If Phil Galfond doesn't like the way the online nosebleed cash games are going, maybe he has a future as a live tournament grinder.
The online legend, known for playing under monikers like “OMGClayAiken” and “Jman28,” took down Event #29: $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship on Monday evening. He won $224,383 for his efforts in topping the smallest field of the 2015 World Series of Poker thus far, 77 players. It's Galfond's second bracelet, with the other coming in a pot-limit Omaha event back in 2008.
“It means a lot,” Galfond said after the win. “I've played for cash game pots the size of first place, but this feels bigger because of the stage and the bracelet. It's more meaningful.”
As any competitor knows, winning feels all the sweeter when it's accomplished against a tough opponent. Galfond had his hands full dealing with an elite field in the championship tournament, and the final table in particular featured a brutal lineup. Third-place finisher Dan Smith has more than $9 million in tournament cashes, while Erik Seidel, who finished fourth, is not only one of the finest tournament players in the world, he's the all-time top money earner in 2-7 single draw tournaments with $776,791. Longtime online crusher Jon “PearlJammer” Turner (fifth place) and two-time bracelet winner Eli Elezra (sixth) also made the final table.
However, the toughest obstacle of all may have been the man Galfond beat heads up — Nick Schulman. The $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship has been Schulman's personal stomping ground in recent years, as he won the tournament in both 2009 and 2012 and notched a fifth-place finish in 2011. He's fifth all-time in 2-7 Single Draw cashes with $513,657.
Galfond said he had a ton of respect for his opponents, and he knew Schulman was going to be especially tough. The skill level of his opponents informed the way he decided to play, and he explained it was impossible to have a big edge over a field like this one.
“One thing that's nice about getting short-handed when everyone's so good...normally in tournaments you tend to shy away from spots because there are better situations to get your money in,” he said. “You want to lower your variance because you have a big edge. When I'm heads up with Nick, I'm going to take every spot that presents itself.”
He added that he was fortunate to run well in overcoming a 3-1 chip deficit. On the final hand of the tournament, with blinds at 12,000/24,000, Galfond made it 50,000 from the button. Schulman jammed for 649,000, and Galfond called. Both players drew one, with Galfond revealing an . Schulman had an inferior draw with and Galfond peeled a to leave Schulman drawing dead.
Galfond called single draw “the purest form of poker” and said he doesn't get to play it very often. Nowadays, many of the high-stakes online cash games have moved to 2-7 triple draw, a close cousin of 2-7 single draw that's usually played with limit betting and involves three draws rather than one, as the name implies. That experience has helped Galfond.
“Parts of the game carry over to single draw,” he said. “So, it's been helpful to me the last few years. I definitely feel at this tournament I play better and better each year. I try to figure it out along the way, and each year I learn a little bit more.”
Galfond plans to continue grinding the tournaments here at the WSOP, and he partially credited his win to leaving his bread-and-butter cash games behind for the summer.
“Every summer, I struggle with, 'Am I going to play cash, play tournaments, or go back and forth,'” Galfond said. “Going back and forth is...not good. It messes with my head and then I don't care enough about tournaments.”
With two final tables already this summer – Galfond finished fourth in the 2-7 Triple Draw Championship for $89,939 – that focus looks to be paying off handsomely.
Final Table Results
|1||Phil Galfond||New York, NY||$224,383|
|2||Nick Schulman||New York, NY||$138,665|
|3||Dan Smith||Las Vegas, NV||$87,898|
|4||Erik Seidel||Henderson, NV||$59,532|
|5||Jon Turner||Henderson, NV||$42,298|
|6||Eli Elezra||Henderson, NV||$31,463|