Saturday, January 10, 2009

Put Your Money Where Your Mouse Is

I like poker. I like playing poker with my friends every few months. I like playing online. I like watching poker on TV (you gotta check that one out). I like listening to poker podcasts. I just like poker.

But I'm not a real player. I play with pretend money online, and no more than maybe 3 times a month. The games with my friends are small stakes (as they should be with friends). Truth is, I like the money I have. I don't have one ounce of the disregard for money that a person needs to play for real.

Tom Dwan does. Tom (or "durrrr" as he is known online) is 22. He's been playing poker seriously for about 5 years (mostly online until he was 21). In those five years he's risen to the play in the highest cash games you can find (this usually No-Limit Texas Hold'em or Pot-Limit Omaha with blinds something like $400-$800). Durrrr reportedly won over $6.5 million online in 2008 alone - this despite losing over $700,000 on ONE HAND a couple months ago. He is not as common a name as Brunson, Ivey, Hellmuth or Negreanu, but he sits at their tables.

And apparently, he thinks he has an edge on them.

He recently issued an open challenge, where he will put up $1.5 million against an opponent's $500,000. They will play 50,000 hands online, playing no less than 4 tables at one time. At the end of the 50,000 hands, the winner (whoever is ahead) will get the other player's "entry fee" (if durrrr wins, he gets $500,000, if his opponent wins, he gets durrrr's 1.5 mill), PLUS whatever money he won over the course of the 50,000 hands.

One of your first questions, besides are these people insane, may be "How long does it take to play 50,000 hands?". In a recent conversation between Barry Greenstein and Phil Ivey, Barry guessed that it would be something like 4-5 hours a day for a month. Ivey also noted that he, David Benyamine and Patrick Antonius have all accepted the challenge.


In 1980, Stu Ungar won the first of his 3 WSOP Main Event championships. Upon winning the tournament, he was asked at a press conference what he was going to do with the prize money ($385,000). "Lose it," he muttered under his breath. When asked what he said, he straitened up and lied, "Put it in the bank and give it to my kids - waddaya think?!?"

Like a lot of the things we find entertaining, this type of money could go to much better use than being thrown away on games (like getting Rye, Coovo and I matching TLATL jumpsuits). But I can't help it - it's just fun to watch.


Marty said...

I didn't like the fact that there were no comments for so long....However, I do like the image of the three of you wearing matching jumpsuits of any kind, evrytime you are together....I also think its crazy that i worry about paying my $38 electric bill every month, and this guy loses $700,000 in one which during that span of time, I made like 50 cents at my job....also an interesting note, there is not a cent symbol on the keyboard. Did there used to be??

Coovo said...

Marty, inflation affects us all, even keyboards.

I tried getting into poker, but I'm just not a gambler. Therefore, I can't even begin to comprehend this guy's life. I mean I feel bad when I drop below $500 on computer solitaire. If it was real money, there would have to be an AED close or I would be in trouble.

Matching whatsuits? I missed that part . . . That's what I'm talking about. Jumpsuits last forever . . .Unless we take the jumpsuit money, let it all ride on black, then, we could get two sets of jumpsuits. Maybe I was wrong about this gambling thing.

Ryan said...

I'm down for the matching jumpsuits, a la Bottlerocket.

Rollz, been getting back into poker a bit more. Still it's tough. I like to play with friends for a little bit of money (well put). I play online for play money once in awhile, but it's a dumbed-down game.

Still can't really watch it on TV, although I watched a bit the other night.

I wonder what the effect of online playing will have on the game -- not so much as increasing its exposure but the theories of reading someone in any other way than their bets.

P.S. It's really hard to design agents to play at top levels. Obviously, playing the game towards its statistical optimum is easy for a machine, but any decent opponent could eventually learn to bluff it to death.

Marty said...

i was just looking at the labels on the side...this is probably the only website that would come up if you googled John Stamos, Fr. Hagan, Kim Jong Il, and Oil....i'm going to try it

Marty said...

Well, apparently there are 143...but you guys are 1 and 2...i wonder what combo of words, besides your url, would return just this site as a result...

Roller said...

Marty, thanks for breaking up the shutout. I know I can always count on you for that, or for playing about 35% when I'm guarding you instead of dunking all over me.

Coovo, is it true you once lost $700,000 on one hand of solitare?

Rye, the quality of poker on TV ranges quite a bit. Some I watch, most I don't. High Stakes Poker is coming back for a fifth season on GSN. Cash game, top pros, minimum buy-in of 250 G's. It's good.

Also, I know what you mean about playing for free. At the low levels, it's pretty lame. I signed up on a while ago, and once you build your "bankroll" and get out of the bottom rungs it's more fun/challenging.

And there have been some pretty sophisticated AI programs that have been designed to play LIMIT poker very, very well. But from what I've read no computer is close to solving no limit.

Marty, if you google pictures of Marty Coover, I'm pretty sure the Ryan Howard picture from our post comes up near the top.

Marty said...

Couldn't find the ryan howard picture, but if you google "roller coovo ryan" in images you get like 7 random loopandthelou pictures, including johnny miller, swiss cheese, and hillary clinton

Kevin said...


Can you provide some updates on how that challenge plays out?

Also - most of this stuff is also on fr hagan's old blog, so it's tough to find end up as the only google result.

Coovo said...

If I had a nickel for all the Full House reruns I watched with Fr. Hagan, I'd be bloggin' with a Gold plated Macbook.

That guys kind of looks like my friend Eric. Weird.

Roller said...

Kev, absolutely. From what I've heard so far, David Benyamine would be the first challenger. At least that's what one of his backers, David Oppenheim, said

Ivey guessed that in the first match someone will go broke, that in the first game someone will lose 6 mill or something, and that will be the end of it. Of course, if Durrrr wins, I'm sure he'd be up for another game...

Roller said...

sorry, link was bad in last comment. here's the real one

kevin said...

rollo - i was just catching up on this story and went over the rules. what's up with this stipulation?

The challenge is not open to Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond.[12][7]

Roller said...

Kev, most people thought that was entered because a) Dwan and Galfond are good friends, b) Dwan doesn't think he has a 3:1 edge over Galfond, or c) both.

There's a website out there ( that tracks the biggest winners and losers online, and I'm pretty sure that Galfond was the biggest online winner (that it could track) in 2008 at 7 million. I don't think this DB tracks live games, or the millions of prop bets the players make throughout the course of a year.

kevin said...

i love that table name btw "OMGClayAiken".