Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #3 Tom Dwan
There is perhaps no more polarizing poker figure today than that of Tom Dwan. If he’s playing poker, there are scores of eyeballs that want a peak at what he’s doing, what plays he’s making, and what the stakes are for. Even online, railbirds show up in droves to get a glimpse of “Durrrr” taking on the world’s best poker players for stack sizes that many people won’t make in a lifetime. He’s been involved in more than his fair share of a few million dollar pots, a few high stakes challenges, and a few entertaining prop bets, all the while drawing the interest of both the poker junkie and the casual fan.
Dwan’s career story is one that make people believe that anything is possible. In much the same way that Chris Moneymaker ignited the poker boom in 2003, the emergence of Durrrr in 2004 on Full Tilt Poker launched a poker phenom that the public saw navigate his way from playing $6 Sit and Go tournaments off of a $45 stake from his grandfather, to playing at the highest cash games online. Dwan has been the epitome of variance, with the most drastic up and down swings, and his meteoric rise to the top of Poker’s elite became all the more interesting when he signed as a member of Team Full Tilt in early November 2009. Donning the red triangle on his shirt at live tournaments and high stakes live cash games around the globe, Dwan made huge waves at the World Series of Poker in 2010 with a great number of stories. But his run in Event #11, a $1,500 buy-in No Limit Hold’em Event had a back story with the likes of which was something that the World Series of Poker hadn’t ever really seen before. The end result was a memory for everyone that will be forever etched into the poker world, one which people will recant as “I remember that WSOP event when Tom Dwan….” and everyone will fill in their own blank. In fact, the moment created by Dwan may have a larger historical impact on the game of poker than the Main Event this year, which is why I have him ranked above that story.
Prior to the World Series, Dwan offered somewhere between 3:1 and 3.5:1 odds to any takers that he would win a WSOP Bracelet in 2010. The sum total that he would stand to gain based on the action that he received from the bet is unknown, but most people think that the number is somewhere between $9 and $12 million. Virtually all of poker’s elite wanted some of the action, including the biggest names at Full Tilt Poker like Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Mike Mattusow, Huck Seed, and Eli Elezra. Even PokerStars Pro’s like Daniel Negreanu got in on the action as winning a bracelet had to be considered a long shot given the size of the fields that World Series was seeing, and the fact that Dwan has yet to win a large field tournament. But in event #11, Dwan found himself with a ton of chips entering the final table of an event that fielded 2,563 players, and a chance to make good on the side bets creating a huge whirlwind of interest that captured the attention of everyone in the game of poker, both in the casino and around the world.
Inside the Amazon Room, in the conference center of the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino, a mood was created that sent shockwaves throughout the poker world that was felt all over the globe. For those that weren’t there, there was a flurry of interested parties pounding the refresh button on their computers in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get the most updated information. Twitter was flooded with updates from the very full ESPN Featured table, which was packed to the brim with standing room only spectators watching something truly magnificent unfold. Many of the spectators were players that had action on Dwan, and were wandering away from the $10,000 Buy in 7-card Stud Championship which they were actively playing in, just so that they could get a better glimpse of what was taking place. When David Randall was eliminated by Simon Watt in 3rd place, there was only 1 person standing in the way of Dwan becoming a WSOP Bracelet winner, and crippling the bankrolls of countless poker players.
But Watt held onto a massive chip lead at the start of heads up play, and in the end would force Dwan into committing his last chips into the middle with a Queen and a Six, while Watt tabled a pair of Nines. When the river card hit and the final hands were read, Tom Dwan was eliminated in second place, and Simon Watt made countless players breathe again. Dwan took home what would be an insignificant $381,885 for the runner up finish, a sum that would pale in comparison had he been able to eliminate just one more player, and left the tournament area in a flash. The only thing that you heard him say was “Can I pick up my money tomorrow?” as it was clear he was wrecked by getting this close only to fall one spot short.
But the heads up loss only added fuel to Durrr’s fire as he entered as many tournaments as he possibly could in his quest to find a bracelet. Often found multi-tabling the highest stakes cash games online, Dwan was now found running between multiple tournaments trying to run up a stack as he darted from one tournament to another in the Rio. But he never really found another run quite like Event #11, and only managed a few other cashes. There was a glimmer of hope for another deep run when in event #50, the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship event, Dwan finished day 2 with a runaway chip lead in the game that was considered to be his best. However, Day 3 was unkind to him, and he’d find the exit in 17th place, and would really end the bracelet quest there as he wouldn’t find himself close to winning a bracelet again.
It’s difficult to measure exactly how much the Simon Watt win meant to the rest of the game of poker, and it’s impossible to tell in words the excitement that was felt in the casino that day. I don’t know if there’s every been that much attention given to a World Series of Poker event that wasn’t the main event before. Said Annie Duke who was playing the $10k 7-Stud Championship event while the circus was on during the same time “It’s like watching a huge trainwreck!” In truth, it was impossible to take your eyes off the situation.
When the Series was over and the year end stories were told, the story of Tom Dwan continued to resonate among the poker media and among the minds of the people that were there. A small $1,500 buy in tournament in Las Vegas had not only turned into one of the great stories of the year, but one that will be remember for years to come.