While the poker world transfixes itself on the Negreanu vs Polk heads-up challenge match, another compelling heads-up challenge continues to plow along.

Phil Galfond and Chance Kornuth are battling on WSOP.com, which could be the top story in the poker world right now if it wasn’t for a certain Kid Poker and WCGRider dominating the poker headlines.

Since our last update earlier this month, the Galfond Challenge match against Kornuth has remained largely steady with Galfond now down a total of $97,000 after 14,000 hands, barely over a third through the 35,000 hands. The latest result came about after a solid session on November 14th in which Galfond won $123k, followed by another winning session of over $120k on November 16th. Prior to that session, Galfond was down $344,500, the most he’s been behind since the beginning of his challenge with Kornuth.

Despite how far Galfond gets behind, don’t write him off yet. We’re all old enough to remember when Galfond came back from a €900k plus deficit.

The Galfond Challenges thus far

Earlier this year, the Galfond Challenge put new life into the “heads-up challenge” scene when Galfond put out a PLO challenge to any player heads-up at around 2:1 odds (negotiated odds have ranged from 1:1 to 4:1, depending on the player). The value seemed more than generous for seasoned high stakes poker players looking to capitalize on some positive expected value.

Galfond has been one of the best Pot Limit Omaha players of his time, but in recent years has focused more on his poker site, Run It Once Poker, than being among the games best. At the odds offered by Galfond, a handful of players have taken him up on the offer — Venividi, Bill Perkins, ActionFreak and now Chance Kornuth.

Even after his match with ActionFreak is complete, there is even more to come. Galfond is slated to welcome Dan “Jungleman” Cates as well as Brandon Adams to his Galfond Challenge series, which are setting up to become a couple of exciting matches, particularly the match with the elusive Jungleman.

 When is the match?Where is it being played?What are the stakes?How many hands are played?Who won or is winning?
Galfond vs VenividiJanuary 2020 - April 2020Run It Once Poker€100/€200 PLO25,001/25,000Galfond +$1,671.58
Galfond vs Bill PerkinsApril 2020 - presentpartypoker$100/$200 PLO862/50,000Galfond +$90,144.05 (not completed)
Galfond vs ActionFreakApril 2020 - May 2020Run It Once Poker150/300 PLO15,011/15,000Galfond +114,765.66
Galfond vs Chance KornuthOctober 2020 - presentWSOP.com$100/$200 PLO13,500/25,000Kornuth +$97,000 (through November 16th)
Galfond vs JunglemanUnknownUnknown100/200 PLO0/7,500Not started
Galfond vs Brandon AdamsUnknownUnknown$100/$200 PLO40 hoursNot started

Is the Galfond Challenge losing momentum?

So why has the Galfond Challenge apparently been losing steam of late? While the obvious answer is in large part due to Negreanu vs Polk, the last couple of matches seemingly haven’t packed quite the punch of earlier matches. Part of the reason for that is undoubtedly due to the fact that the challenges aren’t new anymore. An official stream and maybe a lack of a Galfond or Kornuth stream — showing reactions and direct commentary — does perhaps play a factor as well (in fairness, Polk and Negreanu aren’t filmed either).

What the Galfond Challenge does seems to lack is a good old fashioned rivalry, and a big part of that is no fault at all of Galfond’s. Galfond is widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in poker, which is great as one of poker’s most effective ambassadors, but that perhaps doesn’t translate as well in hyping up a heads-up match, especially after the first couple of matches.

No doubt, the Galfond Challenge has provided poker fans with many hours of compelling and exciting heads-up matches (see: his comeback against Venividi) but the lack of an established rivalry is blunting the buzz a bit, even if the challenges themselves have been compelling to fans of the players or fans of poker in general.

Galfond vs Venividi was the first match of the Galfond Challenge, and it was a concept that was relatively fresh (durrr Challenges notwithstanding). But Venividi and Galfond hadn’t exactly had a war of words before the match.

The match with Bill Perkins, which has yet to be completed, looked more like a picnic in its initial sessions, two guys screwing around on the play money tables. The ActionFreak and Kornuth Challenges were fun to follow but didn’t seem to generate the same level of interest with a wider audience.

Polk vs Negreanu, on the other hand, appears to be on another level. Two have been at odds for years with Polk widely criticizing Negreanu on issues as widespread as his comments on rake (“more rake is better”) to his skill as a poker player in today’s game. It has led to a near-perfect storm buildup for a heads-up match, the old school poker pro versus the young punk troll. Sure, this is even true if Polk and Negreanu were amazing cordial with each other during their face to face match.

Does Galfond hate or dislike anybody? Has he ever come to blows with anybody? Maybe it would take somebody in the industry that is disliked by everybody. Mike Postle?

It doesn’t matter

Galfond is no Daniel Negreanu or Doug Polk, and honestly, that’s just the way we like him. While it would be great to see a bit more hype, organization or production surrounding the Galfond Challenges (i.e. official streams, more promotion, interviews with both players), it’s still absolutely better than no Galfond Challenge.

It’s hard to argue the heads-up matches between Galfond, Polk/Negreanu, as well as PokerGo’s High Stakes Duel, has been a tremendous development for poker fans and one of the best things about 2020, providing fans with near-constant entertainment while the world at large goes through some difficult times and while many are confined to their homes.

The good news is that the two can coexist, even if the Galfond Challenge gets a bit less attention and fewer Run It Once Poker signups during the Negreanu/Polk match. After all, it’s not Galfond’s fault for the unfortunate timing of one of poker’s most highly-anticipated heads-up match.

For poker fans sake, hopefully, this is just the start of many more Galfond Challenges and other high-profile heads-up matches in the future.

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