Pro poker player. Person.
So reads Phil Galfond’s blog tagline, and it’s also the order in which many people see him.
Galfond’s poker résumé is hard to beat. Aside from owning a WSOP bracelet, Galfond has won millions of dollars in high-stakes online cash games and runs one of the largest poker training sites out there, RunItOnce.com.
RunItOnce is also where Galfond combines his two descriptors to create a third: Mentor.
Teaching was always in his nature, Galfond says. In college he tutored and taught a KAPLAN course while he was attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Galfond even planned on becoming a teacher before he started playing poker and winning millions of dollars.
Galfond’s role as a tutor and mentor may have taken a backseat in his life but it never fully disappeared. In December 2012 Galfond opened his poker training site and got back to teaching.
Galfond: Realizes Teaching Dream via Poker
“I like it and I take it very seriously,” Gallfond said. “I realize that enough people are listening to me and I can actually make a difference in some people’s careers.”
The site has grown to become one of the largest and most respected poker training sites on the internet, something that Galfond hopes will continue.
“I like where [RunItOnce] is now and I like where it’s heading,” Galfond said. “We always have a lot of stuff planned but things take a long time. I’d just like [the site] to continue to grow and be respected as the best place to learn poker.”
The site and Galfond have seen their fair share of students. The most important quality Galfond sees in a student? Likability.
“[The ideal student would] have to be somebody that I want to hang out with,” Galfond said. “That’s the most important thing. Working with and learning with people or any kind of financial arrangement is best if you stick to good friends and people you enjoy.”
One of those people that Galfond enjoys to be around is fellow nosebleed cash game player, Tom Dwan.
Playing Tom Dwan Requires "Highest Level of Focus"
“I met [Dwan] my first time in Vegas. He was the friend of a friend, David Benefield,” Galfond said. “It was eight years ago, 2006.”
When the two online cash giants get together, they focus on things other than their game.
“We don’t talk a ton of poker,” Galfond said. “When we get a chance to see each other we just chill.”
But the topic is inevitable, especially since they often find themselves seated at the same table.
“So, whenever I play pots against Tom [Dwan] online I probably have my highest level of focus, because he has, I call it intensity.
“He’s always paying a lot of attention to a hand, so if you look weak, he’s gonna pounce on it. So I would always play against him with my highest level of focus.
“And we had a conversation recently where he said the same thing about me for some reason. I guess we give each other credit. We’re both pretty high intensity against each other.”
Online High-Stakes Games Always Changing
Staying on top of his game and keeping the intensity up is becoming more essential for Galfond, who says it’s getting increasingly difficult to survive at the highest stakes.
“The games are getting worse online. Yeah, it keeps happening. It hasn’t been great. The games have moved from No-Limit Hold'em to PLO and now most of the nosebleed games are either Triple Draw or 8-Game,” Galfond said.
“I can play triple draw but I’m not really strong enough to step into a lot of 8-Game lineups.
“I guess that’s my next goal because I think that Triple Draw, over the next two years, will kind of slowly die at high stakes so I think mix is next.”
While Galfond looks to improve his mixed game, he’ll also play in the largest tournaments in the world, perhaps even the Big One for One Drop.
“I haven’t figured that out, that’s the problem. I haven’t sold as much as I’d like to so far,” Galfond said.
Live Tournaments "More of a Sport"
The reason Galfond is diving into these tournaments isn’t money though, it’s about being the best.
“There’s something about [tournaments], like, so many times I’ll lose a massive pot in a cash game and I’m, you know, I’m a little dissapointed, but I bust out of a 3K, like early on, and I care more. It’s strange,” Galfond said.
“The way tournaments are set up it’s more of a sport. Because so poker players are competitive and they just really want to win.”
“Definitely pride, winning a tournament is a lot different. It’s nice to win the money, yeah, but winning in a tournament is much different than winning in a cash game.“
As for his own future, it’s as untethered as he is.
“I don’t know, it’s so unpredictable where the games are going to go,” Galfond said. “ I’m enjoying tournaments right now so I can see myself maybe playing a few more throughout the year, that would be fun.”
“Hopefully have some success there I think that would be kind of the next challenge for me. The thing is with me I generally don’t like to travel somewhere just to play one or two, so that’s what kind of keeps me from playing the circuit.”