Poker professional Phil Galfond once won $1.6 million in one day of poker. Not bad for a guy who started off with a $50 online poker deposit from money he earned as a camp counselor.
Although still young, Galfond has seemingly been in poker forever.
He was born in Rockville, Maryland, and grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He describes his childhood has normal, and happy.
Although a self-described “poor student” in school, he claims to have tested very well, and was able to pass by with “B’s” despite a complete lack of motivation.
Phil has a brother who is three years younger, along with a sister who is eight years younger.
Video games and football were big parts of his childhood, and he played a lot of “Diablo.” He also dabbled in soccer and tennis before beginning his obsession with football. He played running back.
Phil Galfond’s Poker Background
Like many of the online superstars, he considered poker to be a fun video game – albeit an incredibly lucrative one.
He started playing card games for money when he was 12 years old. And, like most other players, became more interested in poker after the 2003 WSOP. Yet unlike the masses who wanted to be the next Chris Moneymaker, Galfond says he always enjoyed watching Dutch Boyd.
(Go here to read about Phil Galfond’s training site).
In his senior year of high school, he and a buddy started playing online blackjack and some online poker.
During the next year, his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin Madison, (he was going to major in philosophy), a friend of his bragged about winning a Party Poker tournament and $30,000. Phil says it was hearing about this big score that opened his eyes to poker’s potential.
Phil subsequently picked up several poker books including, “Hold’em for Advanced Players” and made his initial $50 deposit on Party Poker, playing $10 sit-n-go’s.
(Here’s Phil laying down a boat on High Stakes Poker)
As might be expected, he lost that initial $50 quickly, then deposited another $50, and was able to run that up to $250 – less than a small blind in some of his current games, but a fortune for the then-19 year old struggling college student.
The Sit-n-Go forum on the twoplustwo.com poker site was instrumental in helping jump the learning curve, and soon he was able to rise from the $10 sngs, to the $20 tournaments, then onto $30, where he stayed quite awhile.
(Go here to read about Phil Galfond’s wife, Farah Fath)
Although he considered getting a part-time job his sophomore year, a look at his online poker stats made him realize that he was making in the neighborhood of $20 to $30 per hour playing, and that this, (poker), WAS his part-time job.
Galfond kept learning, reading, and eventually moved up to $100 and $200 sit-n-go’s. He enjoyed the “Party Steps” back in the day at “Party Poker” and recalls doing well at the top step, the $1,000 sit-n-go’s.
A fellow poker friend convinced him that online cash games were more profitable than the sngs, so he made the transition into $5/10 no-limit online, where he realized that six tabling these games meant he could make a good living in the range of over six figures a year,
Furthering his online poker education, he hired Emil “Whitelime” Patel to be his coach. Peter Jetten, (“Apathy” on 2+2 and online), was also a mentor, as was Andrew Robl, and Tom “Durrr” Dwan. However he says the best learning experience was playing online daily in an office back in Madison, Wisconsin with Dan Quinn.
He stayed and played on PartyPoker until they shut down. At the beginning of his junior year, his heart was no longer in college, and he decided to take a semester off after turning 21, when he became eligible to play the WPT (World Poker Tour), and WSOP (World Series of Poker) events.
He played the 2006 Jack Binion WSOP Circuit in January, just days after turning 21. His 18th place finish was good for a $22,895 score. He played the $10,000 buy-in event, despite having just a $100K bankroll.
This represented typical shot-taking for Galfond. He later told interviewers that he would take shots at $300/$600 no limit when he had only a $700,000 bankroll.
A taste of live play, combined with his huge win rate, led to his decision not to return to school.
Phil Galfond’s Online Poker Stats
While we cannot tell what Phil Galfond’s net worth may be, sites that specialize in such speculation put it at $10 million. Although he is not flashy, and not really the “balla” type, that figure may be high – especially given the swings in the high stakes games he plays. Phil has said the big game in Macau, with its $2K/$4K stakes, is too big for him. This implies a net worth of well under $10 million.
The respected database Highstakesdb.com states Phil Galfond is the 6th biggest winner on FullTilt all time, with $6.8 million in winnings on that site. On PokerStars, he has won just over $1.4 million. Neither of these account for PartyPoker winnings, of which Phil often dominated sit-n-go tourneys.
His biggest pot ever won online was $541,000, which occurred in a $500/$1000 No-limit mixed game on January 19, 2009 on Full Tilt, when he flopped a boat, Kings over nines.
The famous $1.6 million winning session took place in March of 2010, when Galfond played heads-up against Victor Blom, otherwise known as “Isildur1” online.
He was offered a FullTiltPoker sponsorship but turned it down as he said it wasn’t very lucrative considering he was playing the nosebleed stakes. He specializes now mostly in Pot Limit Omaha.
Although he has a ton of experience with downswings, he still finds them incredibly hard.
As for screen names, Phil goes by: OMGClayAiken on Full Tilt, and Mr Sweets28 on PokerStars.
Phil Galfond’s Live Poker Tournament Record on the Hendon Mob
Although he was formerly the king of sit-n-go’s, there aren’t many live SNGs that make the Hendon Mob list. And as a cash game player mostly, Phil’s impressive accomplishments are more of the online cash game variety.
Still, Galfond has a few good tournament scores, including now two WSOP bracelets. He won the first one in the 2008 $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha tourney, which was good for $817,000.
Overall, Phil has $2.3 million in live tournament winnings, according to the Hendon Mob.
In 2015, Phil captured his second gold bracelet, less than a month after getting married. The event was the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship. His winnings came out to $224,383.
Phil also made the sweet 16 in the 2011 NBC Heads Up Championship.
He nearly won another bracelet in 2013, when he finished second to Steve Sung in the WSOP’s $25,000 six-handed No-Limit event. Besides Galfond and Sung, the impressive final table included the likes of Dani Stern, and Shannon Shorr.
In addition to his two WSOP bracelets and his second place, Phil has three other final appearances, or six total. Two of his WSOP final tables came during the 2015 series.
This is on top of the fairly deep run (527th place) he made in the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event. (Photo courtesy of Supl0v Poker via Flickr).