Phil Galfond AKA OMGClayAiken
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
World Series of Poker bracelet winner and online high stakes cash supremo, Phil Galfond is emerging as one of the game’s brightest theorists, and he’s still only 24. Bluff Europe caught up with Phil to talk about his big brain.
Bluff: Phil, tell us about BlueFirePoker.com
BlueFirePoker.com is a poker training site. We have blogs, articles, a forum and, most importantly, lots of educational videos
Bluff: Sounds cool. Who else is involved?
I'm the lead pro there, but we have a handful of other pros teaching, which I hand selected: Niman Kenkre, aka “samoleus”, who is a legend from the Party Poker days; Jason Senti, aka “pbjaxx”, a great NL player who is learning PLO now and beats up on 5-10 through 25-50.
Bluff: What we like about your strategy teachings, through the stuff you've written for us, is that you're not afraid to get meaty….
Thank you. Yeah, I think that I get very in-depth and I picked other pros who would too. Other pros include Ryan Fee (fees), Martin Giguere (Dr. Giggy), and Don Nguyen (SoCalQuest).
Bluff: Some players talk in bland generalisations when they write strategy and they seem scared to reveal their “secrets” but that's never been a problem for you?
Honestly, I started doing it because I wanted to be respected as a great theorist and I didn’t notice it affecting my games. I kind of enjoy approaching poker as a discipline... studying and teaching.
Bluff: How did you originally discover poker?
I always used to enjoy gambling. I played cards with friends since I was maybe 12 for more money than I should have. When I was a freshman in college my good friend from high school won like 30k in a MTT and that got me excited about learning poker.
Bluff: Tell us about the learning process…
I picked up some books which he recommended and just started playing with $50 on Party Poker. I lost it, added another 50 but haven't deposited since then.
Bluff: OK, but that's how we started playing too. Is your brain just three times the size of ours, or what?
Heh, I guess things have always come easily to me...
Bluff: Seriously, your IQ must be off the scale. Did you always feel that little bit smarter than your peers? Be honest…
I was one of those guys who never studied for a test and always aced it. I don't know my IQ. I think it's pretty high, which I think correlates well to poker.
Bluff: Tell us about winning the bracelet, what did that mean?
It meant a lot. It's been a goal of mine for a while and it helped me gain the respect of some people who hadn't noticed me yet. I'm competitive, so it was fun for that reason... and it’s good just winning something.
Bluff: Was it important to be seen to be representing the young "new” internet player against some of the live pros who are a little set in their own ways?
Heh, yeah. I think the online community wasn't respected enough for a long time and it definitely bothered me. I have a lot of good friends who are great players, and no one knows about them. Even though that shouldn't matter, it does. I guess lately online guys are getting a lot more respect and recognition.
Bluff: Was that the final table from hell or the final table from heaven?
Final table from heaven, I guess. It was nice for me to be able to prove myself against that many well-respected players
Bluff: Were you flattered to be "excluded" from the Durrrr bet?
Yes, I definitely was flattered. I take it as a gesture showing a lot of respect, which means a lot coming from a player like Tom.
Bluff: What do you make of the whole thing? Is it a cunning prop or pure reckless bravado?
Well… neither. I think that Tom has a slight edge, even given the side bet, but it's still not something I would do. I mean, he has to spend many weeks of his life playing a game for not much of an edge. I know Tom loves action, though, and isn't afraid of anyone. I think he likes the competition, and not having to wait around for games all the time
Bluff: Why the name OMGClayAiken?
Heh. A lot of guys, especially back when I created my name, had macho screen names. Everyone wanted to be intimidating and tough. I wanted to go for the opposite. Certainly no disrespect intended towards Clay... just that he doesn't have many tough guy fans
Bluff: If you had known then that you’d become one of the best poker players in the world, would you have chosen a tougher name?
Probably not a tougher name, no. I'm happy with it. Maybe I would've just used my real name so that people would know it, rather than calling me “OMGClayAiken” in real life!
Bluff: Let’s talk a little about your theory stuff. Tell us about G-Bucks. How do they differ from Sklansky Dollars?
Sklansky Dollars take the EV of your hand against the hand your opponent has, and looks at how much money you should end up with on average. G-Bucks does the same thing, but instead of taking your hand versus his hand, you take your hand versus your opponent’s entire range of hands that would play the same way. If you can make accurate G-Bucks analyses then you can find out how well you're doing sooner
Bluff: It's a way of assessing your abilities and excluding the luck thing, in essence?
Right... and a way to analyze a hand, though it's still not the whole story. With luck it’s tough to know exactly how lucky or unlucky you've been
Bluff: What games do you prefer these days?
Six-handed half and half is my favorite game now. I think I'm a strong HU player, but it's a more stressful game... you really need to be on all the time. I can relax a little more playing six-handed
Bluff: How many tables do you play at once?
At high stakes, there usually aren’t many running. Never more than four, really. Six-handed, I can play 12 tables pretty well
Bluff: Is it hard to get a game because no one wants to sit with you?
Well, there just aren’t many players in the player pool, and some don’t want to sit with me... some I don't want to sit with... some are good friends.
Bluff: Poker can be a cruel game. Is it hard to take big scores off close friends?
Absolutely. I know I should be more ruthless at the table but I feel terrible taking a big pot off a good friend.
Bluff: How do you feel about the whole "poker celebrity" thing. Do you care about fame?
I used to really want fame, but I don't really care about it anymore
Bluff: Lastly, what do you want to achieve in poker in the future?
My main two goals are to retire, and to be considered the best at something for at least a little while, whether it be 6-max NLHE or teaching poker. I don't care what it is…
Bluff: You've probably achieved that already!
Heh, maybe… maybe…