Tom Dwan is a classy poker player at the top of his game. We look in detail at some of his best moves

Character, class and amazing poker skills. In his recent live Million Dollar Challenge, Tom Dwan showed he has all of these qualities in spades

I got into the TV truck about five minutes after the money had gone in, to find the production crew in a state somewhere between a hushed silence and an excited frenzy. Tom Dwan had shipped all-in on the river for $479,000, and seeing as there was $180,000 already in the pot and Sammy George had $360,000 behind, a call would make the pot near enough to one million bucks. Sammy had two pair. The board was A-J-6-3-3 with the first three cards hearts. Sammy had A-6 offsuit and he was in one hell of a tortured state. He was counting his chips and then picking his cards up off the glass. He was talking to himself and talking to Dwan: ‘…And then you bet that on the river because it’s the only way you can win.’

It was the most important thing Sammy George had said right all day. Because Dwan was on the bluff. He had 7-2 – we could see his cards under the glass – 7-2 offsuit. Nothing. Zero. But looking at his cards through the camera feed was the only way you were ever going to know that’s what Dwan had.

He sat high at the table like he always does. When Dwan makes a bet, he makes it slow and sure and then sits interminably with his left hand shuffling a stack of about ten chips, over and over. Tom’s right hand lies flat on the other side of the table and his mouth always hangs a little bit open. The look on his face is intensely aware but with eyes unfocused.

‘For the first time,’ I heard the vision mixer say, he who has sat through literally thousands of hours of televised poker over five years of watching every card played via the under-the-table cameras. ‘For the first time,’ he said, ‘I think I really understand what it means to be a good poker player.’

Sleepless Nights

Let me tell you something about the character of Tom Dwan. It was the morning of the first day of the filming at a club in London, and I’d spent the night before with my laptop beside my head, like I’d spent many previous nights, watching as Tom played nearly all night at six or more tables online. He’d been getting destroyed playing nosebleed stakes against one of the most aggressive opponents ever seen. Dwan hadn’t slept more than four hours in a row at any point over the previous seven nights, a fact I knew because I hadn’t either, and every time I had woken up he was still there playing. As you would assume, Dwan showed up at the casino very tired. He had to play one hand at a time on a live table at the slow crawl of televised poker. And the opponent he faced was a completely different sort of player: Marcello ‘luckexpress’ Marigliano, who played a patient, defensive style of heads-up poker. Any normal person in Dwan’s shoes would just have exploded.

At the very least he would have been forgiven for being a bit tilty, speedy, a bit prone to making the odd bet or bluff when it wasn’t advised. But not Dwan. He slowed his game down the exact right amount and found the perfect pitch with which to play this different opponent. Through sheer force of will he shifted down a dozen gears, in one of the most amazing displays of guts I’ve seen at the table.

Class Act

Now let me tell you something about the class of Tom Dwan. Towards the end of his last match with Sammy George, Sammy went a little off the rails. He had played great all day, but down over $700k his eyes got glassy and $50k went like paper burned. Sammy called for half a million more. This great match was about to turn into a rout. And Tom spoke up softly to Sammy, saying it’s been a great day, you’ve been unlucky, we’ll play again soon – don’t you think it’s time you call it quits for the night? With half a million dollars being put on a platter, he talked to his opponent about the smart thing to do. That says a lot about the class of Tom Dwan.

The challenge was for 500 hands against three opponents, with a minimum sitdown of half a million dollars. Dwan finished over $800k to the good. But being a champion is as much about character and class as it is about winnings. And these are two qualities you’ll find in abundant supply when you watch Tom Dwan.

If you want to be as good as Tom Dwan then you need to be reading this FREE copy of PokerPlayer magazine

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