2021 World Series of Poker 2021 MSPT Venetian

Galfond Challenge: 'ActionFreak' Closing in on Galfond

'ActionFreak' took it to Phil Galfond in a big way on May 11.

After two weeks of heads-up €150/€300 pot-limit Omaha action in the Galfond Challenge, Phil Galfond opened up a sizable lead on online grinder Ioannis "ActionFreak" Kontonatsios. The two players got more than 5,700 of a planned 15,000 hands in, with Galfond winning more than €400,000.

True to his reputation, though — many considered him Galfond's toughest opponent and Galfond himself didn't extend any odds on the €150K side bet — ActionFreak roared back with a crushing win on the ninth day of play. He tattooed Galfond for €256,000 to close the gap under €180K with about 40% of the hands played.

Some further smaller victories have ActionFreak down just €103K after 10,222 hands.

Want to know everything about the Galfond Challenge? Check out thePokerNews Galfond Challenge page for more information!

Day 9

Things started off extremely promisingly for Galfond as moments into the session he ran into a massive cooler but wriggled his way out. On a board of {3-Hearts}{8-Diamonds}{2-Hearts}{9-Spades}, Galfond potted for €1,799 first to act and ActionFreak potted right back to €7,196. Galfond three-bet it back and they got it in for a €69K pot. Galfond had flopped top set and a flush draw ({8-Hearts}{7-Hearts}{8-Spades}{2-Spades}) but saw one of the few cards he didn't want as he ran into {9-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{5-Clubs}{7-Spades}. However, the {8-Clubs} river gave Galfond winning quads.

ActionFreak erased it that loss in a hurry when his aces held up in a five-bet pot despite Galfond flopping a flush draw and turning a pair and a straight draw. Galfond got stacked again when he bet small with €3,563 into €10,798 on {4-Spades}{j-Clubs}{10-Hearts}{10-Spades} and faced a raise to €8,044. Galfond peeled for the {6-Clubs} river. ActionFreak stuck the rest in, about €16,000, and Galfond called with {q-Clubs}{10-Clubs}{8-Diamonds}{2-Diamonds} for trips but was outkicked by {a-Spades}{8-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{9-Clubs} for a €70K pot.

ActionFreak had a nice little lead of €60K at break, and an hour later, he added another €72K pot to his ledger. He bet small on the flop then barreled the turn and river for pot — €8,098 then €24,295 — on {3-Diamonds}{3-Spades}{6-Hearts}{8-Spades}{q-Clubs}. Galfond tanked a long time then paid off but ran into {q-Spades}{4-Spades}{8-Clubs}{8-Hearts}. ActionFreak earned another stack when he had Galfond virtually freerolled — top two with two overs and a flush draw versus top two and one over — and he sat with a massive €182K stack of Galfond's dough. He was up more than €200K at the next break.

Equities were close the next time stacks went in, both players flopping huge on {q-Clubs}{5-Clubs}{9-Hearts}. Galfond had a small edge with {a-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}{k-Clubs}{10-Clubs} against {q-Spades}{j-Hearts}{8-Clubs}{7-Clubs}, but the {7-Hearts} turn and {8-Diamonds} river failed to bring his equity home.

Galfond did collect €96K in a four-bet pot when {a-Spades}{8-Hearts}{j-Spades} flopped, having found a set and a flush draw with {k-Clubs}{8-Clubs}{8-Spades}{7-Spades}. ActionFreak was completely smashed with {a-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{5-Spades}{4-Spades} but felt committed enough to call it off after betting €8,099 for half the pot and seeing Galfond piled for €31,701 effective. A {k-Spades} turn sealed it for Galfond.

That boost wasn't enough to prevent Galfond from losing a heap, though. In fact, ActionFreak stacked him twice more down the stretch. First, kings and fives held against Galfond's king with three higher kickers and a flush draw. Then, he looked Galfond up light on {8-Hearts}{2-Diamonds}{7-Spades}{5-Hearts} when Galfond potted for €16,197, leaving just €8,681 behind. ActionFreak tanked and stuck it in with {10-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{10-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds} but was good against {k-Hearts}{10-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}. The {a-Hearts} river further improved ActionFreak and he booked his biggest win of the challenge shortly after.

Hands Played: 721
Results: ActionFreak +€256,044.00

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Day 10

Stacks were in early again but this time it was ActionFreak raking in €60K. A raising war on {4-Clubs}{5-Diamonds}{a-Clubs} saw Galfond three-bet small over a check-raise and get it in with {a-Clubs}{10-Clubs}{q-Hearts}{4-Hearts} for bottom two and the nut flush draw. ActionFreak had flopped big as well with {q-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{5-Clubs} for top two and blockers. Galfond turned more outs when the {j-Hearts} hit but a {5-Spades} river improved ActionFreak to a full house.

Galfond got it back and even pulled ahead for the day shortly after that, though, when he got the five-bet in preflop and ActionFreak called. The {9-Diamonds}{9-Spades}{9-Clubs} flop prompted Galfond to bet about half his remaining chips, and he stuck the rest in on the {4-Spades} turn. ActionFreak was committed with {q-Spades}{q-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds}{10-Spades} but had little equity versus {a-Hearts}{k-Hearts}{k-Clubs}{2-Clubs} and Galfond collected a €64K pot when his hand held on the river. At the same time, he won a €32K pot on the other table to build a small lead.

Another stack went to Galfond when he potted turn on {8-Spades}{2-Diamonds}{7-Hearts}{10-Diamonds} for €4,245 only for ActionFreak to check-raise pot right back to €16,982. There was just under €16K back, so Galfond opted to call and then jam the {7-Spades} when checked to. ActionFreak called with the turned nuts but Galfond had gotten there with {k-Hearts}{j-Spades}{10-Spades}{10-Clubs}. ActionFreak got it right back, however, with his own river hit when top pair and the nut wrap bested Galfond's two pair plus straight draw all in on the turn.

Galfond appeared to be up a few buy-ins at break but he got coolered right after they started again. This one was of the preflop variety, with Galfond running {a-Hearts}{k-Hearts}{k-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds} into {a-Diamonds}{a-Clubs}{j-Hearts}{4-Hearts}. An ace flopped and Galfond was dead by the turn.

Awhile later, ActionFreak won one of the biggest pots of the session. He called a three-bet preflop and a small flop bet before potting {6-Spades}{a-Clubs}{10-Hearts}{4-Clubs} in position for €8,962. Galfond check-raised pot and ActionFreak stuck in his €39,486 to make it just shy of €88K in play.

Galfond: {q-Clubs}{q-Spades}{j-Clubs}{9-Clubs}
ActionFreak: {a-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds}{7-Clubs}{4-Hearts}

Galfond was drawing as a 70/30 underdog and missed the {6-Hearts} river. By the next break, he appeared to be stuck several buy-ins.

ActionFreak added to that deficit with a lucky turn. After three-betting preflop, he check-called half pot on {k-Hearts}{6-Clubs}{8-Spades}, bringing a {q-Spades}. He checked again but this time jammed for €25,498 when Galfond potted. Galfond called off with {a-Clubs}{k-Clubs}{8-Clubs}{2-Spades} for flopped top two but ActionFreak turned a set with {q-Clubs}{10-Clubs}{q-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds} and held on the river.

Galfond struck back with three big pots. First, top pair and an open-ender got there on the turn against top two when they played for stacks in a three-bet pot. Then, Galfond potted for €4,245 in position on {5-Hearts}{k-Clubs}{j-Hearts}{8-Spades}. ActionFreak raised pot and Galfond shoved for €36,027 effective. ActionFreak called with bottom set but had one out against a set of jacks and didn't get there. Right after that, he turned the nut straight against second nuts and ActionFreak stuck his stack in drawing dead to a chop.

The run didn't stop there. Right after that, they saw an ultra-coordinated board of {7-Hearts}{8-Hearts}{5-Spades}{4-Spades} and Galfond checked. ActionFreak bet half pot with €5,399 but Galfond piled. ActionFreak tanked awhile then went with a set of fours, but Galfond was in great shape with {a-Spades}{a-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{5-Clubs} and held.

After a break and a stack reset, they played a big one when ActionFreak four-bet and Galfond called then potted €16,199 on {k-Spades}{2-Hearts}{q-Spades}. ActionFreak shoved for €30,591 and Galfond called with {k-Clubs}{5-Clubs}{6-Spades}{4-Spades} but was turned dead by a set of queens for a €77K pot.

Still, Galfond's late rush was enough to push him into a small profit of less than a buy-in.

Hands Played: 776
Results: Phil Galfond +€19,003.35

Day 11

The players traded stacks right away in back-to-back hands, first when ActionFreak three-bet preflop and barreled off on {j-Spades}{6-Clubs}{10-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds} with jacks full of tens, getting paid by Galfond's {k-Diamonds}{q-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}{7-Spades} for a flush. Immediately after, Galfond turned a king-high flush to cooler ActionFreak's queen-high flush with the {a-Hearts} on the board.

One of the biggest hands so far went down in a three-bet pot after an innocuous-looking {3-Hearts}{j-Diamonds}{7-Spades}. Galfond bet small after being the preflop aggressor but was met with a raise to €6,262. Galfond potted it right back in ActionFreak's face, but ActionFreak tanked awhile then slammed in his €48,558. Galfond obliged but was trailing with {j-Spades}{10-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{7-Clubs} against bottom set. Galfond turned a few additional outs with the {k-Clubs} but missed the river and ActionFreak dragged in €102K.

Galfond struck back with his own huge, albeit smaller, pot. He three-bet preflop and potted {j-Diamonds}{2-Clubs}{6-Spades}, bringing a {10-Spades}. Galfond potted again then checked the {8-Spades} river despite having €16,164 with a pot of €48,591 in the middle. ActionFreak jammed but Galfond was hovering over the call button with {k-Spades}{j-Spades}{9-Hearts}{8-Diamonds}. His plan had worked as ActionFreak had {k-Diamonds}{q-Clubs}{q-Spades}{10-Diamonds}.

Another €96K pot followed as Galfond peeled a three-bet then a half-pot continuation-bet on {7-Clubs}{9-Clubs}{2-Spades}{3-Diamonds}. Galfond potted the turn in position and faced a shove for €42,946. Galfond called with {q-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}{3-Clubs}{2-Clubs} for nines up and a flush draw and was good against {k-Spades}{k-Clubs}{q-Clubs}{7-Spades}. The {6-Hearts} was safe for him and he pulled into a decent lead for the day, which was up to about €100K when they took a break more than two hours in.

Play was fairly evenly contested for the next couple of hours, but a big blow was finally landed when Galfond got the four-bet in and {3-Hearts}{10-Spades}{9-Diamonds} flopped. ActionFreak didn't waste any time and just potted into Galfond, who stuck in his €30,793. ActionFreak obliged for a €77,785 pot, showing down {k-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{8-Spades}{7-Spades} for a pair, straight draw and backdoors. Galfond had aces with no back-up and couldn't fade after a safe turn as the river was the {6-Spades}.

Galfond then stuck in a five-bet with {a-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}{j-Hearts}{10-Hearts} but ran into the {a-Hearts}{a-Clubs}{8-Hearts}{6-Diamonds} of ActionFreak to drop another stack. As that was happening, another four-bet pot on the other table saw {4-Clubs}{3-Spades}{4-Hearts} hit the felt. Galfond check-called a quarter-pot bet for a {q-Spades} turn. He checked again and ActionFreak bet €12,149, half the pot. Galfond piled in €38,998, all but his last few hundred, and ActionFreak gave it up.

The back-and-forth swung to ActionFreak in a big way moments later on a board of {10-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}{3-Clubs}{2-Spades} as ActionFreak potted in position and Galfond check-raised a committing amount. They got it all in for €47K effective, creating a €103,085 pot.

Galfond: {j-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds}
ActionFreak: {10-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{7-Spades}

ActionFreak was in solid shape with top two and a board-pairing river sent the pot his way. He collected one more stack when nut wrap beat Galfond's middle pair plus open-ender, and the strong close netted him a small win, mirroring the previous day's finish for Galfond.

Hands Played: 784
Results: ActionFreak +€23,363.64

Day 12

It took more than half an hour for the first stack to change hands. With Galfond already up about a buy-in, he check-called €1,187 in a single-raised pot on {7-Clubs}{6-Diamonds}{5-Clubs} and checked the {10-Spades} turn. ActionFreak bet pot with €4,173 and Galfond potted right back to €16,694. ActionFreak called, leaving €12,857 behind, and he called off the rest on the {2-Hearts}. Galfond showed the {k-Clubs}{j-Spades}{9-Spades}{8-Hearts} for the nuts while ActionFreak had missed a set plus flush draw: {a-Diamonds}{6-Spades}{6-Clubs}{2-Clubs}.

ActionFreak turned things around when he called a four-bet and {4-Hearts}{3-Hearts}{4-Spades} flopped. Galfond went with a small sizing of €3,995. ActionFreak responded with €11,977. Galfond stuck the rest in, just under €30K, having flopped a flush draw with his aces: {a-Hearts}{7-Hearts}{a-Clubs}{9-Clubs}. ActionFreak had a monster also with {k-Hearts}{5-Hearts}{6-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}. While running sevens allowed Galfond to best the trips, he couldn't beat a straight and €75K went to ActionFreak.

A considerably weaker hand showed up in Galfond's four-betting range after break as he potted and got it in after {9-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{3-Spades} flopped, with just {k-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{j-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds} for a gutter and backdoors. He wasn't in the worst shape in the world as ActionFreak had {8-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{6-Spades}{5-Spades}, and the {k-Diamonds}, {10-Clubs} run gave him kings up to double. Galfond swept up a series of medium pots after that and soon had €130K in front of him, looking at a solid profit for the session.

However, Galfond's four-betting ways cost him when he ran into a five-bet that he decided to call for most of his chips. With €48,599 in the middle, the rest of the dough went in on {10-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds} for a €75K pot. Neither player was especially strong on the flop as each had a pair plus gutter but Galfond's {a-Clubs}{q-Clubs}{9-Hearts}{6-Hearts} was behind {a-Diamonds}{a-Spades}{9-Spades}{7-Spades}. A {2-Diamonds} turn and {5-Diamonds} river sent the pot to ActionFreak.

After another break, they reset stacks. ActionFreak stacked Galfond when he bet-called the bare nut flush draw against Galfond's two pair and flush blockers and turned his flush, opting for an unusual open-shove that worked out. He grabbed another stack when he three-bet and barreled off on {9-Diamonds}{6-Spades}{10-Clubs}{7-Spades}{q-Diamonds}. The river shove was €16,555 into €26,887, and Galfond couldn't find a fold with {10-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{8-Clubs}{2-Clubs}, running to {q-Hearts}{q-Spades}{j-Hearts}{8-Diamonds} for a higher straight.

Galfond got lucky to crack aces in a four-bet pot with {a-Clubs}{k-Spades}{q-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds} after flopping a queen, but it wasn't enough to salvage the session as he got stacked once more near the end. In a three-bet pot, all the money went in on {7-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}{j-Spades} and it was nearly even equities as Galfond had {a-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds}{a-Hearts}{8-Clubs} against ActionFreak's {k-Diamonds}{2-Diamonds}{7-Hearts}{5-Hearts}. The {5-Spades} turn made things far less sweaty for ActionFreak and he booked a win just shy of two buy-ins moments later.

Hands Played: 710
Results: ActionFreak +€57,580.53

Day 13

Galfond was already up about a buy-in when the first stack changed hands, and it happened in a three-bet pot on {4-Hearts}{9-Clubs}{3-Spades}. ActionFreak went with his {k-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}{j-Spades} after potting and Galfond raise-called it off with {8-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{5-Spades}{3-Hearts}. He made trip threes but was outkicked. Unfortunately for ActionFreak, he sent the stack right back in an unlucky pot where Galfond three-bet stuffed in middle pair and the nut flush draw and beat his bottom set.

Another unlucky result for ActionFreak followed a {j-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{5-Clubs} flop in a three-bet pot. Galfond flopped well with {q-Hearts}{7-Hearts}{j-Clubs}{9-Spades} but was behind {q-Clubs}{q-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}{8-Clubs}. A seven on the turn changed that Galfond added to his lead.

A cooler helped ActionFreak turn it around as he found himself holding the nuts on {8-Clubs}{10-Spades}{7-Diamonds}{k-Clubs}. He potted for €8,962 and Galfond stuck the last €16,555 in with {q-Clubs}{q-Diamonds}{9-Spades}{6-Clubs} for the second nuts and two higher draws. However, the {8-Hearts} didn't do it for him.

One of the larger pots of the challenge developed after Galfond three-bet and they saw a {6-Clubs}{7-Spades}{q-Clubs} flop. Galfond bet small with €1,781 and ActionFreak made it €6,262 in position. Galfond called then potted for €17,924 on the {9-Spades}. ActionFreak shoved for the last €16,988.

Galfond: {8-Spades}{8-Diamonds}{5-Spades}{5-Hearts}
ActionFreak: {9-Clubs}{5-Clubs}{8-Hearts}{6-Spades}

Both players had identical straight with a chance to scoop. Galfond was looking for a spade while ActionFreak sought a club or a card that matched one of his two pairs. He got one in the {k-Clubs}.

Galfond cracked bottom set again with a fairly weak draw to get things going back in his favor as he three-bet shoved the nut flush draw with no back-up and hit the turn to earn a stack. The players were almost even when they went to break.

With about an hour left to play, ActionFreak got the four-bet in and then bet small in position with €4,049 into €16,199 on {7-Spades}{q-Clubs}{7-Diamonds}. Galfond called and both players checked the {4-Hearts} for a {2-Diamonds} river. Galfond shoved for €23,045 effective and ActionFreak tank-called with {a-Hearts}{k-Hearts}{k-Spades}{j-Clubs} only to see Galfond show {8-Diamonds}{8-Spades}{7-Hearts}{7-Clubs} for quads.

After losing a stack with nut flush draw and nut gutshot to a flopped nut straight, Galfond won some big pot without showdown. When the final hand was played, Galfond had done enough to grind out a moderate win of €48K.

Hands Played: 716
Results: Phil Galfond +€48,169.76

Day 14

Galfond was up about a buy-in and he again added to that with the first full stack won, this time when he called half pot then full pot on flop and turn, respectively, as the board ran {5-Clubs}{j-Hearts}{9-Clubs}{a-Hearts}{3-Hearts}. With more than €32K in the pot and only €18,718 behind, ActionFreak checked the river and Galfond shoved. ActionFreak used nearly all of his time then called very light with {a-Diamonds}{q-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{7-Hearts} but was shown {k-Spades}{4-Diamonds}{q-Hearts}{10-Hearts} for a flush.

While ActionFreak got pummeled early on to where he was down just shy of six figures, he was able to mount a very strong run over the course of 90 minutes or so. Through mostly medium-sized pots, he turned that loss into a small win as the players approached the three-hour mark of the day's grind.

All of that turned back around in Galfond's favor when ActionFreak three-bet and fired half pot on {6-Clubs}{9-Clubs}{a-Spades}. Galfond called and then called pot — €10,798 — on the {10-Diamonds}. ActionFreak potted again on the {j-Spades}. Galfond responded with a shove for €44,987. Despite getting an amazing price on a call, about €12K into €109K, ActionFreak made the difficult fold.

They took a break and reset stacks with Galfond up very small, but ActionFreak went on another hot run and build a lead of around two buy-ins when the next huge hand went down. Galfond three-bet and, as he often does, fired small with €1,781 on the {8-Hearts}{10-Diamonds}{j-Clubs}. ActionFreak made it €6,262 and they went to a {6-Hearts} turn. Galfond check-raised all in for €38,226 over a pot bet, creating a pot of €94K.

ActionFreak: {k-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}
Galfond: {j-Hearts}{10-Hearts}{10-Spades}{9-Spades}

Galfond was up against the nuts but had plenty of equity with set plus flush draw. Fortunately for ActionFreak, the river was a harmless {5-Spades}.

The stars aligned for another ActionFreak stack win as Galfond led out €1,223 in single-raised pot that got checked to a {4-Clubs}{6-Hearts}{2-Spades}{7-Hearts} board. ActionFreak made it €4,696 and Galfond came back with €15,888. ActionFreak called, bringing a {10-Hearts}. Galfond piled the last €16,357 and ActionFreak didn't need long before calling with {q-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds} for a flush, while Galfond showed down the turned nuts with his own weaker flush: {j-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{8-Hearts}{5-Hearts}.

Galfond got one pile back in a €73K pot when he flopped ace-high flush over king-high flush and went for a passive line featuring a check-raise for pot on the turn after the flop checked through. However, he'd wrap up minutes later stuck €61K.

Hands Played: 740
Results: ActionFreak +€61,136.94

  • It's been a strong run for "ActionFreak" as he's now only stuck about €100K to Phil Galfond.

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