Why isn't the Galfond Challenge getting as much attention as Polk vs. Negreanu?

Galfond Challenge Polk Negreanu
Jon Sofen
Posted on: November 27, 2020 08:00 PST

The Galfond Challenge is a competitive high-stakes heads-up poker competition between two extremely talented pros. That's exactly how the Doug Polk vs. Daniel Negreanu grudge match would be described, yet it isn't receiving near as much attention from the poker community.

In fact, few watch the live-streams on Twitch in the match between Phil Galfond and Chance Kornuth. We're talking around 130 viewers at any given time on most days. But more than 20,000 people each day are tuning in to see Polk and Negreanu battle it out on the virtual felt. So, why isn't the Galfond Challenge attracting as many viewers? There are a few reasons why one heads-up match is more intriguing to poker fans than the other.

Galfond Challenge lacks drama

Galfond and Kornuth can take the following sentence as either a compliment or an insult. They are two classy poker players who are seen as too friendly to be intriguing. That differs greatly from Polk and Negreanu, who both thrive on drama and know how to entertain an audience.

The fact of the matter is, the poker community was drawn to the Polk/Negreanu match at first due to the constant back-and-forth feud between the players. They've been feuding for longer than Donald Trump has been in office. For more than five years, Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu have been considered poker's top rivals, even though they rarely play against each other.

Kornuth and Galfond, however, are among the two classiest players in the game. They don't thrive on drama, and if they've done any trash talking during the match, they sure as heck haven't shown it publicly. Whether you want to admit it or not, drama sells. That's why reality TV is so popular and why few are paying attention to the Galfond Challenge.

Over 20,000 poker fans tuned into the final session of the first Galfond Challenge this year, a match Phil Galfond won against "VeniVidi1993." What lured the poker community in was the miraculous, dramatic comeback Galfond made in the end, rallying from a $900,000 deficit to pull it out on the final day. If the current competition against Kornuth heads in that direction late in the match, perhaps they'll have a large audience for the finale.

No-limit hold'em is the Cadillac of poker

There's a reason why ESPN and other mainstream television networks only air no-limit hold'em poker games. It's because NLH is far and away the most popular poker variant. Polk and Negreanu are competing in a no-limit hold'em challenge, whereas Kornuth and Galfond are playing pot-limit Omaha.

That's not to say PLO isn't a popular game. Many poker players love PLO, and some prefer it to NLH. But that simply isn't the case for the majority of the poker community, especially the casual poker audience.

Been there, done that

With Doug Polk versus Daniel Negreanu, at least the heads-up poker match, is brand new. This is the first time we've seen these two players face off in a highly publicized competition. But this is the third Galfond Challenge just this year for Phil Galfond.

After Galfond's first two matches against "VeniVidi1993" and "ActionFreak," which included a combined 40,000 hands, perhaps many poker fans are burnt out by the format. If Negreanu and Polk were to have a rematch following the 25,000 hands they've agreed to play, it's likely the competition will lose its luster and the viewership is sure to decline.

We all get sick of things after a while, even entertaining high-stakes poker matches like these.

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