Chance Kornuth is losing big in the Galfond Challenge, and he doesn’t have much time to make up the deficit before it’s all over. Phil Galfond has completely taken control of the match and appears destined for victory.
For Galfond, it would be his third win in three tries against three separate opponents in the Galfond Challenge over the past year. The Galfond Challenge is a high-stakes heads-up online pot-limit Omaha competition between Phil and a different challenger each time.
Galfond first beat online poker pro “VeniVidi1993” early in 2020 by a slim margin after rallying from a $900,000 deficit. He then took out another online pro, “ActionFreak,” in a more dominant way, leading early on by a wide margin and then holding on until the end.
Each Galfond Challenge has a separate side bet between the competitors beyond the money won and lost in the cash games. In the current and third challenge, Galfond wagered $1 million against Kornuth’s $250,000 that he would turn a profit over the course of 35,000 hands.
At this current juncture in the match — 24,500 hands completed — it appears that bet was a good one for Galfond, and a bad one for Kornuth, who was the heavy underdog entering the competition.
But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, Kornuth surprised the poker world with his dominating performance against Galfond, arguably the top pot-limit Omaha player in the world, over a two-month period. He even led by as much as $340,000 back in the fall at one point.
Those days are over, however. Galfond is the one doing the crushing now, and his opponent is running out of time to make a comeback.
Does he have one last push in him?
Here’s the good news for Chance Kornuth: the match still has 9,000 hands left. At $100/$200 stakes, if he catches a sick heater, there’s still a possibility he could make a comeback. After all, he turned a $180,000 deficit after the ninth session of the match into a $300,000 lead only about 9,000 hands later.
The bad news for him is that his window of opportunity is closing, and fast. On Thursday, the poker pros went back and forth for five hours, trading leads multiple times. Kornuth had a shot to book a desperately needed win. But in the end he lost $40,000, the equivalent of two buy-ins, and now trails by $554,500, the largest deficit he’s faced.
Time is ticking for the Chip Leader Coaching founder. If he can’t make a serious dent in that deficit over the next 1,000 or so hands, in all likelihood, the match will be over.
The Galfond Challenge is played at $100/$200 stakes with $20,000 buy-ins at each table (they play two tables at a time). So, there’s only so much money in play at any given time. He can’t erase the full $554,500 deficit in just one hand. He’ll need to stack Galfond numerous times before getting back in the match.
And, even worse for Kornuth, he may soon be in a position where he has to take some risks to try and win a bunch quickly. In doing so, he risks losing even more money if the cards don’t come his way.
Galfond, on the other hand, is in the driver’s seat. He can just coast to victory at this point. Unless Kornuth hits a once-in-a-lifetime heater over the next few sessions, this match has already been decided. That’s a great position to be in if you’re Galfond.
Galfond can play it conservative and coast to victory. So, that means he may be inclined to avoid the big pots to prevent Kornuth from having an opportunity to catch up.
If the current score holds up, Kornuth will end up down $804,000 ($554,000 from the cash game plus $250,000 in the side bet). At the very least, he’d like to erase a big chunk of the deficit to minimize his losses.
But he’d really like to pull off a wild comeback and win this match, plus the extra $1 million he’d earn in the side bet. Unfortunately, for the three-time WSOP bracelet winner, it appears he’s running out of time.
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