Interview: Phil Galfond
Resides: New York, New York
Best Known For: Playing highest stakes online as "OMGCLAYAIKEN"
One of the game's most accomplished young players, Phil Galfond, was able to free up a few minutes in his busy life to chat with us about some aspects of his poker career. In 2008, Phil won the $5,000 pot-limit Omaha with rebuys event at the WSOP for $817,000 and has accumulated countless more winnings from playing the largest cash games online.
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PokerTips.org: How many hours a week would you say you typically spend playing or focusing on your poker game these days and what games/stakes are you focusing on the most?
Galfond: The number of hours that I play is largely dependent on the games that are running. When games are good, I will try to play as long as possible which could be in excess of 90 hours a week but there are times when there's pretty much nothing to play for weeks at a time.
PokerTips.org: What game has been the most challenging for you to learn?
Galfond: Recently, I have been trying to learn triple draw and the HORSE games. It's been much more difficult than any transition I have made in the past. When I began my career, I was mainly a SNG player. The transition into cash games from SNG's was difficult, but at the core, it was still the same game and there were certain fundamentals that transferred directly into the cash games. With limit games, I have been forced to rethink many ideas and take a deeper look at the math of the game than I ever did with PLO and NLH.
It has also been difficult to have to learn at the highest stakes. While there are mid-stakes games that run, I find that I don't have the same level of concentration that I do when playing at the nosebleed stakes. It's been an expensive learning process.
PokerTips.org: Who are some other top high stakes players that get the most respect from you?
Galfond: There are so many great players today that I respect for their success at various aspects of the game. There are quite a few things besides overall skill level that go into making a great poker player and Phil Ivey comes to mind as someone that seems to have mastered all aspects of the game. His ability to succeed both live and online, cash games and tournaments and across all games shows that he is clearly at the top of the game. I also respect a guy like Doyle who has been able to compete at the highest level for decades, even against the internet kids who have played millions and millions of hands, and who have had access to learning tools that he never had.
PokerTips.org: Do you ever get recognized in non-poker settings? If so, what's that like?
Galfond: After my recent appearances on The Big Game and Poker After Dark, I have been getting recognized much more. I somewhat expect it every so often in Vegas or at tournaments but I am always a little shocked when it happens at a random place in New York City. I guess I didn't realize how popular the game is and how it's grown over the last few years. It's definitely a flattering experience to be recognized by strangers.
PokerTips.org: What can you tell us about some of the poker-related projects you're working on?
Galfond: I am the founder and lead pro at my training website BlueFirePoker.com. We launched the site over two years ago and I am very happy with the product. I picked all of the pros myself, and we've tried to keep the team small to keep the quality high.
I also started PokerStatic.com which is a poker media site. We have interviews with a wide variety of people within the poker community and discuss the latest happenings within the poker world. I am also the co-host of a podcast on the website loosely based around poker.
PokerTips.org: What is something that annoys you about poker players?
Galfond: As a primarily online player, many of the things that annoy me have to do with live poker. It can be frustrating when players Hollywood on decisions that they would make quickly online or if it wasn't being televised.
PokerTips.org: Is it true that you put a slide in your Manhattan townhouse?
Galfond: Yes, it is true. I bought two condos, one on top of the other. When I decided on buying them, I came up with the idea for a slide. I thought it was funny.
PokerTips.org: What are some hobbies of yours not related to poker?
Galfond: For 4 years, I was part of a professional improv company. I enjoyed it, but gave it up when I moved. I'm trying to minimize my commitments since I have so much on my plate already. I still go to see improv shows from time to time.
I was never much of a traveler but I have taken a couple of vacations outside of the country in the last year and a half and am considering traveling more often. I mostly just like being at home though, and I love watching TV.
PokerTips.org: Why did Tom Dwan exclude you and only you from being able to accept the "durrrr challenge"?
Galfond: Tom and I have been good friends for a long time. We both started playing poker around the same time and we climbed the stakes together. I am honored that he excluded me from the challenge, but I think it has as much or more to do with our friendship as it does with his respect for my game.
PokerTips.org: Do you think envision poker as a part of your life indefinitely or do you think a day will come where you'll have nothing to do with it?
Galfond: I think that poker will always be a part of my life in some way. Besides being my career, I really do love the game. I am very fortunate that I have been able to derive my living from the game. Ideally, I would like to reach a point in my life where I no longer need to play for the money, though I think that is at least a few years away.
PokerTips.org: Finally, do you think there's still a buck to be made for aspiring pros out there or has poker become so tough that they're better off keeping their day job?
Galfond: The poker landscape has definitely become changed over the last few years. It's become increasingly more difficult to earn a consistent living as a poker pro. There simply isn't the number of recreational players that there was 10 years ago. I think the most important thing to consider when weighing the decision to become a pro is to be realistic and objective in assessing your talent and the lifestyle you want to live. People often overlook costs that are picked up by an employer in other jobs like health insurance and savings plans. Taxes can also be a much larger expense than most people anticipate.