Ben "Ben86" Tollerene and Phil "mrsweets28" Galfond are hardly rivals. They live in the same apartment building in their newly adopted home base of Vancouver, have huge respect for one another's poker game, and have even been known to train in the gym together. But thanks to the quarterfinal draw, Galfond and Tollerone had to put their BFF status aside for the day as they competed for the last remaining semifinal seat in the All-Star Showdown.
This match was a lot of things. Arduous, swingy, and so many levels deep it hurts the brain, just to name a few. But more than anything, it showcased just how evenly matched and extraordinarily talented these two players are. Lasting 4,341 hands, it was the longest quarterfinal match of the All-Star Showdown in terms of hands played and after 14 hours and 40 minutes on the field, Galfond finally put Tollerene away, advancing to play Saturday's semifinal round against Dan "w00ki3z." Cates.
Battle Vancouver kicked off on Twitter with messages from both players. While Tollerene invited his followers to rail him as he went up against his "friend and temporary enemy," Galfond teased, "Cool thing about today's $100k #AllStarShowdown is that both @Bttech86 and I know how he's gonna play and neither of us know how I will."
HOUR ONE (Hands 1-258): Tollerene halts Galfond's early charge
Action got underway just past 10 am local time in Vancouver. While yesterday's quarterfinal match saw Dan Cates shoving within the first minute of play, Galfond and Tollerene were slower to let the chips fly. The first hundred hands had them dead even before Galfond picked up two five-figure pots and moved out to an early lead. On a 8♣3♥2♥ flop, Galfond led into preflop raiser Tollerene with an $800 bet. Tollerene called, and the K♥ hit the turn. Galfond check-called $1,500, then checked again when the 9♣ came on the river. Tollerene bet $3,750 and Galfond called, turning up K♦4♥ for top pair. Tollerene had nothing more than a busted gutshot straight draw with 5♦6♠, and Galfond raked in the $12,500 pot.
Meanwhile, over on Table 4, Tollerene three-bet preflop and led out for $950 on the K♣6♠2♦ flop. Galfond raised to $1,900 and Tollerene called. Both players checked the 6♦ on the turn, but when the 8♠ hit the river, Tollerene fired out $3,900. Galfond moved all-in for $9,798 and after a bit of a tank, Tollerene conceded the $13,000 pot. With 180 hands in the books, Galfond was up nearly $18,000.
The largest pot of the hour, however went to Tollerene. Right before the break Tollerene flopped top pair and rivered aces up, erasing Galfond's gains in one fell swoop with this $24,000 pot:
106 hands: Galfond +$441
152 hands: Galfond +$18,095
179 hands: Galfond +$17,962
254 hands: Galfond +$7,916
258 hands: Tollerene +$8,050
HOUR TWO (Hands 259-564): Tollerene builds a $25k lead
Galfond quickly erased his small deficit and had moved into the black by Hand 287, but Tollerene hit a rush and carved out a two and a half buy-in lead. Galfond answered by picking up several medium-sized pots without a showdown, but Tollerene quickly recovered those chips in a $21,000 pot where both players flopped straight draws, but only one of them got there:
Galfond erased most of the gap when he picked up A♠K♠ against Tollerene's A♥J♦. Both players hit top pair on the A♣7♣4♠ flop, but Galfond made two pair on the turn with the K♥. Tollerene bet $3,200, Galfond smooth-called, and the A♦ fell on the river. Tollerene shoved with his trip aces and Galfond called all-in for $9,000, taking down the $28,700 pot with aces full.
Tollerene immediately answered by taking down a $29,300 pot with aces up over Galfond's kings up, all the money going in on the river on a A♦7♠K♦3♥3♦ board. Tollerene had one more in him before the break arrived, five-bet shoving for $12,456 on a 9♥3♠2♦ flop with Q♥Q♠. Galfond called with A♦9♠, Tollerene's ladies holding up in the $26,300 pot.
287 hands: Galfond +$2,774
361 hands: Tollerene +$14,729
441 hands: Tollerene +$9,498
488 hands: Tollerene +$19,597
564 hands: Tollerene +$25,533
HOUR THREE (Hands 565-911): Galfond on the ropes
Galfond tore into Tollerene's lead at the top of the third hour, first picking off a double-barrel bluff in a $27k pot. Galfond three-bet with K♣K♥, had his $1,250 bet called on the J♣5♣5♠ flop, then saw the 2♦ on the turn. Galfond checked, Tollerene fired $2,750 and Galfond called. Galfond checked again when the 8♥ came on the river, inducing a bluff-shove from Tollerene. Galfond called off his remaining $8,900 as Tollerene sheepishly revealed 9♣T♠.
Galfond made his way into the black when his pocket aces rivered aces full of nines after Tollerene's 7♠9♠ flopped trips. This cooler seemed to wake a sleeping giant and Tollerene went on a tear, winning 20 of the next 25 pots including this one, where he flopped top and bottom pair, and turned a boat:
Back in the lead to the tune of $24,000, it was Tollerene's turn to pick up A♣A♦ and get a little revenge. The two ended up getting all their money in on a 6♠5♣4♦ flop, Tollerene making a five-bet that set Galfond all-in. Galfond called with 6♦8♦ and although he picked up a flush draw on the turn to go with his pair of sixes, Tollerene's aces held. Tollerene continued applying pressure and expanded his lead to $40,000. Galfond got his pocket queens paid off in a $9,000 pot, but it wasn't nearly enough to stem the tide. In fact, their next major confrontation would blow Tollerene's lead wide open.
Tollerene picked up J♠T♠ and opened for a standard min-raise. Galfond three-bet to $950 with K♣Q♦ and Tollerene called. The T♦6♥4♥ flop made him top pair, and Tollerene smooth-called Galfond's $1,350 continuation bet. The turn was the J♥, not only making Tollerone top two pair, but giving Galfond an open-ended straight draw- just enough to justify firing another bullet. Galfond bet $3,150 and Tollerene flatted. The 2♠ on the river was a complete blank, but figuring he could only win the pot by betting, Galfond moved all-in for $9,498. Tollerene called, his jacks up good for the $29,900 pot.
After dropping that pot, Galfond's entire match bankroll was spread across the four tables, and when Tollerone's 7♣8♥ turned trip sevens against Galfond's pair of kings, Table 4 was closed, Galfond's remaing $4,000 on that table filed back into his bank. After 911 hands and three hours of play, Tollerone had a choke hold on this match with a $66,299 lead.
622 hands: Tollerene +$7,390
695 hands: Galfond +$1,525
779 hands: Tollerene +$24,380
835 hands: Tollerene +$39,533
841 hands: Tollerene +$47,454
911 hands: Tollerene +$66,299
HOUR FOUR (Hands 912-1,183): Galfond grinds down Tollerene's lead
Tollerene continues to expand his lead, grinding up another $11,000 worth of small and medium-sized pots to leave Galfond on his last $23,000. But just in time, Galfond picked up pocket sixes and flopped a set, getting three streets of value on his hand to win a $16,000 pot. After getting his Table 2 stack in with Q♥Q♠ against Tollerene's 9♣9♥, Galfond had earned enough back to put all four tables in play once more.
Galfond continued to chip up and by the time the hourly break rolled around, he'd cut Tollerone's lead to $56,020
1,017 hands: Tollerene +$77,218
1,036 hands: Tollerene +$67,025
1,131 hands: Tollerene +$60,289
1,183 hands: Tollerene +$56,020
HOUR FIVE (Hands 1,184-1,575 ): Let's do lunch
While Galfond was able to stop the bleeding over the next 400 hands, he was unable to make any progress when it came to recovering his chips. They went tit for tat over the course of the hour and with Tollerene sporting a $53,934 lead, the two agreed to take a 90-minute meal break... together. Witness their Twitter feeds during the intermission:
@Bttech86: taking an intermission in the #AllStarShowDown @PokerStars to get a workout and a meal. A little uncomfortable with Phil spotting me today.
@PhilGalfond: Was down to 20 of my 100k starting stack in the #AllStarShowDown. Now at almost 50k. Taking gym & food break w/@Bttech86 & @JasonKoon.
And for all you skeptics saying "pics or it didn't happen," Jason Koon tweeted photographic evidence of at least the meal portion of the break:
1,224 hands: Tollerene +$45,325
1,326 hands: Tollerene +$54,572
1,412 hands: Tollerene +$36,829
1,520 hands: Tollerene +$52,068
1,575 hands: Tollerene +$53,934
HOUR SIX (Hands 1,576-2,035 ): Tollerene gives up ground
The 90-minute break turned into a two-hour break and at with the clock about to strike five in Vancouver, the match resumed. Galfond was able to harness a little momentum and picked up three substantial pots in the first five minutes to shave $18,000 off Tollerene's lead.
Galfond got another buy-in back when he picked up A♥5♥ and called Tollerene's flop and turn bets on a 3♠6♣2♦8♦ board. The 4♥ on the river made Galfond a wheel and when Tollerene checked to him, Galfond shoved for $10,133. Tollerene looked him up with K♦4♣ for only a rivered pair of fours. Perhaps he'd correctly read Galfond for ace-high... just not that ace-high
Galfond kept his nose to the grindstone and by the time they passed the 2,000-hand mark, Tollerene's lead was reduced to $23,642.
1,702 hands: Tollerene +$36,978
1,728 hands: Tollerene +$19,009
1,743 hands: Tollerene +$9,349
1,759 hands: Tollerene +$17,539
1,844 hands: Tollerene +$31,239
2,035 hands: Tollerene +$23,642
HOURS SEVEN AND EIGHT (Hands 2,036-2,852 ): Galfond strikes but Tollerene quickly recovers
The rush Galfond had been waiting for finally arrived as the match reached the end of its seventh hour. He raked in a $27,700 pot when Tollerene's K♦Q♦ flopped top pair against his A♦A♠, and five minutes later he was dealt pocket rockets again on the same table. This time, Galfond won a $29,100 pot, extracting value from Tollerene on every street of the T♥6♥4♦J♦6♠ board.
His lead cut to $2,572, Tollerene roared back over the course of the next 500 hands. He got paid off with pocket kings, cracked aces with king-queen, hit running straight cards, and turned boats like it was nothing. As darkness fell over the Pacific and "regular" folks started thinking about dinner, Tollerone opened up a three buy-in lead. With 2,852 hands complete, less than 150 remained before the stakes would be raised from $50/$100 to $100/$200.
2,333 hands: Tollerene $+2,572
2,436 hands: Tollerene +$12,593
2,544 hands: Tollerene +$16,179
2,619 hands: Tollerene +$22,736
2,674 hands: Tollerene +$25,263
2,852 hands: Tollerene +$29,807
HOUR NINE (Hands 2,853-3,158): West coast swing
Action intensified as the 3,000-hand mark approached. In the largest pot of the match thus far, Tollerene busted Galfond's Table 1 stack after turning a set of deuces against pocket eights:
As usual, Galfond was quick to come back. He picked off a river bluff-shove with two pair and got his entire Table 1 stack in preflop, his Q♠Q♥ holding against 9♥9♣. By the time they were moved over to the $100/$200 tables, Galfond had once again, trimmed Tollerene's lead in half. But how long would that last? Five minutes? Fifteen?
Fifteen turned out to be right on the money. Dealt pocket queens, Tollerene three-bet to $1,400 preflop and hit top set on the Q♣J♦5♦ flop. Tollerene played it slow and check-called $1,600 from Galfond on the flop and another $3,700 when the J♠ came on the turn to make him the nut boat. The river was the 4♦ and Tollerene checked a third time. Galfond shoved for $11,773 and Tollerene snap-called, his queens full trouncing Galfond's trips with K♠J♣.
However, the pendulum would swing Galfond's way by the end of hour nine, courtesy of a turned straight against Tollerene's top pair:
2,986 hands: Tollerene +$11,932
3,051 hands: Tollerene +$18,468
3,117 hands: Tollerene +$32,947
3,134 hands: Tollerene +$11,360
3,158 hands: Galfond +$1,510
HOURS TEN AND ELEVEN (Hands 3,159-3,754): Galfond grabs the reins
After nine hours and more than 3,100 hands, Galfond and Tollerene were essentially back where they started. Galfond fixed that in short order, though, raising all-in for $21,894 on a 9♦5♣3♥4♥ board. Tollerene called, his 9♣9♥ leading Galfond's straight and flush draws with A♥6♥. The river, however, was the 7♦ and Galfond took down the $46,400 pot with a seven-high straight. Minutes later, Galfond and Tollerene got their stacks in the middle on a Q♥7♥3♦ flop, Galfond's set of sevens holding against A♠Q♠. Thanks to the increased stakes, Galfond went from even to $40,000 profit in the space of eight minutes. With Tollerene unable to buy in for $20,000 on all four tables, one was closed until he could accumulate more chips.
Galfond continued to grow his stacks, reaching a high point of +$65,000 after winning a $44,700 with A♥J♠ against A♠T♦. Three tables were reduced to two and then only one, Tollerene's entire remaining bankroll sitting on Table 2. But surely enough, the tides turned and Tollerene found one more comeback. Tollerene reclaimed nearly all of Galfond's profits in the space of 300 hands, the fortuitous river card in this $44k monster playing a key supporting role:
3,192 hands: Galfond +$19,914
3,245 hands: Galfond +$40,421
3,257 hands: Galfond +$45,091
3,305 hands: Galfond +$65,084
3,329 hands: Galfond +$47,434
3,364 hands: Galfond +$35,214
3,434 hands: Galfond +$33,830
3,530 hands: Galfond +$23,313
3,597 hands: Galfond +$2,199
3,605 hands: Galfond +$7,028
3,754 hands: Galfond +$15,321
HOUR TWELVE (Hands 3,755-4,069): Tollerene tumbles
Galfond carried a small lead into the 11pm hour and by midnight it turned into massive divide. His pocket jacks held against pocket nines in a $40k pot. He turned a flush when Tollerene rivered trip kings and rivered another one against a flopped top pair. Galfond rode his rush for about half an hour before both players suddenly disconnected. A 20-minute delay ensued as both players scrambled for a secondary connection, their apartment building's internet having gone down.
The technical glitch had no effect on Galfond's run-good, though and he continued to climb, his lead growing to nearly $50,000 as the 4,000-hand mark came and went. But it was a two pair over two pair cooler that sent Tollerene reeling, his jacks up falling to Galfond's aces up in a $40,400 pot:
3,770 hands: Galfond +$39,314
3,789 hands: Galfond +$53,740
3,885 hands: Galfond +$46,855
3,943 hands: Galfond +$34,147
4,041 hands: Galfond +$49,234
4,069 hands: Galfond +$73,030
HOURS THIRTEEN-FIFTEEN (Hands 4,070-4,341): Galfond grinds to a win
Leading by $73,000, Galfond had Tollerene down to one table, but like a nightmare in slow-motion, Tollerene picked up enough small pots to grind that stack up to $40,000, It was enough to split to two tables, however Galfond busted Tollerene's second stack in short order with an ace-high flush over a king-high flush on a board with four hearts. With less than $20,000 remaining, Tollerene was back to a single stack, but refused to give up.
Galfond remained extraordinarily patient and ground away at Tollerene. Doubling him up again would be a disaster with the match now in its fifteenth hour. With the board reading J♥2♣4♣K♦3♦, Galfond check-raised all-in and after a long tank, Tollerene folded, saving his last $9,200 in chips as Scott "gunning4you" Seiver begged from the rail for him to show his hand.
Galfond kept pecking away and with $2,378 remaining, Tollerene got the last of his chips in the middle on a Q♦J♣9♣ flop. He turned over J♥2♥ for second pair, but Galfond had the best hand with Q♠5♣. The A♠ on the turn was no help for Tollerene and the 5♠ on the river locked up the win for Galfond. After 4,341 hands, Tollerene's $100,000 was in Galfond's coffers.
4,094 hands: Galfond +$83,304
4,187 hands: Galfond +$69,421
4,219 hands: Galfond +$64,630
4,239 hands: Galfond +$58,857
4,282 hands: Galfond +$80,686
4,321 hands: Galfond +$84,772
4,323 hands: Galfond +$90,722
4,324 hands: Galfond +$95,122
4,341 hands: Galfond +$100,000
Naturally, there were no hard feelings, or really even the slightest bit of tilt between these two. After exchanging "gg" and "wp," Galfond asked Tollerene if he wanted to go out and grab another bite.
"Up for dinner on me or too tired?" Galfond asked.
"Sure, but what's open?" Tollerene wondered, as they made plans to meet in the lobby of their apartment building.
Congratulations to Phil "mrsweets28" Galfond on the win and kudos to both players for treating us to such a dynamic match. Galfond will be back in action on Saturday, when he takes on Dan "w00ki3z." Cates in the semi-final round. We'll be right there with them with full coverage here on the PokerStars Blog.
Kristin Bihr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.