2021 World Series of Poker 2021 MSPT Venetian

Galfond Challenge: Galfond Breaks Kornuth's Streak But Remains Down

Chance Kornuth has made some headway in his heads-up match with Phil Galfond.

The latest Galfond Challenge match began rather inauspiciously for challenge Chance Kornuth of Chip Leader Coaching. He was down more than 14 buy-ins, or $280,000, after the first nine days of play.

Considering Phil Galfond had taken and dispatched all comers — some by the skin of his clicking finger and some by comfortable margins — it was easy to expect he was in the early stages of authoring another victory.

However, Kornuth had other ideas. He put together back-to-back solid wins after being beaten into such a hole he had to take a break to reload his account. A massive six-figure win on the third day after that gave him the overall lead, and a further one the following day put him well out in front, a shocking development after Galfond's early domination.

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Day 10

Kornuth had the edge in the first half hour or so as he won most of the bigger pots to go up about $50,000 despite no all-in pots being played.

That figure only increased in a three-bet pot when they saw {7-Clubs}{5-Hearts}{9-Diamonds} flop. Galfond, the three-bettor, checked, and Kornuth bet $2,400. Galfond came in for a small raise to $6,600. Kornuth stuffed it in with {10-Hearts}{8-Hearts}{6-Clubs}{4-Hearts} for the nuts and a redraw while Galfond's {a-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}{a-Clubs}{8-Clubs} left him in rough shape with his best hope being a chop. The {7-Hearts} and {9-Clubs} didn't do it.

One of the bigger pots to go down followed a {6-Spades}{4-Hearts}{a-Spades} flop in a three-bet pot. Galfond continued for $1,200 and Kornuth called, bringing a {9-Hearts}. Galfond slowed down with a check and Kornuth bet $4,500. Galfond potted and Kornuth shoved for about $23K.

Kornuth: {9-Diamonds}{9-Spades}{7-Spades}{5-Spades}
Galfond: {a-Clubs}{a-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}

Kornuth had been coolered but he had plenty of ways to wiggle out with his combo draw. The {2-Clubs} didn't do it, so Galfond earned a pot over $52K.

The great fortune continued for Galfond when they were 150 blinds deep and got it in with each holding single-suited aces: {a-Spades}{q-Spades}{a-Clubs}{6-Diamonds} for Galfond and {a-Diamonds}{a-Hearts}{5-Hearts}{4-Clubs} for Kornuth. The {10-Spades}{5-Clubs}{5-Spades} was a nasty flop for Galfond but he made a flush on the {j-Spades} turn. He still had to fade Kornuth filling up and the {q-Clubs} was the ticket for a 60K pot.

They exchanged stacks with about an hour to go, with Kornuth holding with top set of kings against kings up and a heart draw on the turn, and Galfond winning his own cooler with a second set of queens against kings and queens all in on the turn.

They were deep on both tables but opted not to reset. Kornuth finished strong as he picked off a pot-sized bluff of $10K on a completed board of {5-Spades}{6-Diamonds}{2-Hearts}{3-Hearts}{k-Clubs} with top set, Galfond showing {a-Clubs}{q-Clubs}{7-Spades}{5-Diamonds}. that would be the last big pot, and it was enough to get Kornuth back on the winning track with just under four buy-ins of profit.

Hands Played: ~510
Results: Chance Kornuth +~$79,000
Full session video

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Day 11

Kornuth jumped out to an early lead as he built up a double stack of $40K on one table. On the other, he grabbed some value in an interesting hand when he checked down a weak full house on a three-flush board and then got a bet-three-bet in on the river, with Galfond paying off. That gave him a win of something like $30K in the early going.

Galfond squared things up when they got in a raising war on {9-Spades}{2-Hearts}{5-Hearts}. Galfond bet, Kornuth raised, Galfond piled in $16K and Kornuth went with his hand.

Kornuth: {7-Hearts}{6-Hearts}{4-Spades}{3-Clubs}
Galfond: {9-Hearts}{8-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}

Galfond was in great shape with his superior hand and draw, and the {8-Diamonds} turn and {k-Hearts} river left him with a winning flush for a $49K pot.

Kornuth had a bit more equity the next time it went in, but it was a standard PLO flip on a {10-Clubs}{9-Hearts}{3-Hearts} flop. Kornuth had the nuts with {a-Spades}{q-Spades}{10-Spades}{10-Diamonds} but was far from in the clear as Galfond showed {j-Clubs}{8-Spades}{10-Hearts}{7-Hearts} for a monster draw. Kornuth managed to fade it with the {k-Diamonds}, {a-Clubs} runout.

They mostly contested medium-sized pots over the next couple of hours, with Kornuth increasing his lead slightly but neither player taking control. A few further five-figure pots enabled Kornuth to grab a lead of roughly $60K.

Kornuth made a strategic adjustment to increase the number of limped pots, which helped keep the number of times they played for stacks a bit down from previous sessions.

One insane showdown cropped up on a completed board of {4-Hearts}{j-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{2-Spades}{k-Spades}. Galfond checked the river with $6K in the pot and Kornuth fired in $4,500. Galfond clicked call after some thought, and Kornuth could only muster {9-Spades}{7-Hearts}{6-Diamonds}{3-Clubs} for a bluff with third pair. Amazingly enough, that earned him half the pot as Galfond rolled over {9-Clubs}{8-Clubs}{6-Hearts}{5-Diamonds}.

A big pot about four hours in saw Kornuth increase his lead. Kornuth opened and Galfond called, and the flop came {6-Spades}{3-Clubs}{9-Hearts}. Galfond check-called $900. The {6-Clubs} checked through, bringing a {10-Diamonds}. Galfond potted for $3,000 and Kornuth potted right back to $12K. Galfond tank-called but ran into tens full.

The good times continued for Kornuth when they got to the turn on a board of {k-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds}{3-Hearts}{5-Hearts}. Stacks went in with Kornuth having {j-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}{6-Spades}{8-Clubs} for the nuts and a redraw. Galfond had a huge draw with {q-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}{3-Spades} but unfortunately saw many of his diamonds were dead. The {a-Spades} river sent the $40K pot to Kornuth.

Things got weird a bit after that. Galfond went for a half-pot bet of $3,350 in position on {10-Spades}{q-Spades}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}. Kornuth woke up with a big pot-sized check-raise on the wet texture, but the players were deep, so when Galfond tanked forever and called for a $40K pot, there was still almost $15K left to play. One of the flushes completed with the {k-Spades} river and Kornuth checked. Galfond did stuff it in and Kornuth tank-folded.

The small recovery wasn't enough as Kornuth won several more buy-ins by the estimation of the streaming team.

Hands Played: 540
Results: Chance Kornuth +~$84,000
Full session video

Day 12

About half an hour in, the players traded big pots but it wound up being roughly a wash as each collected about $17K from his opponent. They mostly danced around each other after that for the next hour-plus, with neither table to take any significant edge.

It wouldn't be until about two hours in that the first major blow was struck. Kornuth did the striking after Galfond three-bet and continued small for $1,200 on {q-Spades}{j-Hearts}{8-Clubs}. Kornuth called, bringing the {7-Hearts}. Galfond bet again with $2,000 and Kornuth responded by raising to $7,800. Galfond stuck around for the {a-Clubs} river. Kornuth shoved that river for $15,753 when checked to, and Galfond went very deep into the tank before calling with {a-Hearts}{8-Hearts}{j-Clubs}{6-Diamonds} for aces up, shocking the commentary team. Kornuth had the goods with {k-Clubs}{10-Diamonds}{9-Spades}{8-Spades}, having flopped the nuts and rivered stronger nuts.

Kornuth collected another stack after Galfond three-bet and c-bet small again for $1,200 on {7-Hearts}{q-Hearts}{6-Spades}. Kornuth called and the turn brought the {k-Hearts}. Galfond potted and Kornuth called. The river was the {4-Diamonds} and Galfond had a little under pot to play with $14K into $18K, which he crammed in. Kornuth snapped it off with the nuts, beating Galfond's {a-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}{j-Hearts}{3-Spades} for a bluff.

A seemingly innocuous pot played out as Kornuth three-bet then the players checked to the turn on {j-Clubs}{8-Spades}{3-Clubs}{8-Clubs}. Galfond called a bet of $1,800 and the {4-Spades} completed the board. Kornuth went with a small-ish sizing of $3,200 that Galfond attacked by potting to $16,800. Kornuth shoved for $19K more and Galfond again tanked deep. Finally, he called with {10-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}{8-Hearts}{5-Hearts} for eights full, but that was no good against {a-Clubs}{k-Clubs}{j-Spades}{j-Diamonds} for jacks full.

Galfond did get a stack but, though he had to get a little lucky to do so in a four-bet pot against aces. He just potted in for most of his remaining money with {q-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}{8-Spades} on {9-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}{5-Hearts} and got there with a {q-Spades} turn. Unfortunately for Galfond, his own four-bet also blew up in his face when Kornuth potted into him on {4-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{5-Spades}. Galfond stuck it in and lost with his own {a-Diamonds}{a-Spades}{10-Spades}{2-Spades} to {k-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{j-Spades}{4-Spades} as Kornuth turned an unbeatable flush.

Domination continued for Kornuth when he opened preflop and bet twice, the second being $1,500 into $3,000 on {7-Clubs}{8-Hearts}{2-Hearts}{2-Diamonds}. Galfond responded to the second bet with a check-raise to $6,000 and Kornuth called. Galfond potted for $15K on the {6-Spades} river. Kornuth set him in for the last $8,884 and Galfond called, having rivered a boat with {9-Hearts}{6-Hearts}{6-Clubs}{3-Spades}. However, it was cooked before it even came to fruition as Kornuth had {a-Spades}{2-Spades}{2-Clubs}{10-Clubs} for quads, earning a $68K pot.

Kornuth had worked his way to a six-figure win when he called a three-bet preflop and $1,200 more on the {8-Diamonds}{2-Spades}{9-Clubs} flop. The turn was the {3-Clubs} and Galfond potted. Kornuth stuffed for the last $11K and Galfond called.

Galfond: {j-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{7-Spades}{5-Spades}
Kornuth: {q-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{10-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}

Galfond had a decent draw but bricked on the {k-Diamonds} river.

With a few more medium pots, Kornuth booked his third straight sizable win and took the overall lead in the challenge.

Hands Played: 549
Results: Chance Kornuth +~$150,000
Full session video

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Day 13

It took more than hour for stacks to be at risk, but it happened in a four-bet pot with Galfond as the four-bettor and {4-Hearts}{2-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} flopping. Galfond potted when checked to and Kornuth went with his {a-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}{5-Spades}. Galfond wasn't far ahead with {q-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{9-Spades}{7-Spades}, and the {4-Spades} turn was exactly what he didn't want to see.

Kornuth followed up with another big win on a board of {3-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}{q-Spades}{7-Spades}{2-Diamonds}. Kornuth bet small in position on the flop then fired $4,500 on the turn into $6K before potting river. Galfond paid it off but lost to {a-Clubs}{q-Clubs}{q-Hearts}{5-Spades} for top set.

Galfond was already a bit buried for the day when another big pot cropped up, and Kornuth opted for an unusual line. He had three-bet preflop and bet small on the {k-Diamonds}{10-Spades}{4-Clubs} flop before potting the {8-Diamonds} turn for $6K. Galfond didn't go anywhere, and the {k-Hearts} paired the board. There was only $12K left to play but Kornuth opted against a shove, instead betting $6,400. Galfond called but couldn't beat the {a-Diamonds}{k-Spades}{q-Diamonds}{2-Clubs} for trips with the nut kicker.

Kornuth was again the three-bettor in the next huge spot as he bet $1,800 on {5-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} and $3,600 more on the {q-Spades} turn. The river brought a total brick to the wet board, a {2-Clubs}. Kornuth shoved the last $12,900, just slightly under the pot. Galfond needed to go into his time bank a bit before making the call, but his {a-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}{q-Hearts}{9-Hearts} for queens up was inferior to the {a-Spades}{8-Spades}{5-Clubs}{5-Hearts} shown by Kornuth.

While Galfond had been utilizing a very aggressive button strategy of all raises, Kornuth had mixed in some limps, and with the session winding down and a six-figure lead, he fired a limp-reraise to $1,800. Galfond responded with a four-bet and Kornuth called, with the players almost 150 blinds deep. Galfond potted the {8-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}{9-Clubs} flop and called off for a pot of almost $56K.

Galfond: {a-Clubs}{a-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}{4-Hearts}
Kornuth: {j-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{j-Spades}{3-Spades}

Kornuth had found a dream flop, and Galfond couldn't find a turn or river miracle.

Shortly after that, Kornuth locked up his second straight monster win, putting Galfond on notice that his million was at significant risk.

Hands Played: 500
Results: Chance Kornuth +~$156,000
Full session video

Day 14

Kornuth was looking to back up his streak with another victory and got started off right with a cooler in his favor. He called a three-bet and found himself facing a tiny bet of $600 on an {8-Hearts}{5-Spades}{5-Hearts} flop. He raised to $2,400 and Galfond called. Galfond check-called another $4,200 on the {2-Clubs} turn. Less than the $16K pot remained to play on the river and Galfond checked and snap-called a shove. Unfortunately for him, {q-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}{j-Spades}{4-Spades} was only good for fives full while Kornuth had {j-Clubs}{8-Diamonds}{8-Spades}{4-Diamonds} for eights full.

Galfond recovered by getting three streets for a $42K pot after he potted river for $14K on {3-Spades}{6-Hearts}{j-Clubs}{8-Spades}{k-Hearts} with flopped top set. He added another stack when he check-called half pot on {6-Spades}{q-Hearts}{4-Diamonds} then came out blasting with a pot-sized bet of $7,200 on the {j-Spades}. Kornuth shoved and he had the goods with a set of fours, but Galfond's {q-Spades}{9-Spades}{j-Hearts}{8-Diamonds} improved on the flushing river.

Slightly trailing, Kornuth potted a {6-Clubs}{9-Clubs}{4-Diamonds}{q-Spades} texture in position after he bet big on the flop. Galfond had checked twice but responded with an all-in shove for $11K more. Kornuth wasn't excited about it but he called with {q-Clubs}{10-Diamonds}{4-Hearts}{3-Hearts} for queens up. Galfond needed to improve but had tons of outs with {q-Hearts}{j-Hearts}{10-Clubs}{7-Clubs}. Unfortunately for him, the case queen was not the sort of improvement he was looking for.

The way Kornuth was running, it wasn't much of a surprise when he got in single-suited aces against Galfond's double-suited ones and promptly flopped a flush to drag another $50K pot.

A bit after, he got the three-bet in and Galfond called. Galfond called half the pot on {8-Diamonds}{3-Spades}{7-Hearts}, bringing the {10-Spades}. Kornuth ceded the lead and Galfond bet small with $2,400. Kornuth called. On the {3-Hearts} river, Kornuth checked and Galfond potted for $12K. Kornuth raised all in for another $12,798 and Galfond called it off with {k-Spades}{7-Spades}{8-Hearts}{3-Clubs} after some thought. His boat was again beaten by {k-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}{q-Clubs}.

A four-bet pot would be the last nail in Galfond's coffin for the day. Kornuth didn't wait around on the {q-Hearts}{9-Clubs}{8-Diamonds} flop, simply potting into Galfond, who tanked a bit then stuck his stack in. He was in awful shape with {a-Hearts}{8-Hearts}{10-Clubs}{6-Clubs}, needing runner-runner to scoop against {q-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{j-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}. He did turn two pair with the {6-Spades} but a {k-Hearts} river didn't bring his miracle equity in.

Another day, just shy of another six-figure win for the challenger.

Hands Played: 500
Results: Chance Kornuth +~$99,000
Full session video

Day 15

After almost a week off, things continued to go Kornuth's way the first time they played for stacks on Day 15. Already down a several thousand, Kornuth saw a flop of {8-Diamonds}{9-Clubs}{6-Clubs} in position after calling a three-bet. Galfond checked to him and called $1,800. On the {9-Diamonds} turn, Galfond checked and faced a bigger bet of $4,800. He responded by shoving all in, and Kornuth tanked before calling off his last $11.6K with {k-Diamonds}{10-Spades}{8-Hearts}{7-Clubs} for the flopped nuts. He was leading but had many cards to fade as Galfond had {k-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{j-Clubs}{3-Clubs} for trips and a flush draw. Kornuth managed to dodge it as the {10-Hearts} fell.

Simultaneous big pots saw Galfond right the ship. On one table, Kornuth continuation-bet $1,200 on {9-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{q-Clubs} after three-betting, and Galfond made it $4,200. Kornuth called and check-folded to a small bet of $4,000 on the {q-Hearts} turn. On the other table, a raising war followed a {5-Clubs}{2-Spades}{7-Clubs} and Kornuth, who had three-bet preflop, showed {a-Clubs}{a-Diamonds}{10-Clubs}{4-Hearts}. That was crushing Galfond's {k-Clubs}{9-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{5-Hearts} but the turn and river were the last two fives so he just made quads.

A long stretch of pretty close to breakeven play followed. Galfond built his lead up a bit before Kornuth chipped back.

Finally, another big pot developed when Kornuth three-bet and bet big with $2,400 on {7-Clubs}{2-Spades}{10-Spades}. Galfond called and the {9-Spades} arrived. Kornuth checked it over and Galfond went with a small sizing of $2,800. Kornuth called, bringing the {5-Hearts}. Kornuth checked, Galfond potted, and Kornuth tanked before calling with something worse than a queen-high flush.

A four-bet pot would see Kornuth earn that stack back as {2-Diamonds}{5-Hearts}{7-Hearts} flopped. He bet-called it off in position with the expected {a-Diamonds}{a-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{2-Hearts} but had a lot of cards to dodge since Galfond had {k-Clubs}{8-Clubs}{6-Spades}{5-Spades} for a pair and a straight draw. The {7-Clubs} was a great turn for Kornuth and he made a full house he didn't need on the {7-Spades} river.

An unusual pot developed in a single-raised hand that saw Galfond check back the flop and Kornuth pot for $1,200 on {4-Diamonds}{a-Spades}{5-Diamonds}{k-Hearts}. Galfond called and the river was the {3-Diamonds}. Kornuth made an identical bet of $1,200 and Galfond this time raised to $7,200. Kornuth potted right back for $25,200. Galfond took some time then let it go.

The weirdness continued on a {5-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}{3-Spades}{10-Clubs}{a-Clubs} board. Kornuth had bet the whole way, going with a pot sizing of $6K on the turn. With $18K in the middle and $16,538 behind, Kornuth fired just $2,700. Galfond potted in for the remainder and Kornuth snap-called it off. However, his {a-Diamonds}{q-Clubs}{j-Spades}{10-Spades} ran smack into {k-Spades}{j-Clubs}{10-Hearts}{5-Diamonds} for the nuts, a very unlucky result on the river considering Kornuth's strength on the turn.

In the end, Kornuth reported losing $90K, roughly canceling out the previous session's win and breaking his streak.

Hands Played: 500
Results: Phil Galfond +$~90,000
Full session video

  • A losing streak buried Phil Galfond a bit, but he came up with a W on Tuesday to get back on track.

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