Ask anyone in poker who the most reputable player on the planet is and a straw poll is likely to come up with one name at the top of the leaderboard – Phil Galfond. The Run It Once Training owner and long-time lover of PLO has put together the ultimate course for those wishing to become a great at Pot Limit Omaha, entitled This is PLO. Here, we spoke to him about some of the core factors in how players become successful at the game and where PLO is really at right now.
The Galfond Challenge So Far
The Galfond Challenge has, of course, been the greatest advocate of Galfond’s skill in the four-card game. Some of the world’s best players have taken on Galfond, only for luminaries such as Chance Kornuth, VeniVidi1993, Bill Perkins, ActionFreak and Brandon Adams to come up short. Galfond’s current opponent is Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates.
“I love any action I can get,” said Galfond “and Jungleman is as fun of an opponent as I can hope for. The perfect combination of toughness and excitement.”
That’s for sure. Cates is not only known for his off-the-felt antics but also his propensity to crush in mixed games, including PLO. He is the back-to-back winner of the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, after all.
It’s time to see if the falcon can survive the jungle 🦅
We’ll play this Thurs-Sat from (roughly) 8am-Noon PT.
You’ll be able to catch me streaming on: https://t.co/95rCI2yhQt
Sub so you get alerted when we go live! pic.twitter.com/lUGQN6RvSj
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) January 30, 2023
Managed to turn it around to finish down “only” $35,000.
~5,250 hands left to play in this #GalfondChallenge.
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) February 4, 2023
Play PLO Within Your Means
Galfond’s knowledge of PLO is so vast, and he’s been playing the game so long. A lot of the mistakes players make can be eradicated by Galfond’s course but the variance is bigger in PLO, so a huge part of how someone moves from profitable to professional is how they can cope with those swings.
“I think it’s extremely important to play within your means,” Galfond says. “People try to do this, but I think they often fail to realize just how small they need to be playing to maximize their EV while minimizing their risk of ruin.”
Part of the This is PLO course teaches players to think like a solver rather than act on the basis of solver answers. But what does that mean in real terms for an intermediate player who is looking to become a crusher in Pot Limit Omaha? Humans aren’t computers.
“It’s impossible to memorize solver strategies. The only way to truly succeed in learning from solvers is to figure out how to transpose the solver outputs into human logic that they can digest and then draw on in any situation they find themselves in at the table.”
Heads-Up and Multi-Way Pots
Heads-up PLO hands vary hugely from multi-way, of course. Some of the easiest lessons to learn about the changes to make between hands boil down to a simple formula that Galfond is happy to crystallise. He goes into it in a lot more detail in his Run It Once Training course.
“In short, multiway pots create more incentives for small betting, including to clear up equity for pretty good hands.” He says. “In heads up pots, it’s more about getting the amount of money into the pot that your hand wants.”
Making a consistent profit in PLO is tough and this course really gets to the heart of this exciting variant of the game of poker – the ‘four card’ game so named because you receive four hole cards rather than two. What makes it so fascinating for Galfond is how a poker variant develops.
An Event Horizon for PLO
Galfond can see that PLO is approaching a kind of event horizon, a place where it cannot be improved further. So, what’s next for PLO?
“I think we’re already close to our final point of understanding in PLO, much like we are with cash game No Limit Hold’em,” says Galfond. “Solvers can tell us so much already, but the most successful people will be the ones who can extrapolate from what the solvers are telling us.”
Remembering His WSOP Bracelet Victory
Galfond has enjoyed a stellar career at the felt, winning three WSOP bracelets to date, two of them in Pot Limit Omaha. The first time he won a WSOP bracelet was in 2008, when he took down the $5,000 PLO event for over $817,000 – still Galfond’s biggest tournament cash. It’s not surprise that this is still his fondest memory playing the game live.
“It has to be the 2008 WSOP $5k PLO rebuy bracelet event that I won,” he agrees. “The table was star-studded, and it was my first big live poker score. And obviously, the bracelet meant a lot to me.”
Galfond is dead right when he says the final table was packed with stars. Players who made the final nine include Brian Rast, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, Johnny Chan and David Benyamine. It’s a huge honor to have put the hard work he’s put into PLO over the years into practice, and is closing in on $3 million at the live felt, let alone the millions he’s won online playing PLO.
This summer, Galfond will be heading back to Las Vegas in effort to put the nuggets of gold he teaches via his This is PLO course back into practice at the felt at the World Series of Poker.
“I’m not sure what this summer has in store for me yet, but I think I’ll likely play quite a bit!”
We can’t wait to see Phil Galfond back at the felt, online battling in the Galfond Challenge, and at the WSOP competing for gold again.