Phil Galfond: Nosebleed Cash Legend, Run It Once Poker Founder, & All-Time Great

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 087

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Today’s guest quite frankly needs no elaborate introduction to get you excited about hearing from him but I’m going to give you one anyway.

Phil Galfond is a living legend in the world of poker at the ripe old age of 35. What would be the career-defining highlight of pretty much anyone else’s poker career, having won 3 WSOP gold bracelets, is merely a footnote in Galfond’s journey through cards.

He’s the founder of one of the most prestigious training platforms in poker, Run it Once, and is doing his damndest to realize his vision of providing the poker world with the platform he feels we deserve at Run It Once Poker.

If you’re not living in the US and you have not checked out Run It Once Poker, I exhort you to go do that right now. It simply isn’t enough to sit back and complain about the way platforms treat their players. If you want things to change for the better because you love this great game of poker as much as I do, you have to start taking action and do whatever you can to support the good guys in this world.

In my conversation with Phil Galfond, you’re going to learn:

– His poker origin story from PartyPoker SNGs all the way up through the nose bleeds.

– What I believe to be his superpower that has allowed him to thrive in a way almost no one else has.

– Phil’s advice on bankroll management and why he’s never been afraid of taking his shot.

– And much, much MORE!

And before we dive into the show if you’d like to be more efficient in your poker learning while gaining focus and clarity so that you skyrocket your game check out

Once more time, that’s

Now without any further ado, I bring to you one of the most brilliant, humble, and influential human beings in the world of poker Phil Galfond.

Click any of the icons below to find the CPG pod on the platform of your choice. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Phil Galfond on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.

If this is your first time on the Chasing Poker Greatness website, be sure to check out our groundbreaking poker courses to help sharpen your strategy and profitably implement solid, data-proven solutions to your game today:

Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 087: Phil Galfond

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Brad: Welcome, welcome, welcome my friend to the chasing poker greatness podcast. As always, this is your host, the founder of, Brad Wilson. And today’s guest, quite frankly needs no elaborate introduction to get you excited about hearing from him, but I’m going to give it to you anyway. Phil Galfond is a living legend in the world of poker at the ripe old age of 35. What would be the career defining highlight of pretty much anybody else’s poker career, having won three WSOP gold bracelets is merely a footnote in Galfond’s incredible journey through cards. He’s the founder of one of the most prestigious training platforms in poker, Run It Once, and is doing his damnedest to realize his vision of providing the poker world with the platform he believes we deserve at Run It Once Poker. If you’re not living in the US, and you’re living somewhere where you can play on Run It Once Poker, and you have not checked it out yet, I’m exhorting you to go and do that right now. It simply isn’t enough to sit back and complain about the way platforms treat their players. If you want things to change for the better because you love this great game of poker as much as I do, you have to start taking action and do whatever you can to support the good guys in this world. In my conversation with Phil Galfond, you’re going to learn his poker origin story from Party Poker sit and goes, all the way up through the nosebleeds. What I believe to be his superpower that has allowed him to thrive in a way almost nobody else has, Phil’s counter intuitive advice on bankroll management and why he’s never been afraid of taking his shot, and much, much more. Before we dive into this show. If you’d like to be more efficient in your poker learning, while gaining focus and clarity, so that you can skyrocket your poker results, check out One more time, that’s Now without any further ado, I bring to you one of the most brilliant, humble and influential human beings in the world of poker, Phil Galfond.

Brad: Phil, Mr. Galfond. Welcome to the show. How you doing, sir?

Phil: I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.

Brad: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. It’s my pleasure. You’ve been somebody that I’ve looked up to in the world of poker, I’m sure you’ve never heard that before, for a long time,

Phil: Thank you.

Brad: And you kind of, you know, one of the top 10 biggest influences in my own career. You’re a cash game guy primarily, so that’s obviously very appealing to me. I wanted to start out at the very beginning, actually. I’m going to ask you to go back in time, and I want to know your story. How did you get involved in playing cards?

Phil: Yeah. Okay, let’s do it. Let’s go back. I, I guess from the age of 12, or at somewhere between 12 and 14, I started playing cards with my friends. And it became like the main activity we do when we get together. None of the games that we played are anything that I’ve like that exists on any, you know, online poker site or in any card room, but just gambling. And I wasn’t, I was probably average. I wasn’t you know, particularly I wasn’t a standout in any way, maybe a little above average, but there was no like, there were no thoughts of strategy really yet. You just kind of, just kind of played. That stopped or slowed down when I was 17 or 18, my last couple years of high school. And then I

Brad: What has become?

Phil: I think actually it was just our group of friends didn’t really disband, but I was hanging out with different people. And that game, and like so are other people so the game kind of died down.

Brad: Yeah, broke up.

Phil: Yeah. And went to college, didn’t think about cards. I had also at that point, like I’ve played some, I’ve even played like online blackjack. I liked to gamble. But yeah, once college, didn’t think about cards, and then, you know, the boom happened. So, I started college, the beginning, at the end of 2003. And somewhere around the end of my freshman year, so early 2004, a friend of mine from those games, who I had known since we were five, reached out to me, and he said, well, he actually, first, he won a tournament on Party Poker for like, $30,000. And this was the talk of our friend group of course. We weren’t really in touch that much, or I wasn’t really in touch with them, but I heard about it. And he reached out to me specifically and said, Phil, you know, I, I picked up some strategy books, and have been, you know, learning to play well. And I think he’d be really good at this if you try. And so, I don’t know, I like the sound of that. So, I did go and pick up a couple of books. The first one I read, I don’t remember which it was, it was not a particularly good one. But the second I read was, Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players by Sklansky. And through that, I found the Two Plus Two forums. And I started playing sit and goes on Party Poker in early 2004. And it became, once the semester ended, so like summer of 2004, I was playing, I played a lot during the summer. And was part of the sit and go forum on two plus two, which at that time, those forums were very, very helpful. And there’s a lot of strategy content. And I became, probably it wasn’t until the end of that calendar year that I think I became a winning player in this $10 sit and goes.

Brad: Oh, wow. So, you’re playing a lot and we’re not an, was not an active winning player for a while.

Phil: Well, I guess I was not playing that much until, it’s tough to say. I, I was playing a lot over the summer, probably not playing very well. And it was around I guess end of summer must have been when I found two plus two and started taking more seriously and reading strategy posts that were specific to sit and goes because like hold’em poker for advanced players. I mean, haven’t read it in over a decade. It was great book, as I remember it, but it didn’t tell you much about how to play a 10 handed Party Poker sit and go.

Brad: It was limit hold’em too.

Phil: It is mostly limit hold’em. I had a couple of examples I believe that were no limit hold’em. But, but yeah, I didn’t teach me much about that. And so, it was through reading two plus two mostly and talking strategy, started posting on two plus two, I think around then. And that’s how I became a winning single player, which is was easier than, than it is today. But it still was, you know, an accomplishment.

Brad: I did want to ask you about your thoughts on this, because I hear a lot of times folks will be like, oh, if I would have played poker 10 years ago,

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: I’d be an instant millionaire overnight, right? And just like shaking my head, like, you know, the game was easier. But that was because everybody was worse. And there was so much less information, right? There, you still had to try. A lot of people still failed even back then. What are your thoughts when you hear somebody say something like that?

Phil: Yeah. It’s, it’s tough to say for sure. I think it would have, I think starting from scratch back then would have been easier. But I don’t know if it would be that much easier. What I think would be a lot easier is going back to 2005, having a friend who was really good, and starting them because yeah, because it, you didn’t have to learn as much to be successful. And, and if you knew somebody who, who was really a really strong player, they could get you there I think pretty quickly.

Brad: Which is, what happened to me.

Phil: Nice.

Brad: I had a spades partner, again, a card game completely separate than poker. We played Yahoo’s spades with each other and like, constantly chatted, we were regular partners, and then his mom was a blackjack dealer. And he fell into poker, like at the end of high school. And then three years later, he’s like, hey, I’m making a living playing poker. I think you’d be good at this same exact kind of, kind of thing. And I just never looked back and he was really way better than me. He, very intelligent guy, strategy oriented and without him I don’t know if I would have been as successful as I was in the beginning. It would have taken me a lot longer on my own. But you find two plus two, which like you said back then was just a fertile ground for poker talent and crushers, all concentrated in that one forum. What was something, what was like a catalyst when you made the jump from like beating the $10 sit and goes to moving up the ladder?

Phil: That’s a good question. And if I’m being honest, I don’t exactly remember. I kind of felt like I was doing the same kind of stuff for a while there as I went from, it was weird. I kind of, I would move up through the stakes, I never had good bankroll management early in my career or late in my career. I, I

Brad: What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that? I do want to press

Phil: Okay. I, I always kind of pushed it with taking shots at higher stakes. And so, I always was aggressive with you know, bankroll considerations. But I do, one thing I always was able to do and still unable to do if necessary, is to just take your shot with, you know, fewer buy ins than you should, buying in if you ask anybody in poker, but then just step back down and rebuild. And that happened to me a lot, that I would move up, you know, to a stake where I had, let’s say, in sit and goes like 20 buy ins or 15 buy ins, and then lose five, and then I go back. And I would do the same in cash games, move up to a stake where I had, let’s say, 12 buy ins, lose two and then go back. I did that a lot. I don’t know if it, it wasn’t really, most of the time, it wasn’t really a calculated strategy. It was that I wanted to try, I wanted to move up. I was excited. I had a little gamble on me. But I do think it is a viable strategy in a situation where you are skilled enough to beat the bigger game. Because there are a lot of scenarios where you know, you move up, you run good instead of bad. And now your, your earned is much higher than it otherwise would have been. So, I do think that if you’re fully capable of stepping back down, mentally resetting, not chasing your losses, which I’ve always been able to do, then it’s, it can be a pretty good bankroll management or lack thereof, strategy. But yeah, I always was like that. And the incident goes, I settle, I was playing tennis for a while or elevens, 33s, and 109s. Those were like my main, my main, I don’t know, stops along the way. I played the other stakes in between some, but those were the ones that I kind of settled out for, for longer periods of time, remember,

Brad: You know, I played it a lot of those sit and goes on Party Poker back in the day. Two hundreds. I do want to ask you about something that is kind of near and dear to my own heart.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: The step tournaments.

Phil: Yep.

Brad: How did you do in those? I’m assuming, just hearing this little bit about you that you took your shot.

Phil: I did

Brad: You did battle in the step tournament. So, tell me about that.

Phil: I did pretty well. I believe if I remember correctly, I never really settled at the two hundreds. I barely played two hundreds. I was a 109 guy for a really long time. And the steps came out. And I did play. I played a reasonable number of 1Ks and some 2Ks but they didn’t run super often. And I don’t remember exactly, but I did, I know that I was a winner in the 1Ks or you know, in the 1Ks and 2Ks combined and a pretty decent winner. And obviously there are some run get involved in that.

Brad: Those are super fun tournament structures

Phil: They’re really exciting. Yeah.

Brad: I was like, I was a pro and I had a roommate who you know, had a day job and like he battled in those step tournaments for like, three months, it seemed like

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: He was just like going up and going down and going up and going down. And then he finally made it to the final one and bubbled.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: And he was like so devastated. Like three months of work. But I mean, he got his money worth for

Phil: Yeah, yeah.

Brad: Buying in and just getting to play in so many of those step tournaments. If you don’t remember, if you’re listening to this and you don’t remember this step tournaments, were basically, you know, the, the highest tier was the only tier that you could make money. And you would win tickets based like top seven, go to the next tier, like the bottom one. And then you just take, keep taking steps up and at some points like five, the top five progress, but then six and seven, just go down a step or get to replay the current step. And so, you could get stuck in step purgatory for a while,

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: But they were they were just a super fun thing. Speaking of two plus two, I know that this is kind of jumping forward in the future. But I know like the dirt challenge. You were on the exclusion list. I think the only person on the exclusion list.

Phil: I was. Yeah.

Brad: Because you all were friends. So how did this friendship come about? And was Tom Dwan, you know who was the most influential person in your circle at that time?

Phil: That’s a good question. So, the, the kind of crew that I ran with was the Two Plus Two like I, guys I met in two plus to sit and go forum, and Tom was kind of on the fringe of that group. Like he was a friend of a friend, basically for a long time. And knew him through Dave Benefield basically, his friends with Dave and actually roommates with Dave. And so, I met him through Dave we, yeah, I would say for even a couple of years, didn’t talk that much directly. And he was playing, you know, I was playing high stakes sit and goes and then 5-10 cash after, like, while he was playing 5100. And so, he was he was, you know, well ahead of me in terms of stakes and things like that. He was in a different league. He was always, always really nice. He wanted to know very well. And I mean, we’d have some conversations about poker. But it wasn’t until I started being interested in playing PLO, which was a couple years later

Brad: What, how did that come about? Why, why did you transition to PLO? What is it about PLO that you just love?

Phil: So, we’re jumping pretty far ahead now, because I was already at this point, by the time I started playing PLO, I was playing nosebleeds no limit cash.

Brad: Okay.

Phil: And the reason that I got interested in PLO is because the nosebleed action at no limit was drying up a little bit. And there were just constant games running at 200, 400 PLO.

Brad: Yeah. Let me, let me interrupt, sorry

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Let me close this gap.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: How do we go from like, the 109s to the nosebleed, right?

Phil: Yeah, yeah.

Brad: How did that transition happen?

Phil: So, I, the summer of, so when I was 21, so that must have been 2006. Yeah. But that summer, I went out for the World Series poker, stayed in house with a handful of these guys. And that was the point where I really progressed my game. I guess, actually, I should go back like three months prior, I decided to start learning cash games at the suggestion of Peter Jetten, who was played sit and goes, move to cash said, you know, convinced me to try cash, so you can make more money playing cash games.

Brad: Do you make any decisions? Because everybody convince you to do these things.

Phil: I was, I guess I was impressionable. I don’t know. I, I’m sure that people told me to try things that I didn’t try. But I did, I was kind of comfortable in whatever I was doing at the time. And so it kind of took someone else to come up with the idea for me to try. So, I was, I wasn’t really thinking about trying other things like especially the unknown, I just, you know, you could go on the Two Plus Two forums and read about high stakes cash, and people could guess their win rates and things like that. And before I tried cash, I believe it was like the prevailing theory in the sit and go forums were sit and goes were a better place to play with regards to burn rate compared to bankroll requirements. So, until you got to the top and couldn’t play any higher, it didn’t make sense to play cash. I don’t know. I don’t remember. Well, if that’s true or not, probably not.

Brad: But that’s the highest for sure.

Phil: Yeah,

Brad: The sit and go thread.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: The sit and go part of the forum. So, there’s certainly biases there. And, you know, what you mentioned is, it’s a cognitive bias, like the, the ambiguity effect, we don’t know if an outcome is going to be positive or negative, but what you’re doing is working, it is positive.

Phil: Yeah. Exactly.

Brad: So, it’s really hard to switch to something, you know, to venture into the unknown.

Phil: Yeah. And I will say, to your point, I, so compared to my peers, I’ve doubted my own abilities. And in comparison, you know, thought highly of other’s abilities much, much more than anybody I know. And, you know, I’ve over the years met a lot of successful players, super smart people, who just 99% of people, they don’t care what they have to say. They, they think they know better, and then a lot of cases they do. But I think I’ve taken it too far, perhaps like, at least in terms of reality. I have taken it too far the other way. And I think I’ve routinely assumed that people knew better than me. And so that did lead me to kind of taking advice probably more than I should have and not making decisions for myself for a while.

Brad: What are the benefits? What do you think are like the hidden benefits of underestimating yourself, seeking out opinions from people that you respect regularly?

Phil: It’s a good question. There are definitely benefits. I think most of the benefits that you see in kind of the are the, the examples of the downsides of being the opposite way. And I’ve known a lot of players who have had been overconfident and kind of stagnated because they refused to, to question their own strategy. I think that yeah, like I said, I probably was too far in the other direction. But yeah, I think the benefits of being wired the way I am, is that you never, you never think you’re too good to learn. You always think you have room to improve. The downsides are, is you’re too quick to doubt yourself, and to lose confidence in yourself, whether it’s, you know, you’re playing in a game and you and you have some bad results and think you can’t beat it. Or you want to make a play, that’s, you know, a little bit riskier, but you kind of don’t trust yourself or you think that that your opponent is, is too good and they’ll figure it out. You think your opponent knows what level you’re on or his level of headache ahead of you, and may shy away from making a good play. Because you think they’re going to figure it out. So those are the problems I’ve run into over my career that I’ve had to kind of push through. But yeah.

Brad: It’s, confidence is a weird word. And I’ve always, I’ve always found it odd, the poker players conundrum of needing to be humble, so that you can learn and continue growing, but also straddling the fence of putting a challenge against anybody in the world to play in, heads up PLO against, right?

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: This is a funny tightrope to walk, especially, you know, for you, I’m alluding to you, I have not challenged the entire world yet.

Phil: Not yet.

Brad: But, not yet. But it’s just a funny, funny mix, personality mix. And I don’t think it’s coincidental that you have had the amount of success that you have had, being so humble, and regularly questioning all the things you do. I think that it can be seen as negative, and there are negative aspects to it. But I would much prefer the humble player, constantly asking questions, and constantly thinking deeper than a player who’s on the other end of the spectrum that just thinks they know all the things and are resistant to growth.

Phil: Yeah, I would, I would very much agree if we’re talking about, you know, students, or low stakes, small stakes players or people getting into the game, because overconfidence when you don’t know that much is really detrimental or

Brad: Right

Phil: When you think you, think you know a lot and you’re wrong. At the highest levels, though, I think I disagree, and not for any kind of like, logical reason. But more just, anecdotally, most of the people who I know who play very high stakes are very confident. And so, I do think that a lack of confidence can probably get in the way, if you are very, very good. I don’t know why we exactly that is, but it just eah. Anecdotally, a lot of the players who play, who are very, very successful, I, I think kind of lean, overconfident.

Brad: It’s interesting, because I, as you progress, like, like, you have to have humility, but then it’s also like, you have to have confidence in the face of people disagreeing with something, and you have to stick to your, be able to stick to your guns and like, run a big bluff that may look crazy to the world and may look crazy to the people that you interact with. But you have to say, like I can, I’m going to objectively look at this, and then make draw my own conclusion. And if you’re still convinced that you did the right thing, then you know, you have to you do have to have the confidence to stick your guns in a situation like that. And this is probably one of the reasons why I think poker forums degrade over time is you get so many people just agreeing with one another.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: And folks are afraid to disagree. And even, like in my case, I never really participated in two plus two, because it was like, if you posted an opinion, that’s like, not standard, nobody’s going to care,

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Like nobody’s going to give it credence, you’re just going to invest a lot of energy into the thing that is just completely ignored. And I just realized, like, okay, I’m never going to be somebody that settles with standard, first of all, and second of all, like, why am I going to spend my time doing this, right? Like, I want to talk to a guy that’s like, yeah, I’m going to look at this objectively, and I’ll tell you if you’re being dumb. However, maybe there’s something good in this that we ought to explore and like, these question marks in the decision tree are often where we can find the edge, right? Like that’s where the edge comes from. And a big edge can come when the community is 100% certain on a thing that is not 100% certain, you know, doesn’t merit 100% certainty.

Phil: Yeah. No, there are a lot of those spots that come up.

Brad: Of course, of course. And let’s go back a little. So, you’re leveling up. How do you, how do you make it to nosebleeds first of all, like, where does where does that transition come from? Is it you’re sit and goes, you start playing cash?

Phil: Yeah. So, when I started playing cash, I basically dropped sit and goes entirely. And I mean, I jumped right into 5, 10 Cash, which I had the bankroll for, but is would be ill advised today, certainly. But the games were, you know, softer back then. And my kind of sit and go, strategy, which, you know, the early levels didn’t go strategy, which was basically being a net was enough, I think, to make me at least breakeven at the beginning, when there are so many wild players who were putting in way too much money post flop. I was definitely too tight and too uncreative to start, but I mean, got to start somewhere. But I do think even right when I jumped into 510, with no cash experience, I was probably a favorite. Not a big one, but probably just, just by being too tight.

Brad: Well, let’s just like if three guys are losing, and the average loss race rate for like a fish is 20 to 30 big blinds, well, that’s 75 big blinds divided amongst three players, for a hundred, right?

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Like it’s not, it’s not super crazy to think that a tight strategy is just going to take some percentage of that money that the recreational players are losing.

Phil: Yeah. But there were definitely, I mean, the good regulars, I can still look back and remember like, Blood Sweat Tears, who was the top, top winner at 10-20 on party.

Brad: That’s Brian Roberts, right?

Phil: No, it’s not. He was, well actually, I don’t know what he was on party. But no Blood Sweat Tears is somebody who is I don’t, I believe he’s very private. And

Brad: Really?

Phil: Someone I known. He is screen names on like full tilt and stuff were known after words and stars, but I don’t know his real name.

Brad: It’s

Phil: Not all people do.

Brad: That friend of mine that I came up with. I remember him battling. I call for some reason I pronounce it like Blade Swatters. I’ve always thought of it as like Blade Swatters, but now that you say it, it’s Blood, Sweat, Tears, and like, my friend battled him. Unsurprisingly, my friend would go broke a number of times in his poker career through bad,

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Bad game selection. He’s choosing like the alpha at the biggest steak on party to pick a fight with but, I do remember that guy very, very specifically.

Phil: Yeah. And I remember he, so he was one of the first two, three bet very aggressively. And three better range. That’s probably, that’s actually, you know, too wide today. But it worked very well for him. And I can just, I can still remember myself, as you know, I was, I was a pro technical or a lot of semi pro. But you know, was not that great at cash. And I just remember thinking like, man, he’s, he’s through reading so many hands, and he’s betting flop and he’s just like, betting again, a lot on the turn. So, I’m just going to call and like, when I fought a big hand, I’m going to get them. And

Brad: How that worked out?

Phil: It didn’t work well. I call so many three bets fold the flop so, so often, fold the turn so often, and then maybe like, raise the flop or, or maybe or bet the turn if he checks with a big hand and then need to fold it. So, like, he absolutely crushed me and so many other players who just didn’t understand the consequences of well, yeah, under defending on the flop in turn, or, and actually, I would probably over defend preflop against his three bets, because I was excited to flop a big hand and bust him. Yeah, it was, so like, I was getting beat by the good players, for sure. So, if that money spread out, you know, I was getting a lot, I was getting less of theirs, and I was losing some of it back to the better players

Brad: And that dude, he was insanely aggressive. Like, I remember him being just insanely aggressive compared to the other people in the pool. And like, you know, what happens when a guy is that aggressive is like, he knows how humans react to pressure, because he has the experience dealing with humans reacting to his pressure. So, like, he’s not just going to give you a stack when you flop big, right? Like he’s going to realize that like, oh, this guy’s taking an aggressive action. Typically, they don’t do this. The population is going to under bluff, therefore, I’m just going to over fold and like when you’re the aggressor, and you’re pushing it like that, and guys are just sitting back like a lottery ticket.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: You’re just going to get smashed. Like there’s nothing I love more in a cash game than just being super aggressive and guys just falling in line. When they stopped three betting me, when they stopped playing back at me like, I feel untouchable.

Phil: Yep. Yeah. So that, I mean, so yeah, he and a few others, probably after him figured that out and did really well. But anyways, I was a 5-10 player for a long time. I actually never was like a steady 10-20 player either. So, I was a 5-10 player for a long time. I started doing very well at 5-10 and then I played a little bit on Full Tilt and UB, didn’t play any stars yet. And on those sites, I’d take some shots, sometimes 25-50. Occasionally, occasionally 5100

Brad: How do you feel, how do you feel moving up?

Phil: It’s exciting. But you know, the first several shots didn’t go well. So, it was stressful.

Brad: Yeah.

Phil: I’m going to, I have a very memorable, had a very memorable session 50-109. I mean, my bankroll was, was 100,000. I was buying in 10k. And I lost. And I was playing against, like a true fish, which is why I was like, well,

Brad: Yeah. I have to do this.

Phil: Yeah. And I’m, I lost, I think almost half, half of that bankroll for dropping back down. But, but yeah, there were, there were times like that. And it’s funny, I, I, that shot that didn’t go well was very memorable. A few times, I would play like 25-50 and 51 on UB. And I play like it was mostly six max games, but there’s a lot and those guys that I looked up to and saw playing the big games, those are memorable. But actually, I don’t really recall the time that, that I took the shot and it stuck. But I know it happened. But it was just I don’t know. The, the painful memories are the ones that stand out a little bit more.

Brad: Isn’t that how it goes in live?

Phil: It is.

Brad: We remember, we remember, we’re, we’re programmed to remember the times that we touch the stove and it’s on and we burn our hand and not the thousands of times we’re navigating this stuff and nothing happens.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: So basically, it just stuck. And then

Phil: Yeah. So, it was 5-10 for a very long time. A couple shots at 25-50 or 10-20. They had 1025 on UB also, but 25-50 across a couple sites, step back down to 5-10. I mean, this happened a few times. And then at one point I was 25-50 player. And from there, alright, this was mostly full tilt then played a lot of 25-50, 6 max no limit. Played some heads up. It was kind of weird because I didn’t specialize in any, like I didn’t specialize this upper 6 max. I just played both. And yeah, that, like,

Brad: What were you, do you remember like your thought process back then? Like, was there a goal? What was the end goal where are you hoping to reach?

Phil: I can distinctly remember back when I was playing 109s, that I really wanted to play in some like, like WPT and WSOP, like 10k tournaments and like, win a title and, and, you know, be famous, get out, you know, play a televised tournament basically. And so, I had even, I sat down and like, did some math on my ROI and how many hours I could put in each month. And I was like, okay, well, if I play this much, then maybe, you know, every month and a half, I’d go play at 10k and

Brad: Get bank roll management.

Phil: Yeah. So that was my goal at the time. I didn’t hold on to that goal for long. I did, I did go play a couple of 10Ks as soon as I turned 21, but I broke even. But by the time I was playing 25-50 on Full Tilt, like the whole Full Tilt era, it just felt I was just trying to make money to move up. It was like kind of like a video game. And like I wanted to get to the next level. I wanted to beat the next level. And then I wanted to beat the next level. And it was all like, I didn’t want money for any real-world things at that point. I just wanted to move up and compete. And I don’t know if, I’m sure there was some element of you know, wanting the glory. But in some element of just, you know, when you play a game, the goal is to win and the goal is to progress. And so, I just I mean, I’ve played a lot of video games to kids. So maybe that’s just in my head. It’s like, okay, this is what you do. And I remember times like you would, you’d play, I’d be playing 51 Heads up, and I’d be like, okay, I’m I think I’m ready to try it 100-200 level. I just go look in the lobby. And if, if the only person sitting was Phil Ivey, I just sit with him because I was ready. I was like, okay, it’s 100-200 level time. It wasn’t like, it wasn’t about earning money. And it wasn’t about maximizing my EV. I was just like, I want to try the next. I want to move up, basically.

Brad: Do you know where that comes from? Like any idea, because not everybody’s programmed in this way. Clearly

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Because there’s very few people that breached the rarefied air of 200-400 heads up and sitting against Phil Ivey, just because you want to, just because he’s there.

Phil: I think I have a weird mix of this, you know, a lot of self-doubt, with this kind of little thing in the back of my mind of like, a kind of fantasy of like, what if I, what if I could be the best? Like, what if I could be wildly successful at this? And so, I would never, it was never that I thought, that I really thought I would be or could be. But it’s like, I thought maybe there’s a small chance, you know, and so I’d never find out if I don’t try, I guess. So, I guess it was that like, a, it’s tough to add. I don’t know how to define it. Because it’s not that I thought I was going to be the best. I never thought that that was probable. But I guess I always wondered, you know, what if I, what if I could be.

Brad: This, this alludes to, you know, foreshadows the future.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: I would hit with run it once poker, and just why it is in existence, right?

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: I think it does foreshadow. I don’t want to skip ahead to that part of the story, though. I want to go back. But like, I think I can relate to this, I hope the listener can relate as well. But it’s like you just, at the end of the day, when the lights go out, when the curtain is closed, you want to know what you’re made of, and you don’t want to look back and think, I think I could have done it. And I wish I would have got involved. I wish I would have just tried just so I could know, just so I could rest with the knowledge that like, maybe I wasn’t good enough. But maybe I was.

Phil: Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, we all, in some way, even if we know better, like we all live our lives through our eyes, and we’re all kind of like, the star of our own movie. And I think you, you, yeah, you just kind of wonder, you hope you always you know, dream big whether you think it’s realistic or not. There’s the, at least for me, there’s always the dream. I remember, you know, when I was 14, I played high school football, and I was like, oh, man, what if one day I could be in the NFL, which had 0% chance. 5 foot 6. But yeah, he just always like, so that’s to show even when it was irrational, it’s not just like I, I had that wonder in poker. And actually, maybe it and I actually kind of did it. I just had that and everything, you know, that I was interested in. Like, what if I could really, really compete at a high level, like that

Brad: What was your home life? What was the influence of your parents on, on that thought? Because I feel like it’s an important point.

Phil: They, I mean, my, I had, I had a very good childhood. My family was very supportive. I was the first grandkid on both sides. So, I had a lot of love and attention from, from all around, all angles. And as I was, especially as like a very little kid. I was, I was very advanced. And so not only was I the only, the only kid on, the only grandkid on both sides, with a lot of, with a big warm family. But I was you know, being told that I was yeah, you’re sorry.

Brad: You’re smart. You’re

Phil: Yeah. Special. Yeah. So, I’m sure that that contributed, somewhat. I mean, I don’t, I didn’t, like if you were to look through my, I mean, I was I was pretty poor student. Like I, like 3.0 student.

Brad: Me too.

Phil: But yeah, but I just never did any of the required work. I never studied. I think I built bad habits in like, you know, elementary school, because everything was super easy. And I get straight A’s without trying. And then by the time you get to middle school, high school, you can’t get straight A’s without trying or I couldn’t at least that was mean.

Brad: Me neither. We’re not smart enough.

Phil: Yeah. So, I built some bad habits there, I’m trying to think, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know other than that what contributed to it. But I guess yeah, being told I was special, from an early age could have, could have contributed.

Brad: It can’t hurt, can it?

Phil: Well, I mean, I think it can hurt in, in a lot of ways, and I think it could even contribute to some of my self-doubt. Like if I’m, if I’m like, if I’m doing something with no positive reinforcement, because I grew up so used to positive reinforcement.

Brad: That’s a great point.

Phil: So, let’s say I go, whatever, I post a training video and then nobody says anything. I think like, oh, maybe this was bad. Maybe, I guess, you know. So, I think they’re, look everything that you everything that happens you in childhood, like it’s you can’t get out of childhood without issues.

Brad: Exactly. You can’t. But it’s better, better to be like positively reinforced than negatively reinforced.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Better to think you can do too much than to believe that you can do too little.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: And so, you moved up the stakes. Now, I think we’re an appropriate time to introduce the relationship with Tom Dwan and his influence in your PLO career.

Phil: Yeah. So, once I was interested in playing PLO, I mean the thing about Tom that he was always just extremely generous with his friends. And, you know, I was, I mean at that time, probably playing, I was already playing high stakes no limit, but not like he was battling the best in both games all the time. So, you still, he was always tier above me. And we were, I was playing some WPT in Toronto, like Niagara, I think. And we were all staying in a hotel, a bunch of us. And he’s just like, hey, I know you want to learn PLO? If you just want to come up and watch me play for a while, just Let me know. I was like, yeah, I’d like that. And I use always just very, yeah, sure. Watch me play, ask me questions. And like, didn’t mind just having me next to him? He’s playing, you know, 200-400 PLO, six tables. And yes, ask a question if you want. He was always very generous with that. And I mean, I, it’s not like, I learned everything from him. But it’s obviously, you know, a very lucky, fortunate situation to have to learn from one of the best. And the really special thing about Tom is that he, you know, we talked earlier about kind of me, taking advice of others too much, and all that. I kind of think of him as the prime example of the opposite. And he, like he wasn’t interested in what to post you thought was standard. He wasn’t interested in what Clancy’s books said. He just figure things out on his own. He had his own theories. And, you know, more often than not, they were right, sometimes it had him doing some dumb stuff. But more often than not, he was doing things that, you know, he realized were good before any of us like that we wouldn’t dare to because not what the book says.

Brad: Right.

Phil: You don’t do them.

Brad: Exactly.

Phil: So, he was, he’s a great person. No, for that reason, because it kind of opened your mind to other things

Brad: To the possibilities.

Phil: Sorry, if there’s background noise. There’s

Brad: No

Phil: Baby.

Brad: I understand. I can’t, I can’t hear anything.

Phil: All right. Good.

Brad: But it was like something I alluded to earlier that was like, you know, the Blood Sweat Tears. He’s pushing people, he’s getting deeper in the decision tree where he has plans. And other people don’t really have plans. They’re kind of winging it.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: And like, there’s just something to be said, like, in life, it seems so obvious. Like my grandparents, I cannot convince them to try sushi. I can’t do it. Like not one time, even though the downside is so small.

Phil: Right.

Brad: You don’t like it. But the upside is, you get to enjoy it the rest of your existence, right. And poker, in some ways is similar. And that, yeah, you can do things where you look like an absolute idiot.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: And like, if you’re okay with that, you can also learn things that you can use forever into the future, not forever, because the game evolves, but for a long time into the future

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: That’s above the rim that will take a while for the general population to catch up with. And so like, I’m always pressing my students like, I want to see you punt. I want to see you be creative. I want to see you take shots, because that’s where the gold is, like, in my opinion.

Phil: Yeah. No, I agree. And I mean, I still like, I still remember like, I mean, that sounds silly to people who, you know, are, have only been around poker for five to ten years but, or less, but like back then when you three bet, you see bet. And I would watch Tom, Tom with like, three bet and not see bet. And, like, why are you doing that? What’s going on? But, yeah, like, that’s like, like I said, a lot of the things that he did, you know, turns out, they were better. We didn’t know at the time and, and, you know, he was bluffing in spots where people had zero bluffs because they always had shown him value and they would never turn like a shirt on hand into a bluff and a lot of things that seems silly to players now. But back then, you know, the game wasn’t as advanced and the kind of common, you know, wisdom, yeah, just didn’t have you making plays like that.

Brad: What’s interesting is there’s so much, you know, there’s so much to gain. I did an episode of this show, breaking down a hand it was a tournament hand, and it involved Kevin Rabichow. And only accidentally, he was only on like, the periphery of the hand where like he limped a button. And then he wasn’t even involved in the rest of the hand when I was like, telling my, my student this. I didn’t know who Kevin Rabichow was. Like, I look it up. He’s like, let’s see the player who limped on the button. I’m like, it’s Kevin Rabichow. He’s like, oh, he’s my favorite run it once coach. And I was like, oh, and so like we go into like breaking down the hand. And the point that I tried to make was like, if somebody does something who you know is thinking at a high level that is against what you currently know, you should likely investigate that something’s happening there. There’s something that you don’t know that they know. And so, try to figure out, like, when a great player is doing something that just goes against all of your instincts and all your conventional wisdom, it’s probably a good opportunity to dive in deep.

Phil: Yeah. Definitely. I and, you know, fortunately for me, I’ve always been open to things like that. But I do think now, now we’re talking about it, I do think I kind of stayed within the kind of framework of what I’ve learned from other people for a very long time, even as I was a successful high stakes player and I think my skills kind of, or my edge came more from I guess, hand reading, and then, then, you know, then my game plan. I think I just, and so anyways, so I learned a little bit from Tom about PLO, I was watching carpenters videos, I was watching a whole bunch of Brian Hastings and Brian Townsend PLO videos. And I’d say I probably learned most, most of my PLO game from Brian Hastings, his videos.

Brad: Nice. And when, when Dwan did the famous Dwan challenge and excluded you, any specific reason for that or you all were just too good a friends didn’t want to risk the friendship?

Phil: I think he, I think it was a couple things. One, you know, we were we were good friends. He knew I wasn’t going to take him up on it, anyways. But he had other friends who weren’t going to take him up on it that he didn’t, didn’t exclude and so I think it was that and he did respect my game a lot and I think he felt like it was the right thing to do to not include a challenge to me because he didn’t want it to look like you know, by me not accepting that I, that I was you know, not good enough.

Brad: He also carried your bone too.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Because people, people were like the one guy is not playing. who’s this Phil Galfond guy? Like, let’s, it raised your profile

Phil: That’s it.

Brad: In a big way. I mean, we’re talking about it right now because of that, right?

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: That’s, that’s a very generous thing for him to do like in retrospect for just you.

Brad: You’ve heard me talk early and often about how improving your awareness while you’re playing cards so that you make better decisions in the moment and notice trouble spots that merit deeper consideration is one of the most valuable things you can do to make more money on the felt. In my conversation with the only four-time WPT Main Event champion ever, Darren Elias, he told me that his ability to shut out all of the distractions in the world and fully focus on making great decision after great decision is his superpower he most attributes to his success and you cannot improve your awareness at the tables without being fully present. When you learn how to stay fully in the moment on the green felt, you can finally have a clear path to becoming the absolute best version of yourself. Which leads me to Jason Sue. Jason is one of the foremost authorities on the planet when it comes to playing poker with presence. As a matter of fact, he even wrote the book on it. Here’s a direct quote from Nick Howard at poker detox on Jason’s ability to help you stay focused. Quote, Jason’s work is a new paradigm in poker and performance, end quote. And these aren’t just empty words. Nick has put his money where his mouth is by hiring Jason to coach up the poker detox crew. And as a loyal listener of chasing poker greatness, you know, by now that I would not be promoting anything I didn’t 100% believe would improve your poker skills and your life. So, if you want to master your emotions and perform at your peak with presence while doing battle in the arena, you’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you didn’t check out Jason’s work at One final time, that’s

Brad: Let’s stop the story right now. So

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: We’re in the age of full tilt, you’re playing the nosebleeds. A lot is going to happen after you buy your slide

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: And the infamous slide. Right now, I want to ask you a couple more questions about, you know, the journey, and what would you say I hate breaking, hate breaking this up. But what’s the most unexpected thing that had happened in your poker journey, we’ll say up to this point?

Phil: Right. Okay. So up to that point, it was all you know, I just had no expectations and so nothing kind of felt unexpected. I was just like, I was a kid playing a game and, and just going wherever it took me. So really nothing stands out to me at that point of something, something particularly unexpected.

Brad: What do you make of that? What do you make of not having expectations? And can you, can you, you know, expand on that?

Phil: There is, I mean it, there’s definitely, there are definitely some advantages to being young without responsibilities and without expectations and the kind of the, the wonder, and the fearlessness that that comes along with that. You know, I was playing, I was playing 300-600 no limit when all of my friends were, we were broke college kids. And it, and like I had used none of my money. And the only thing that, like, if I lost it all, I knew I’d be fine. I’d be like all my friends, I’d be fine. And so, there was a, it really did for the longest time until I moved to New York, bought an apartment and a condo and put a slide in, as you mentioned. It wasn’t until then that that my money was real. It was just in this game. It was just points in the game that you used to, I mean, I knew it was money, obviously. But it was the perspective is so much different. And you know, I just had no idea what my future was going to hold. I was, it was, yeah, it was a long time before I decided to kind of go pro or make that my, my sole focus. And yeah, it was just, you know, it’s, it was really fun and exciting game. It never felt like a job to me. And just that, yeah, kind of go with the flow. And yeah, it like, yeah, that mentality of it being a game, I think, I think served me very well. And a lot of other players too.

Brad: There’s a story that comes to mind, I believe it was Kevin Kelley on the Tim Ferriss show. When he was in college, I believe it was, he decided to learn what it would be like in a worst-case scenario. And so, he backpacked around in Europe, had no money, did like odd jobs to survive, ate, you know, Vienna sausages or Brahmin new whatever’s like ultra-cheap stuff to eat, and just camped every night. And his takeaway from that experience after like six months, maybe a year, was that if everything goes horribly wrong in my life, it’s not so bad. This is not such a bad thing to happen. And so, I do see the parallel that you were like, if everything goes wrong, well, then I’m just like my friends, a broke college student, and it’s not the end of the world.

Phil: Yeah, life is still good. And there’s definitely you know, over time, especially once you spend your money for the first time, you start to kind of grow like you start to develop an attachment to it.

Brad: Yeah.

Phil: That’s when that’s when it gets more scary to risk it. Which is, I mean, both a good and a bad thing. Like it’s, it’s good to have some better bankroll management and to have some savings set aside and things like that. It’s not, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But there’s definitely, you know, when you can play with no fear at all. It’s quite helpful, I think.

Brad: Have you grown less risk averse, as you’ve gotten a family, as you have expenses and bills and going through your life?

Phil: Yes, but not as much as I probably should have. I think it’s, I have this, I have this mentality that kind of no matter what happens, I’ll be able to figure it out. And I do think, I think right now that like if, if we’re really think about it happens to be true, because I’ve got, you know, I have the ability to play, I have the ability to teach, I have a brand. So, if I actually just went entirely broke, or in debt, I think I could pretty easily land on my feet so that it actually is true for me now, but I think I kind of had that feeling before that was true, and then probably still would have that feeling if, if that weren’t true that I would figure it out, you know, it’d be a challenge. And there’d be some, some tough times, but I would figure it out. And I mean, in some ways I’ve, I’ve been like the last several years has been a struggle with, you know, pouring so many resources in run it once and poker. And so, I am kind of coming in the

Brad: Tell me about the struggle. Is there doubt? What does that struggle look like and feel like?

Phil: There’s, so there’s, there’s been more like in the last few years has been, I’ve had more financial stress than I have, I guess at any point in my career. And it’s because you know, running run it once poker I’ve put so much money in, it has taken like, not only my own money, but anything that’s come through run it once training that would have been profit has gone in and, and yeah, and it continues, has continued to require more. There’s doubt in look, I mean, I don’t know, I’m, I’m confident in and what we’ve built so far, and what we’ve been built a little while we are still building, very confident in the product that we’re building and pretty confident in, you know, our ability to make good decisions for the business and our kind of vision for the types of policies and features that, that, that should exist in the poker world and could be successful. But there’s definitely a lot of doubt that it’s going to work. But that’s just realistic, because the challenge of growing from a very small site, it just being a small site presents so many challenges. I mean, namely liquidity. When you don’t have liquidity, your products worse. And it’s really hard to compete with a site that has, you know, traffic at whatever, 100 an hour, all day, every day. So, it’s an uphill battle I have, I have some, you know, I don’t know whether it’s going to work or not. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s like, doubt in the, in what we’re doing. But more just kind of being a realist, and, you know, the, the challenge of building a site from scratch and fighting that uphill battle against competitors that are already so big, is a challenge that that may be too big to overcome, even with us doing everything, quote, unquote, right?

Brad: I hope not.

Phil: I hope not too. Yeah.

Brad: I hope, I very much hope not. The reason you may be on this show is because of the blog post that I wrote. And it was just, when I look at the poker landscape, especially in the United States. It’s so bad right now.

Phil: Yeah, it is.

Brad: There’s such limited options, nobody’s innovating. Nothing is improving. Customer service is getting worse. Like it’s almost like in the last 15 years, you know, we talked about the, the step tournaments and party, like they’re innovating. They’re trying new things that had never been done, because there’s competition in the market, they’re trying to differentiate themselves. And that’s just stopped happening. And I want run it once poker, I say this with every fiber of my being, I want it to be successful, because I, it is, number one, I trust you. I think that I trust you to look after the player and to think about the player. Because this is what I think about all the time is like the players experience how do we do the right thing for the players and you’re the, you’re the one entity that I know, is going to put the player first. And so, I want to do anything in my power, my audience’s power, your audience’s power, like what can we do to give run it once poker, a higher chance of success moving forward?

Phil: It’s a great question. And I think we’re, you know, we’re kind of seeing the, the how limited we are as a community in terms of kind of, well, making things happen and giving consequences to both, you know, good and bad, actors. We’re seeing, you know, people complain about this site or that site, yet, the traffic is still there. And when you’re a poker player, whether it’s recreational and you’re playing for fun, and you want a big guarantee, or you want traffic at the time that you’re available to play, or you’re a pro and it’s your livelihood, it’s really difficult to, to go against your best interests in an effort to, quote unquote, do the right thing.

Brad: Prisoner’s dilemma.

Phil: Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s and I wouldn’t ask anybody too. It’s, it’s a really big challenge. You know, what people can do to, to help run once poker is to play when they can and when there’s if there’s volume at their steaks, or they can try to start games at the steaks they play. And it’s, you know, people, obviously people with audiences can, can spread the word. But realistically, it’s, it’s a challenge because, you know, it’s tough for you to tell, you know, if you have students and that are trying to earn a living playing poker to tell them to move, their bankroll and their volume to a site that has their stakes running 1/5 of the time as often as, as PokerStars, or GG poker, or whatever it may be. And so, it is really challenging.

Brad: The biggest challenge is like, a lot of your audience, I don’t know how much, you know the analytics, but I would assume the majority of your audience are US players. Like you have a lot of, a large American audience that cannot play on run it once poker.

Phil: Yeah. I think about, I think probably half, I mean, it depends what you’re calling my audience. But I think about half is probably US based and they can’t play on run it once poker. And you know, there are others in countries that can’t play, whether it be Australia or France, or, with us.

Brad: Is there any talk of, you know, some sort of partnership to get you into the US, like somebody, whatever, partnering with some land-based casino or something that wants to fund a transition to online poker in the US, is this even possible?

Phil: It is possible. And it’s something that, you know, we’ve talked about and periodically have, have talked to individuals or businesses about. But the, the problem is, you know, we’re not feature complete, or we don’t have a full platform yet, and we’re working towards it. But the problem with, with trying to arrange any kind of partnerships like that, is, you know, we have to say, hey, we need your help, you need to invest in us, so we can finish developing our platform faster. And then, you know, in a year, we’re going to have this, this and this, and we’ll be completely ready. And you know, they, they have, anytime somebody is, is kind of pitching another business or individual on what they’re going to be able to do and where they see the future going. I mean, people are used to that being exaggerated, and you said that, you know. Whether it’s exaggerated intentionally or unintentionally, because, you know, the founder’s expectations are unrealistic. It’s hard to, I think it would be something that’s more viable once we’ve completed our product. But 


Brad: One can make the argument that GG is feature incomplete. And that in the US is feature, incomplete. Like one could make these arguments that there’s still a lot of room for improvement on these

Phil: You could? And I mean, I think more so on the WSOP side. But they have, you know, they have cash games, they have sit and goes, they have multi table tournaments.

Brad: Yeah, that’s true.

Phil: And I think that, I think probably, you know, getting sit and goes and multi table tournaments complete, even if we don’t have all the features that we’ve trumped up would be enough to kind of make us well, at least, well, yeah, it’d be enough to make us feel that we have, you know, mostly complete product and would definitely be enough to make other people feel that we have complete product, because, because those are a lot of the things that we might want to add beyond that are unique and you know, aren’t needed if we’re comparing us to somebody else.

Brad: I hope, I hope you can figure out a way to reduce stalling This is my, this is my biggest pain point in life, it’s stalling. Online and in real life, I think like instead of model is so, instead of models broken, when stalling becomes the thing that generates profit, like it becomes like a good strategy. Like when a thing is a good strategy that is bad for user experience, to needs to be rethought. And the incentives in my opinion, ought to be reconsidered.

Phil: Yeah, I completely agree. And I mean, we saw that kind of in the, we’ve seen one when GG when we saw on social media when GG is banning, banning winning players and things like that, or players that exhibit certain behavior, you know, an argument that I saw that I agree with is if certain behave if, if you don’t want players to behave in a certain way, then you need to, you need to adjust your game structure, your, your games to disincentivize it.

Brad: It’s pretty obvious.

Phil: Yeah. That’s why, yeah, and that’s the way I feel as well. Now disincentivizing, stalling, I think it takes a lot of creativity. And I got, we’re, we’ve, we’ve, we’re so we’re still, you know, quite far away from completing MTT. So, it’s actually not something we’ve, we’ve brainstorm recently. It’s something we probably talked about four or five years ago and haven’t revisited, but I do think there’s always a way or there’s always at least a partial way to get creative and think of some things that, that improve experiences like that.

Brad: For sure. You could give people chips for taking under a certain amount of time over the course of a tournament like incentivize them by increasing their stack and giving them like free chips. You can, you can do it and a bunch of ways. And I’m putting kind of putting the cart before the horse here, because just get the MTTs out, Phil, so people can play. And once you have critical mass, and you’re raking in the money, and everything’s good, then you can innovate and create the platform that you’re dreaming about, right?

Phil: Yeah, it is. It is always tough because on the one hand, we were a new site, or we’re I mean, we’re not as new anymore. We’re small site competing with a lot of big sites. And so, I do think differentiating ourselves is important when, you know, if people want to play, whatever, whatever traditional poker, with all the same features that they’re used to, there are better places for them to play.

Brad: You’re under estimating one thing. You’re under estimating you, and how much people love you. And how much people would say, I want Phil Galfond to succeed. I’m going to play in these tournaments on his site, because I feel good about giving him my rake, I feel good about supporting him and his product. I think that’s like, that’s the most important ingredient to the whole, the whole thing is like, if you have a thing that is exactly the same as stars, I can tell you, folks will want to play on your thing over stars.

Phil: I sort, I partially agree. But it’s not going to be when we launch tournaments, if we launch tournaments tomorrow, which we’re not going to sorry. It would not be the same as stars, because they have a $6 million guarantee or, you know, however many tournaments a day, and we’re we won’t be able to support that. And so, I do think, I mean, I think what we’re seeing with our cash games, we have people who do, we do have people who play just because they want to support us. And we have a lot of people who play it because they love the software, and they love the games, and they actually would play even if they weren’t trying to support me. I think what we do get that is really helpful is we do get people who will, will share stories about us, will write stories about us, will stream when they probably wouldn’t have if we were or if we were, you know, uni bet, who I mean, they’re bigger than us. And they’re actually, I really like uni bet. I’m not, I’m not saying anything. I mean, like, I think that actually, because we’re, because at run it once and because of me, we get, we get more of that than we, quote unquote, deserve for our size.

Brad: Yeah.

Phil: So, I do think we have a leg up in that respect. I mean, if you look at, if you go to poker scout and look at like, cash game traffic, we get more media coverage than you know, half the sites that are better, have more traffic than us.

Brad: Yeah.

Phil: So, we do have that going for us. But at the end of the day, are people going to come over and play, you know, like, are they going to keep, keep part of their bankroll on our site so that they can play the, the weekly, whatever 100k guarantee, when they have, you know, they can have that every day at whatever other site?

Brad: In the back of my mind, you never know until you try and

Phil: That’s true. That’s true. We’re going to try.

Brad: You got to start somewhere, right?

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Like, maybe you don’t get a Sunday million right away. But everything starts, everything has got to start somewhere.

Phil: Yeah. No, and we are trying and, you know, we’re small team. And, and I’m always kind of faced with the reality of how slow development is, like, not happening. It’s not, it’s not a problem unique to us. It just is how it is.

Brad: It’s life.

Phil: It is life. And, and I’d love for things to be, you know, released as soon as I can think of them, but we are, we are working towards it. I do think we’ve continued to get, like we’ve continued to improve as a company in a lot of ways that that the public doesn’t see. And that includes our, our development team and kind of the speed at which we can turn things around and test things and I’m excited about where we’re heading. It just you know, not there yet.

Brad: I hope that you keep on keeping on and that you will eventually get there. I genuinely do.

Phil: Thank you.

Brad: Let’s, let’s move on to a lightning round, which is not always so lightning, but we’ll try

Phil: I warn you. I’m terrible at lightning rounds. And I

Brad: I believe you. I’ve seen your videos on run it once.

Phil: Yeah,

Brad: One hand. We’re 25 minutes in to like the turn, turn analysis of one hand. But that’s okay. I think the audience won’t mind. When you think about joy in your career playing cards. What’s the first memory that comes to mind?

Phil: I guess winning my first bracelet. I can, 2008

Brad: Why that, why then, why was that so impactful?

Phil: It was, you know, even though I had kind of past that point that we talked about earlier, where I was like, I just want to play these big tournaments, I want to, I want the glory. I wasn’t thinking about that as much, but there’s still that part of me in there that, you know, I mean, a bracelet is a bracelet, and I had, I had achieved a lot when it comes to I mean, specifically in online cash games, but, you know, I wasn’t recognized by, by, by anybody outside the online poker world, and it just felt very legitimizing, even though I knew that, you know, winning a tournament is largely variance. You know, your, your parents don’t know that. And your friends, don’t your, your friends outside of poker don’t know that. And, yeah, it was a bit of a dream come true.

Brad: That’s awesome. It’s a glory. You know,

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: It’s the prestige, the prestige is in the winning the big tournaments. The cash game players don’t get the prestige, we just kind of fly under the radar and

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Make our living anonymously and nobody knows. But yeah, I could, I see the appeal of the prestige, right? Like, it raises your profile, it allows you to create content, and people will buy it because you’re a bracelet winner now, even though like effectively, you’re not a better poker player than you were a week ago.

Phil: Right.

Brad: It’s just a credibility indicator. The opposite question. When you think about pain in your poker career, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?

Phil: There was one session that I lost. I think I must have lost like, 400k when I had, like, 800k. So, I lost half my bankroll in one session. Yeah, I mean, and that was like, I had, I had, obviously was playing higher than I should have. And so, I’d had some, some downswings like that. But yeah, that one was particularly painful, because it just required such a big step down and was such, like a big difference in terms of where I was at just from, you know, over the span of six hours, or whatever it was.

Brad: Yeah, it’s a pretty tough

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: Losing half your bankroll 400k over the span of six hours.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: How long did it take you to recover after that, mentally?

Phil: Mentally, it never takes me too long. I think probably, like, normally a pretty significant loss, I’m over, for the most part, like the next day, that probably took maybe three days. But I do, I do a pretty good job of, right, I think I do a very good job of, all it requires is for me to kind of reset and accept my new reality. And once I do, and I’m like, okay, so now I, now have 400k. That’s not so bad. And, and now I’m going to play these games, and I have a new goal. And I’m going to work up from here, as soon as I kind of get out of the mindset of this is where I was. And this is where I, you know, like, how far I have to go to get back to where I was. Yeah, I get over it pretty quickly. And that’s so like, during a session where I’m losing a lot, it’s, it’s a struggle for me. I’m sad. But as soon as like, sometimes as soon as I get out of the session, but a lot of times just the next day. Once I mentally reset, I recover pretty quickly.

Brad: Is this always been the case? Has this something that’s improved over time?

Phil: No, it’s always been the case. And I don’t know why that is. But you know, I’m very lucky. And it’s, it’s the reason I’ve, I’ve never struggled with like, taking shots and then moving back down rather than chasing losses, because I, I like, once I, once I have kind of my new baseline and, and my new reality, and yeah, I’ve accepted my new reality that I’m just excited to, to make progress from there.

Brad: So, it puts the time you took off at in the middle of VTVT into even more context

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: As to how much of a struggle that was recalibrating.

Phil: Yeah. Because even, even for most of the downswing, even when I was down, you know, 600k, I really felt like, I can make the comeback. I was really thinking about, like, well, getting back to even and beyond. And once, once I took the break, I was like, you know what, I’m probably, I’m probably not going to come back. But my new reality is, you know, here’s where I’m at. I’ve lost this much money. And let’s, I think, I think I can be a favorite. So, let’s earn some EV. Let’s, let’s like put up a good fight and let’s make you know, make a little money from here.

Brad: What made you think you had some EV after getting your face broken, session after session after session?

Phil: That’s a good question. I, I just really felt like, and I was starting to doubt it towards the end, for the break. I really felt like, I don’t know, I just really felt like I had an edge. I saw things that he was doing that I thought wrong. And I thought I could take advantage of obviously, these are super strong player, I don’t mean to imply that anything else. But I really felt like

Brad: We’re human here, fallible. This is not, you know, you’re never going to reach perfection in poker.

Phil: Yeah, and I don’t know, I really felt like there were some things that I could take advantage of, and some spots where I understood, like some spots that I understood better than him. And I felt like my, my kind of strategy was pretty sound, and I was still struggling with confidence. But over the break, I also played a lot, not a lot, but I played a good amount of just like 5100 zoom and 2550 zoom against a lot of good regulars who were considered to be as good, as many some, some considered to be better. And I had good results. And it wasn’t a massive sample, but it’s reasonably big. And I was, I was, I don’t know, I, at that point, I’d played like, 8 or 9000 hands against him and was losing it. Some, I don’t know, like 40 big blinds per 100 or something. I don’t remember. But, but then over, like, almost half that many hands. I was winning at that same rate, which obviously was variance in both directions, but it did help me like, well, it’s, it helped me regain the confidence. And me, yeah, and remove some doubt, basically.

Brad: Did you have thoughts of quitting? Like that, it was a heavily considered option.

Phil: Yeah. There was, there was basically never a point where I felt like I’m, where I felt like, there was never a point where I thought it was more likely than not that I was an underdog. I never thought I was an underdog. I mean, I, I knew at all points that I could have been wrong. But there was never a point where I was like, you know what, I think I’m, I think I’m probably outmatched here. But at the, there was definitely consideration to you know, what, the side bad equity is gone, basically, like my chances of making a full comeback are next to nothing. And why don’t I just like, move on at some other challenges against people who are not as tough? Why don’t I just move on? Play those? And you know, what, what am I really, like, why do I need to continue playing him when the when the cyber equity is gone? But

Brad: Yeah. It’s the one thing me and Nick Howard actually did a podcast in the middle of this, where I declared you just dead in the water is still exists. And, like me and Nick Howard, you know, we went deep into like, the mental game aspect of it. And also, like, you know, you had action freak coming up, who some people thought was a stronger player than Venividi. And what do you do about action freak when Venividi is crushing your soul, right? Like, how do you approach that match? Should you just concede the action freak before it begins, right, like,

Phil: Right.

Brad: These are, I think they’re legitimate questions that ought to have been considered. I don’t think that you because of the positioning of your company, and the challenge and everything. I don’t really think that’s a reasonable option. But it was a thing, though, I think the one thing that I did not take into consideration or didn’t put any weight into was, at no point during this thing had we seen Vini’s reaction to a downswing.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: We never see Vini’s emotional response when things just didn’t go his way. And I think that that was something that I probably undervalued or underappreciated when I was thinking about how you were going to proceed after being stuck, almost 900, I think.

Phil: Yeah. I mean, and that argument kind of goes both ways. Because a big part of a heads-up match like that is, you know, when things are, like, even at the highest levels, when things are going your way, you’re confident, you can execute really well. You, you don’t, you don’t have much fear and making the plays you think are best. And when things are not going your way, it’s, it’s kind of the opposite of that. And it even goes as far as like, if somebody is running good, you don’t really get a sense of like, not just how they handle it emotionally, but how they handle as many difficult spots and hands and like, maybe, maybe you like get into a certain situation, and you get check raised 40 times, and you call 20 of them, and they have value 90% of the time. And so, you’re like, are they bluffing enough? Are they not bluffing enough? I don’t really know because he just keeps having a good hand. So, there’s actually like, you don’t, you don’t even get to learn a lot about the way your opponent’s playing when they’re running really hot. So, in one way, like you said, it’s an argument for you know, my kind of edge up to that point or like the edge, one way or the other, you know, I was fighting against the odds as well, like, there were things going against me that contributed to my win rate or loss rate as well. And maybe if they shifted the other way, it would shift things a lot. But there’s also, this was a heavy consideration for me for quitting the match. Like, even when I come back after a break, these things are still kind of true, he’s still going to be confident, I’m still going to have these doubts. I still, he’s still like, perhaps has like an informational advantage in the way that like, he’s seen how I play in these, like marginal hands and tough spots. And I just keep seeing him have the knots and so I don’t even know how he’s, how he’s playing those spots. So those things are still true. Okay, it goes both ways.

Brad: Yeah. You could have, you know, you look like a hero because of the result.

Phil: Oh yeah.

Brad: It could have gone the other way, right. You lost 900k once, you could have lost 900 more, there was nothing preventing that outcome. I hope you had a documentary, filming this thing, like, this is like

Phil: I know.

Brad: The greatest poker story. Like,

Phil: I wish, I wish I did. I wish I did. Obviously, I didn’t know it’s going to play out the way it did. Like, and I kind of thought that a bit, you know, well. Obviously, I had some thoughts about trying to, you know, put together some sort of mini documentary after the fact, but I just think, I think they needed to be there. Like I did film, I did film all my sessions, including webcam. Don’t have any plans what to

Brad: I want to see, I want to see the wife’s, the wife’s reaction, like oh, man, they’ll sat on a beach. Sitting in a cabana, somewhere just like, ah sky. Like then the montage in the desert where you just come back and, you know, bring it all home?

Phil: Yeah

Brad: That’s what I don’t

Phil: We don’t, we don’t have that, unfortunately.

Brad: Okay. We got about 10 more minutes here. Let’s, more lightning-y

Phil: All right.

Brad: Less round-y.

Phil: Okay.

Brad: If you could gift all poker players one book to read, poker or non-poker, what would it be?

Phil: That’s really, really hard. Especially because I don’t read many books,

Brad: Piece of content. Just something that is important to you.

Phil: This is not very lightning-y. That’s expected.

Brad: I love to film an interview of I don’t read very much. I wasn’t very good at school. And

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: I’m a degenerate with my bankroll management.

Phil: That’s, that’s, that’s the truth. Man, I guess, I’ll just I’m going to go with Elements of Poker. Because it’s one of the few, few books I’ve read that I can remember. And I do think that you know, any, any kind of, I think learning how to, about how to handle yourself as a pro and how to handle tough situations is a lot more important than anything you’re going to learn strategically from, from one source.

Brad: Tommy Angelo will probably love that he’s coming on in a couple of weeks for round two.

Phil: Nice.

Brad: So, he’ll probably be super happy that Elements of Poker got the, got the shot.

Phil: I think Tommy’s always happy.

Brad: I know.

Phil: It’s just

Brad: He is, you know,

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: He’s like, the whole like poker go tournament that was going on on Twitter. Like he’s emailing me like, this is the most fun I’ve had since Twitter. I just love this. Like, he’s just always super upbeat and happy. And like, that’s something that I’m, I’m jealous of, because I go, I go through my phases of happy and then not so happy.

Phil: Yeah, no, me too. I, he’s, it’s amazing that, that he’s able to do that. It’s pretty awesome. Or at least it seems like obviously we don’t know what goes on.

Brad: Yeah, we don’t know. The first conversation I had with him, he did mention a time that he wanted, he considered suicide because of a bad, bad poker session. So, like, this is like, this is the reality, I think in that, like with Nick Howard, and diving into mindset and spending so much energy in a mindset. You almost know that somebody who becomes an expert at something, like somebody that becomes an expert and being happy and living a fulfilled life has probably been through it.

Phil: Yeah.

Brad: And this is the other side, right?

Phil: Yup.

Brad: They’ve been through all the things and this is the natural evolution of them.

Phil: Yeah, definitely.

Brad: If you could wreck, if you could erect a billboard every poker players got to drive past on the metaphorical way to the casino, what does your billboard say?

Phil: Oh, Run it once, study you.

Brad: There you go. Shameless promotion is just like I wanted. What’s something people would be surprised to learn you’re horrible at?

Phil: Well, okay, I’m not, I’m not horrible at, but people will probably be surprised that I’m, I’m probably like, average at doing math in my head. Arithmetic.

Brad: That’s reasonable. I think math is both overrated and underrated in poker.

Phil: I’m good at math on like a general level, but not at, yeah. Not that

Brad: Not a Bill Chen’s level.

Phil: Right. No.

Brad: Not, not comparing ourselves to Bill Chen. There’s a carbon copy of Phil Galfond. Right now, 20 years old, you get to sit down with him and give him some wisdom. What would you say to young Phil Galfond?

Phil: I would say kind of follow up, do things that you’re passionate about. And follow your passion. Things that you’re interested in, have fun doing. And these are all kind of clichés, but I really believe and, you know, surround yourself with people that you like being around.

Brad: Has that ever been a problem, for you?

Phil: Not, not necessarily in like, I wouldn’t say either of those things have been a problem for me. But I, like I think everyone, you know, sometimes you end up with friends or acquaintances that you’d rather not be around or working with people that like, you might say, okay, well, yeah, this person is, is not that pleasant to work with. But they’re so good at this thing. Or, you know, I think they you know, I’ve maybe like, yeah, this person, maybe I don’t know if I trust them or not, but like, they could help me learn poker really well, like, I just yeah, just, even if it basically like, in those cases, I’m not saying it’s the best path to success in poker or another career, but you know, life’s also about enjoying your life.

Brad: Oh, my God.

Phil: Yup. You can you know, if you have slightly lower EV, whether it’s with a poker coach or poker student or business partner, whatever it is, whether you have slightly lower EV being like, but, but enjoy all your time and avoid the stresses of negativity. I think it’s well worth it.

Brad: Yeah, it’s something I see, I saw it at Commerce, like, I was playing 60 hours a week. And a lot of the guys that I played against, were miserable. Like the rags, they’re just miserable. And it’s so sad to me. It’s so tragic that like you’re spinning your lifeforce, being miserable, like, we’re on a journey here that’s meant to be enjoyed. And you’re just not happy, like find something else that makes you happy, right? Like, all my experiences in poker are all centered. My favorite things that I’ve gained from the game are friendships and relationships, and like spending time with these guys, and like laughing at the table and having a good time. It’s not just the grind with my head down. And like the biggest pot that I’ve won, I don’t know the biggest pot that I’ve ever won. But I can tell you specific memories when people became you know, they went from acquaintances to friends that will last a lifetime. And like, there’s nothing more valuable than that to me. So, just enjoy the ride. If you’re on your poker journey, enjoy your time at the table. If you’re going to spend 60 hours a week doing something, you may as well enjoy it while you’re there.

Phil: Absolutely.

Brad: Okay. So, we’ll wrap it up. Final question. Where can the chasing poker greatness audience find you on the worldwide web?

Phil: Probably, I mean, the best place is Twitter, @PhilGalfond. But, is where I create training content. And you can interact with me there, comment on my videos, ask me questions. And of course, is probably won’t find me and to interact with on that website. But

Brad: You’re there in spirit.

Phil: I’m there in spirit. Yeah.

Brad: And also, since you’re funneling your money from run it once poker to the poker platform, I think one way to support the venture is just have a run it once training account, right?

Phil: Yeah. You can, you can do that from the US. You can do that anywhere.

Brad: Awesome, man. It’s been great having you on the show. I really hope we can do this again in a couple of years and you’re just balling out of control. And you know, RIO is making its US debut and all the good things are happening because honestly, we need you. Like I am not super excited about the trajectory of poker, right, as it stands today.

Phil: That’s why, that’s why run it once poker was founded because I was, I was nervous about the trajectory of online poker. So yeah, I’m doing everything I can. I’ll continue too, definitely.

Brad: Awesome brother. Take care, be safe, have a great rest of your day and catch you next time.

Phil: Thanks. You too. 

Thanks for reading this transcript of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 087: Phil Galfond

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