Phil Galfond (OMGClayAiken) Interview - Answers Member's Questions
This is an excellent interview! Phil took the time to answer every question as thoroughly as possible.
Make sure you check out his training site at http://www.runitonce.com/
Phil Galfond Interview for Cardschat
- What's the most important thing that makes you a winner? Is it mathematical ...is it behavior of other players? What is it specifically, that makes you a winner?
– Mathematics, Logic, and Psychology are all very important areas of intelligence for poker players. I think the one area that has helped me be successful most is self-awareness. I am never overconfident. I know where my leaks are and I work on them.
- Hi Phil. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at Cardschat. I've heard lots of great things about your runitonce training site. What, in your opinion, sets it apart from all the other training sites out there?
Also... loved your blog but can't find any recent updates. Will you be blogging again anytime soon?
– Other than the design and function of the website itself, which I’m very proud of, our group of pros are as good as it gets. No other sites have the quality of players and teachers that we do.
Between the time you asked and I answered this question, I made a blog post on RIO. I am too busy to plan on posting with any regularity, so don’t get your hopes too high for follow-ups.
- I have another RIO question. How involved are you in what is put up on the site? Like do you personally weed through anything or influence what you want to see more or less of from some of the people making them?
– We put out two videos every single day, so I don’t watch each and every video on RIO. I’ve watched demos from every pro we’ve hired (and declined to hire), and I do watch a lot of videos, just because I like to.
There are some pros who will ask me for feedback or advice, and I always give it to them, but unless someone is producing subpar material I give the pros creative control over what they produce.
We keep track of video views and comments, and we listen to every bit of member feedback. In terms of future hires and re-hires, we keep all of that in mind.
- What was your motivation for starting RIO?
– I’ve always loved teaching poker and talking poker strategy
, so I knew I wanted to do so in one way or another. I’d never had full creative control over a business before and it was something that really intrigued me.
I made Run It Once different than other training sites (design, budget, cost), and I did so in a saturated market and post-Black Friday. I wasn’t sure if we’d succeed, but what was most important to me was that I was proud of the product.
I wanted to put my face on a company I believed in and I wanted to deal with the challenges of running a business.
- What are the main things micro- and small stakes players can learn from how poker is played at the nosebleed levels?
– Watching nosebleed poker without studying isn’t a great way to learn anything for small stakes players.
However, reading posts or watching videos made by nosebleed pros can still teach you a ton. They usually have extremely strong poker minds, and are excellent in explaining their thoughts in a way that everyone can understand.
- Some people believe that multi-tasking improves their ability to focus on poker by alleviating their boredom. Under what circumstances if any would you recommend doing other things while playing poker?
– I listen to music sometimes while I play, but only if I am multi-tabling games that require low focus.
I find that multi-tasking distracts me, music included, so when I play I just focus entirely on the game.
That said, everyone is different and some people can play better when they have other things to keep them busy. It goes back to self-awareness and being honest about what works best for you.
– What are the most common areas for improvement among break-even and losing cash game players at NL10 and below?
– I think that the concept of “why” (as I like to call it) is the most important. You absolutely must know why you are making every play you make, and you need to be able to explain it to me if I ask you.
Don’t bet the turn “because you have top pair” or cbet the flop “because you can’t win at showdown.”
You need to know what you are trying to accomplish with each and every play you make, and you need to be able to verbalize it in a way that allows you to compare it to another option.
If I think you should slow play the flop and when I ask why you want to raise- if you say “because I have top set,” how can I counter that argument?
– What differentiates winning players at nosebleed stakes from winners at high and mid-stakes?
– Sometimes it’s bankroll and opportunity. Sometimes it’s intelligence or work ethic or self-control. Sometimes it’s a combination. There’s no one clear determining factor, unfortunately.
– Do you have any strategy secrets? I mean something you know/you got of the game that it may give you an edge on the others and so you would never teach??
– Nothing. My game and thinking are both open books. It’s too hard to make 80+ videos a year while consciously holding something back J
– You are such a strong player, and I am very impressed about your idea of G bucks.
how did you got the inspiration to put out that concept. Any story about that?
– Thank you. G Bucks is very old at this point, but I remember the article well. I wasn’t the only one thinking about how to play against a full range of hands, but I was the first to explain it the way I did.
I’m not sure how exactly it hit me, to be honest. I just remember that I started writing a small article for Bluff and I had to email and ask for more space when I realized it was going to be a much bigger one.
CC Member -
Here's a strange question: if you had to play only all-in or fold, while multi-tabling tournaments, and had to use the same shoving range, regardless of position, stack size, or what the other players were doing, or what the tournament situation was, what range would you use to go all-in, if you could only use that one range for all situations, all through the tournament, in every tournament?
For example, my guess would be AJ+ and 77+
– Off the top of my head, I’d go with AT+, A2s+, 22+, 65s+, K9s+, Q9s+, J9s+. Shoving too loose early is a much smaller problem than shoving too tight late.
– How long did it take you to work your way up from a beginner to a winning player at the highest stakes? What were the main obstacles you encountered, and how did you get past them?
– It only took me a couple of years, but the games were much easier back then. I wouldn’t even say I encountered “obstacles” so much as I just needed the time to learn and experience enough.
The biggest boost to my learning curve came from having poker friends to discuss things with.
– I”m a member at RIO and love the site. Was wondering what your biggest "ah-ha" moment was in poker?
Do you think NLHE regs should start transitioning to PLO?
– Thanks man. I’m glad you’re loving RIO!
I think my biggest ah-ha moment had to do with the concept of ‘why’ that I discussed above. As soon as I stopped making plays just because books told me to and started making plays for logical reasons, my game took off.
– In studies on "experts" in a variety of fields, researchers have found that experts tend to share common traits. One of these involves a 10,000-hour rule, where those hours were spent in deliberate practice. I think most up-and-coming grinders (myself included) put in a lot of time and energy, but that this time is often not well-spent, because the study and practice is done inefficiently.
What does "deliberate practice" mean for you, and how would you recommend someone go about changing their habits to incorporate more efficient practice?
– I’ve personally spent very little time studying compared to playing. I learn best on the tables and in discussing poker with friends (or in videos).
Some people learn much better by number-crunching and other things that most of us would consider “deliberate practice.”
I have already said it a couple times now, but I think it’s so important to know yourself and find out what works for you. You need to pay attention and see if you’re getting results from certain types of study. Poker is a hard way to make a living nowadays, so you really need to be dedicating yourself to it if it’s what you want.
– Overall, what proportion of your poker time do you spend actually playing versus reviewing / studying?
How should a player determine which training site would be best for him or her?
– I’d say that I play 60%, teach 35%, study 5%
I’d make the 5% higher if I included watching training videos, but I don’t consider that work.
As far as training sites, I’m not the most objective person to ask J
Ask your friends and make sure you find someone who’s a member of each site you’re considering.
Check out the videos released for each site in the last week, month, two months to get an idea of the types of videos you can expect and at what kind of frequency. From there, it’s looking at the site’s roster of pros and types of games taught, then the price.
Or you could just skip all that and head to Run It Once!
– Someone once told me that balance is important, and to be really good at poker you need to have other interests because if poker is your life, and the cards aren't hitting you're going to be miserable and not playing your best.
Do you agree with this, if so, what interests do you have outside of poker? How often do you get the chance to do them?
– This is definitely important. Obsessing over poker can be good for learning, for a period of time, but it’s no way to live. Poker is too high variance an interest to become your only focus. You need to have other things that bring you happiness and contentment because if not, the inevitable extended downswings will lead you into some serious depression.
I now do a lot of business work; I have a lot of friends, a girlfriend. I’m close with my family and spend a lot of time with them. I exercise (sometimes) regularly.
I’m an obsessive kind of guy so I do get into periods of time where poker takes up 90% of my focus, but all those other things help keep me just balanced enough when that happens.
– Everyone studies these days; everyone puts in the hours...
From your point of view, what is the honest difference between the best (Yourself, Blom, Antonius, Ivey, Seiver, etc...) and the everyday grinder making money in the game?
– There’s a fair amount of it that is natural ability, in some form or another. Blom especially is someone who’s done none of the work or studying that everyone else does. He’s just a prodigy.
I think that there is a ton of room for improvement based on how much work you put in, but people do have their ceilings. It’s just like any advanced expertise.. Take Mechanical Engineering for example. Anyone can put in work and improve his or her understanding of the field, but not everyone can go get a PHD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.
– For micro- and low-stakes players, what do you see as the pros and cons of concentrating on one type of NLH (e.g. MTTs, 6max cash, FR STTs, etc.) versus playing a mix of NLH versus a mix that includes other games (PLO, stud, etc.)?
What differences are there, if any, in what it takes to succeed in the highest level cash games and on the major tournament trail?
When people think / dream about making a living from poker, what hurdles are they likely to ignore or underestimate?
– Tough questions. I’ll do my best!
I think for most small stakes players, they’d do best to focus on one game. The main benefit of being able to play multiple game types is that it gives you more tables to choose from. When you’re playing small stakes, you should have enough tables anytime you want, so don’t slow your growth in your main game by adding others.
Cash games and tournaments have far different skill sets. I think that the highest stakes cash games are much harder to succeed in, but that doesn’t mean that they are more skillful games.
Since there’s more postflop play in cash games, they require more deductive logic and advanced mathematics.
Short stack (tourney) play requires a lot of work on more basic technical math. It’s also a more fear-based game, and requires a lot of player specific adjusting.
I think it’s easier to become a small winner in live tourneys, but both tourneys and cash require a lot of skill to be truly great in.
The major issue people fail to consider about poker as a living is the longevity of their (potential) careers. There’s no way to predict the change in profitability of poker in 3, 5, 10, or 20 years. You need to be prepared to take significant pay cuts based on the way the game changes. You should make sure you’re making enough money to put some away in case games get harder or disappear somehow.
- If it's not too much would you give a very brief description of how you started and what the journey was like to reach the high stakes games.
Like what stakes you started at, how much you needed to play/study and finally weather there were any levels you found harder to beat than others.
– I’ve talked about my story many times, but I don’t know where to point you to in order to find it J
I’ll give you the abbreviated version.
I started playing in college for fun, and picked up a couple poker books
at the same time. I played $10 SNGs for a long time, and after a year and a half of reading poker forums
and books and playing, I found myself beating the $100 and $200 and even some $1000 SNGs.
I then switched to NL cash, $5/$10 6max. I wasn’t that good at first, but games were so easy back then that I was able to succeed. I won a lot there, though I had trouble at $10/20 at first.
I did most of my learning my first summer in Vegas (almost 8 years ago) living in a house with a bunch of other poker players. Talking with other players has always been the way I’ve learned best.
From there I started taking shots at $25/$50 and $50/$100 (irresponsibly). I lost most of my roll doing so, but after rebuilding I finally took a shot that stuck. From there I cruised from $50/$100 to $200/$400 and stuck around the nosebleeds since. (I obviously have had my large downswings and have moved back and forth through the stakes a little bit)
At some point, 6-7 years ago I took up PLO and over time it later became my main game.
I’ve attempted to take up other games since, but have only had some success in 2-7 triple draw. HORSE success has still eluded me, but I won’t give up!