Tom Dwan talks to us exclusively about ‘Durrrr-land’: “As far as poker goes, objectivity is the ability to lose 30 buy-ins and realise that you are the favourite in a game”

Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan gives the inside word on his challenge with Antonius, and reveals why he has Phil Galfond at his mercy

I’m often asked how I deal with losing. I think it’s among the most important things a successful poker player has to do. When I’m facing the annoyance of running bad online, I find it’s most effective to take a short break. I stop playing for five minutes, do a few push-ups, maybe play Halo for a bit, and then return to the game. Most people run bad and quit the session. But so long as you can control yourself, that’s often a terrible mistake. You can be walking away from a good situation just because you got unlucky.

However, always trying to play through a rough session and avoiding any tilt can be a problem. I’ll often quit a session if I’m running bad and in a situation that bothers me. For example, if my internet connection keeps cutting out, or if there’s some loud construction work next door.
On May 4 I had a PLO session with Patrik Antonius (as part of the durrrr Challenge) where I lost about $400,000 in 400 hands. I was obviously not happy about the results, but I wasn’t too tilted either. Then I had a hand where I held J-T-8-6 on a K-9-7-6 board. My internet went out in the middle of the hand, and it felt as if I had just seen $15,000 catch on fire. After that I had to quit. I was too frustrated to carry on.

Distance Challenge

Over the last two years of playing, against Patrik and others, I have learned something very important: objectivity. It’s really hard to come by and not a lot of people have it, but those who do tend to be successful. As far as poker goes, objectivity is the ability to lose 30 buy-ins and realise that you are the favourite in a game. So you need to keep putting up more money even though you’re getting creamed. At the same time, objectivity is being able to lose ten buy-ins and know you’re a dog, that you’re in a situation where you need to do more than push-ups to get the best of it.

If Patrik increases his lead on me, it’s possible I’ll be playing a higher variance game than I normally do. I’ll be raising more out of position and pushing hands a little bit harder. It will get to where I’ll be more aggressive and Patrik will be more passive. But that’s true only to a point. Even if he’s up $3m, he won’t fold every hand!

Here’s how my game changes when he moves ahead. In a spot where he raises and I think, long term, it costs me $1 to call, I’ll still call. This is in an effort to increase the variance (which I want while being down money). Likewise, if I’m up money, I might fold a hand I thought was marginally profitable to call or raise. And, in case you’re wondering, our side bet isn’t going to factor into the play very much at all.

Admittedly, the above numbers may not be 100% accurate – I’m into my second glass of wine at the moment – but the point is that a lot of complex guesswork goes into poker and that can be more critical than the maths, which many people do without even realising it. In fact, it’s so complex that you can’t play perfect strategy. So I suggest accepting that and doing what you can to be off by as little as possible.

Prop Action

I’ve made plenty of prop bets over the last few years. A common bet my friends and I make is to have an unknown of some sort (say, the number of people playing the $40k event at the WSOP), and set a bet-size (say, $20). Then we flip a coin, or play rock, paper, scissors, and the loser has to set the line. The winner gets a $20 bet on whichever side he wants.

The bet I’ve got going now is among my favourites. Four of us are competing to see who can lose the highest percentage of body fat. Whoever drops the least will spend 50 seconds getting shot with paintballs by the other three. He’ll go to a gym, get a cup and goggles, and have nowhere to hide. We’ve all been pretty lazy, so it should be amusing.

When it comes to these kinds of wagers, I’m happy to bet $500,000 against a random guy that I trust. But I don’t like making bets for $10,000. It either needs to be completely significant or no money at all. I’m happy to bet $20 or a tequila shot. Win the shot bet and you can make the other person do two tequila shots at any time.

I have that over Phil Galfond right now. If he tells me he’s really drunk and wants to go home, I can make him stay and do two more shots. But I’ll find a better opportunity than that. And I won’t tell you until after I do it. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for Phil.

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