Some of the great sports comebacks of all time:
* The 1978 New York Yankees were down 14 games to the Red Sox in mid-July, and went on to win the World Series.
* The 2001 New England Patriots started 1-3, were 5-5 more than halfway through the season, but didn’t lose for the rest of the season on the way to the Super Bowl.
* Phil Galfond was down over €900,000 after 10,000 hands of the 2020 Galfond Challenge to VeniVidi, but somehow came out a winner on the last day of the match.
And to be sure, that last one is just as impressive as any of the above.
On the last day of the first match of the Galfond Challenge — an open call for poker players across the world to play Pot Limit Omaha heads up online against the founder of the poker website Run It Once Phil Galfond — the eponymous champion completed an epic comeback for the ages at the buzzer to walk away a winner.
The terms of the match were that both players would play €100-€200 PLO every day until 25,000 hands were completed. If Galfond finished at least €1 ahead, he wins €100,000 from his anonymous opponent, VeniVidi, plus all the money contested during the match. But if he finished behind, he’d owe €200,000 on top of his actual losses in the game.
The hand that decided the winner was pretty epic. With about 80 hands remaining, Galfond on the button made it €600 to go preflop holding Qs-10c-10d-8d, and flopped a max wrap with an open-ended straight flush draw on Jd-9d-4c. Galfond bet the pot, the maximum allowed in PLO, for €1200 and VeniVidi called.
With the pot at €3600 now, the turned 4d gave him the weak flush on a paired board. Galfond wagered half-pot of €1800 and was called. But the river 10s was gin: it gave Galfond a full house with 10’s full of 4’s, and the owner of Run It Once poker smashed the pot button once again, this time for €7200.
When VeniVidi called with an under full house of his own, the €21600 pot was enough where Galfond could fold all the last hands of the match, and even though he’d be forefiting €300 in blinds every two hands, he’d still have enough to win the all-important side bet.
A maximum buy-in in this game was €20,000, and Galfond was down over 45 buy-ins about 40% of the way through the competition. To complete the comeback just minutes before the end of the months-long match on the final day was about as dramatic as poker can get away from a World Series of Poker final table, with over 26,000 people were live-streaming on Twitch at the peak. It shows that while poker might not be in its heyday anymore because of things like solver software and uninteresting game theory optimal decisions, there’s still plenty of people that love the game.
The best part might have been the reaction of Phil’s wife, actress and poker player herself Farah Fath:
April 12, 2020
Find someone that sweats your action the way Farah does her husband. That’s pretty cool.
Congrats to the Galfond’s, but there is no rest for the weary: Phil said he might be firing up the next match of his challenge with hedge fund manager Bill Perkins as soon as Tuesday. Just like a poker player, as it’s all one long session, amirite? NH, Phil. GG, Veni.