once Poker, does not accept registrations from the United States. Nevertheless, we've identified several internet poker rooms for PLO gameplay that happily serve U.S. residents.