Galfond rattles the cage

Jan. 23, 2012, Posted by rick.dacey

Galfond rattles the cage

Last week week high stakes poker player Phil Galfond made a post on his website entitled ‘Let’s make some changes’. It seemed to be an open and honest attempt to start a discussion on some genuine issues that many think are plaguing online poker.

Thought to be up some $8,000,000 on Full Tilt alone, Galfond isn’t just a big winner in high stakes poker, an automaton that can mash buttons better than the next grinder, he’s thoughtful and articulate. In a 3,500-word diatribe he covered a number of subjects, such as changes to heads-up tables, whether rules regarding screen names should be relaxed and the introduction of ‘must move’ and ‘round robin’ tables. Rather than brutally truncating all his points here you can read Galfond’s blog by clicking /

Edges getting ground down

The topics were largely aimed at combatting some of the most brazen edge-seeking practices of the last few years; games instantly breaking when a soft spot leaves the game, heads-up tables clogged up with bum hunters (players that will only face opponents that they feel they have a dominating edge over) and those huge, embarrassing waiting lists that spring up when big-time recreational player turn up to play.

Despite what a lot of grinders may think recreational players, particularly those at higher stakes, aren’t stupid (the majority anyway). Unfortunately the single-minded focus of many young players on poker has left them thinking that anyone that doesn’t crush must be an idiot. Doctor? Idiot. Solictor or lawyer? Idiot. Self-made millionaire businessman? Yup, he must be an idiot too if he doesn’t know his five-bet jamming ranges in a cut-off v button war.

Galfond’s point was that if a player knows - really, really knows – that they are the mark, to the extent that people are literally queuing up to play them and that tables snap-fold when they leave, then they’ll feel insulted at worst and leave with a bitter taste at best. Either way, it’s not the best way for recreational players to have an enjoyable time and will certainly reduce the likelihood and frequency of them returning. “To recreational players that play for fun, it definitely matters that games aren’t running without them,” said Galfond.

Mixed reception

Although the post did achieve its initial aim of kick-starting discussion it was also met with the usual high levels of accusations, general slander, character assassination and players failing to see the wood for the trees. Just the standard reception on the 2+2 forums then. Comments such as: “You’re the reason I’ve started playing seriously this game Phil, I really mean that, but you’re being very selfish and I hope you see it,” said one such poster.

Some good genuine comments were also fired in but while Galfond’s time would have been better spent furthering the discussion he was instead left having to present a video blog defending his intentions.

“The whole point of my post was to get the discussion going… I don’t think I’m anymore of an expert than everybody else that has been playing poker. I don’t think that having a blog that people read or playing high stakes poker gives my opinion any more value than anyone else…

It’s frustrating for me to think that people would think that I’d make a post like that for personal gain. I really tried my best to look at things objectively… but I am human and if I was affected by my biases then perhaps I was,” said Galfond.

Food chain issues

Online poker is still in its infancy and for many of its grinding regs it has been their sole income and work experience, perhaps yours. If the thought of making changes has filled many with fear then perhaps that is all the more reason to face up to how the industry is changing. The game is still growing and America may re-boom but the heady frontier days of players regularly calling all-in with queen-high has passed (until the Asian market opens anyway) so it’s vitally important for everyone that the recreational – okay, losing, that’s what we really mean – players still enjoy the game.

Many play poker for the fun of the game, aware to some extent that they’re not necessarily winning, but that they love it for the sport or entertainment. It’s not just strategy that flows from the top down: smaller player pools at higher limits may well reveal trends that might otherwise get lost. If Galfond is suggesting that fish are becoming more scarce at the top end of the food chain then that’s something we should all listen to, if for no other reason than the sharks may increasingly need to look for shallower waters in which to hunt.

Feigning ignorance in such cases is never a plus EV move. While the issues affecting Galfond may not be influencing the level at which you play that’s certainly not to say they won’t in time. Poker sites are not public services, they don’t have to jump to the calls of players on forums, but they are commercial bodies and will pay attention to their customers if they speak loudly enough.


Rick Dacey has been writing, reporting, living and breathing poker since leaving conventional journalism in August 2005 to join the launch team of PokerPlayer magazine, an anarchic mag that became Britain’s best selling poker title. Since going freelance in 2008 Dacey has split his time between playing and writing about the game, becoming a regular feature on the European poker circuit in the process. He can often be spotted stalking between tournament tables carrying a notepad, pen and sour expression or, after play has ended, with a beer, expletives and stolen sandwich. He tweets under the  handle and can also be found spouting vitriol at

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