Champion of the recently concluded Mid-Stakes Poker Tour (MSPT) Venetian Main Event, Chance Kornuth shared a few thoughts on his $400k victory with Somuchpoker in this exclusive interview. With already two six-figure scores for 2021 under his belt, Kornuth has a positive outlook for the recovering live poker scene. The American pro moreover, gave a sneak peek of his mindset during the Galfond challenge along with some future goals for his career and coaching program, Chip Leader Coaching.
Interview by Gaelle Jaudon
Somuchpoker: First, congratulations on your recent victory at the MSPT Venetian against more than 2,000 players, for over $400k. It seems the atmosphere is quite crazy in Vegas right now and that live poker is more alive than ever.
Chance Kornuth: Yeah, everything is pretty much back to normal here and there is like a new poker boom going on. Everyone has been locked down for so long that they are all ready to go back on the live grind. It’s pretty nice to see.
SMP: Many people are saying the next WSOP might be the biggest WSOP ever. Do you feel confident about that?
CK: I kind of do. One, Vegas is a lot more attractive to come to at that time of the year than in summer for temperature reasons but more important is that after going to the tournaments in Florida and seeing what’s happening in Vegas now, I can see the fields are back and are bigger than ever. All the recreational players are here. Everything has been huge, and all the tournaments have been incredible, so it’s definitely a good sign for the next WSOP.
SMP: Concerning your challenge with Phil Galfond, at about half of the challenge, you declared, “this is the most I have ever trained for anything in poker.” How much did you learn about yourself, your skills, and your mental game throughout that challenge? What are the most important lessons that you gained?
CK: I really learned a lot. Just from a pure poker perspective too. I’ve been playing a lot of PLO and HU since then, and it has been going extremely well. I was better in spots where I wouldn’t have known exactly what to do, and I’m like, “Oh, this isn’t bad here because I have a flush blocker” for example. There are little nuances that exist in PLO because there are so many spots that are a split range where one little side card can make all the difference in your betting or checking strategy. I learned a lot about myself as well, and how important it is to rest. Just the duration of the challenge itself was incredibly difficult, and I thought I was prepared for it, but I think we both didn’t realize how long the match would last.
SMP: During the four months of the challenge, how did you work on your game during that time? Did you only focus on that?
CK: Yes, the morning before we play, I would review hands and the same thing after we finished playing. We only had two days off in a week. I didn’t play any other poker during the entire time. I think I played maybe one tournament. Everything was dedicated to the challenge, every day, all the time. I think in order to have a shot against someone like Phil, you really have to give 100% of your focus.
SMP: In the interview you gave right after the end of the challenge, you said you felt relief it was over. What are the thoughts you were going through when you were about to concede? Because everybody also agreed you performed very well against Galfond, and you dominated the first 37 sessions.
CK: I had an amount, I sold action for the challenge, and I kind of knew I was getting bust as I was approaching. That’s one of the things that can add so much stress, not knowing when this will be over or when to stop the loss. I had the option if we’re early in the challenge to give more money and continue to play, but we were so far through the challenge that my odds of coming back were low enough that it wasn’t worth enough to continue to play.
SMP: In his previous challenge, Galfond made an incredible comeback for like $900k against VeniVidi. Did you think it would have been possible for you at the moment?
CK: Yeah, absolutely. Actually in the first 40/50% of the challenge, I thought I had a reasonable edge against him. My bluff was getting through. My value bets were working. Everything was going quite well. But later in the challenge, a lower percentage of my bluffs were working. He was folding more to my value bets etc. And I think in the second half of the challenge, he definitely showed why he’s Phil Galfond. I do believe he had an edge at that point as well, and it was making much less likely for me to come back, and continuing was not a really good idea.
SMP: Do you see yourself doing another challenge in the future, and what kind of challenge would be really exciting for you?
CK: Maybe…But it wouldn’t be against a player like Phil. I really enjoy exploiting, getting in the head of your opponent, that kind of thing, and Phil definitely wouldn’t be that kind of person. And also, now that I have a baby, there isn’t such a large amount of my time that I would be interested in the foreseeable future. I’m just working on being a new dad and working on some cool products that should be coming out soon with Chip Leader Coaching.
SMP: What are your goals now with Chip Leader Coaching, and what do you focus on?
CK: In one of the projects, we’re working on in Chipleader AI that Alex Foxen and I programmed. Depending on the questions that you get right and wrong, the platform themes you the things you need to learn or accelerates you in the path you are strong at. Basically, it feels the problems without wasting time going through all the current learning material because, for example, you can spend hours watching learning videos and don’t really know what you improved at. So, our AI really helps your learning process. And then Foxen and I have also been working on a project called The Closer. It’s a tournament course that really helps identify how you should be approaching hands and teaches you how to think. We think that one of the main problems right now is that you can look at a solver output, and unless you get the same spot, you don’t really know how to apply it. So people are dependent on knowing the answer because they studied it in the past, but they don’t really know how to think critically about a situation that is arising. So we’re moving towards that.
SMP: When we look back at your results, it seems 2015/16 were turning points in your career – with your biggest live score at the PCA and your victory in the 25k high roller Aussie Millions, did you have what we call a key moment?
CK: I think that was actually just a point in my career where I was taking it incredibly seriously and only focusing on poker. You see, it’s what Alex Foxen is doing right now, and his results speak for himself. Now I’m mainly focused on building my company and developing products to appeal to the masses. This summer, I’ll also focus on playing poker, and I hope that my results will continue to show up. I think that was one of the biggest problems with the Galfond challenge too. The fact I spent 6 months devoting my life playing Phil, which is, in insight, obviously not the best decision just because had I worked that hard on other forms of poker, I probably would have made a lot of money instead of losing and playing for 6 months. I think my biggest regret is probably not realizing how long it would have taken. I am very pleased with the pot-limit Omaha skill sets that came out of it as well as how those correlate to NL as well. But it’s just in general, as a poker, we only have so much time we can dedicate to this game, so it’s important to really thrive to play your time in certain areas.
SMP: You have big scores in both Omaha and Hold’em. You have one WSOP bracelet in Hold’em and one in Omaha. How do you balance your work on the two games? What do you study the most?
CK: Sometimes it is mood-based. It varies. But I think as professional poker players, our goal should be to always play and to be able to play our best in every event as it has the most EV for you. That’s what you should do.
SMP: I interviewed you in 2019, and when I asked you which aspects you needed to improve and work on, you talked about the need to be more patient and humble. Those are two very important qualities in poker. So 2 years later, how do you think it is going? Did you change your mind?
CK: Yes, absolutely. I’m getting much better at it. I can see it regularly. There is a couple of hands. For example, I shoved T4 off on the bubble to a guy with 11 big blinds because I was sure he was folding. Old Chance would have probably shown it, but I was able to refrain. But there was another hand where I shoved in a spot that was very unconventional, and I couldn’t help myself but show it. So my ego still does sneak out from time to time, but it’s definitely a lot more contained than it used to be.
SMP: About that ego question, what pushed you to play a challenge against one of the top PLO players in the world, if it’s not ego? What was on your mind?
CK: There is a combination of factors. One thing is that I calculated playing about 800/900 hands a day based on the length of our session, and it was actually much closer to 500/550 hands a day. So because of that miscalculation, I thought it would take about 2 to 3 months. Also, our app Chip Leader AI was supposed to come out in December or January, and I thought it would be a really good publicity for the product. And then the Negreanu/ Doug Polk match kind of made shade to ours, and the publicity for the company was actually one of the biggest reasons for me to accept that challenge. And I really think that with the side bets, I would have a small edge overall, but because a lot of the publicity had been taken by the other challenge, it didn’t really work out as we planned. Fortunately, the launch of the products is going to align nicely with the live events here and the WSOP, so I’m still pretty happy and fortunate for the skill set that I picked up along the way, and I’ll be continuing to apply them as I go.
SMP: What are your current poker goals? How has having a baby changed your perspective and goals when it comes to poker?
CK: Oh, for sure, having a baby changed my goals a lot. Instead of playing all the poker matches events, for example, I had a very good online cash PLO option to bet the hours I want and be around my baby when I want to, so I didn’t really see the mean to go battle with the best players in the world. My focus has definitely changed a lot. I don’t want to be stuck grinding some low-value spots and miss my daughter’s first steps. I‘m much more family-oriented, playing more cash, and focusing on my business. I want to be able to stop whenever I want and not miss anything important with my family.
SMP: And the last question, as I see lots of books behind you, what book would you recommend and what are you reading now?
CK: Malcolm Gladwell is probably my favorite author, and Blink is my favorite book. It talks about our subconscious and how we think. I also really like , which was kind of my introduction into mindfulness and being a better version of yourself if you want to say it that way. I started meditating and going through that kind of thinking 10 years ago, and it was definitely a really good addition to my game. Being into mindfulness and how it helps you to play your best was one of the most underrated aspects of poker. Many people tilt very hard and still don’t realize they can be a version of themselves by being in the present and giving 100% of their focus to whatever they’re talking about at the time. It’s just also a great way to live your life. It takes away a lot of the anxiety and sadness that people have. The western version of that book would be The power of now. I found it in 2009/2010 before I won my first bracelet, and it really changed my life for the better. It’s one of the reasons that I come across as a person all time. It’s because I am! It gave me the ability to not dwell on the negative, and it’s been a great addition to my life!