There’s a college dropout living in Texas who has become one of the biggest cash game players the world has ever seen.
Tom Dwan, screen name “durrrr”, is said to have made over $4,000,000 (according to High Stakes DB) playing the highest stakes poker the internet has to offer. He thinks nothing of sitting down for a sesh of $500/$1000 NLH with the likes of Phil Ivey, David Benyamine, Patrik Antonius & Phil Galfond. He is talked about in awed tones on internet forums and chatrooms, and seen as “the man” or “ultimate balla” by those 20-somethings who seek to emulate his success. He is the poster boy for a generation of US college kids whose aggressive playing styles are often derided by older players, especially when they invoke their rallying cry of “Ship it, Holla”.
The high stakes online action has caught the attention of the poker media, notably Bluff magazine, which ran a kind of ‘At home with…’ piece on Dwan and his housemate David Benefield (aka “Raptor”) last year.
The article, headlined ‘Lifestyles of the Sick and Famous’ provides an interesting insight into the lives of the two young internet poker pros or ‘ballas’.
The journalist who wrote it, Chris Vaughn, describes watching Dwan in action: “Tom asked me to watch him play a quick “sesh”. Naturally, a quick sesh for Tom involved opening six tables at which the smallest limit being played was 100/200 NL Hold’em. Over the next 45 minutes, I watched him win nearly $200,000. I have never seen, and don’t expect to ever see again, anyone win that kind of money in such a short amount of time.”
Later the young internet players take Chris out for a spot of tenpin bowling and throw $100 bills around like they are confetti.
The article in turn led to TV interest with discussions now afoot about a reality TV show. Another so-called balla, Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo, is also involved and wrote about it in his blog recently: “I don’t know if the show will actually ever happen. They still have to pitch it to networks and everything, but I really hope it does. It would be an amazing opportunity. After the interview, Tom Dwan (Durrrr) and David Benefield (Raptor) showed up, and we shot some group pictures by the guys collection of Ferraris. I think Tom and Dave are basically seen as the guys with the lifestyle they really want to depict, and are basically the inspiration for the show in the first place.”
Dwan, who grew up in New Jersey, has come a long way since he started playing online in March 2004. Playing $5 SNGs he soon found out that the game could be profitable.
At first, he says, he struggled, although he made enough to keep going up through the levels. He went from $1/$2 NLH to $2.50/$5 on Paradise Poker before transferring to PokerStars. He started playing $2/$4 there before moving up to $2/$6, graduating to the staggeringly high limits he plays today.
Now, he is even being compared to a young Doyle Brunson with some of his fans even suggesting on a 2 plus 2 forum thread that his poker prowess eclipses that of Texas Dolly. Hilariously, there is a debate on who has played more hands in their poker career: durrrr in his two years of multi-tabling on the internet at a rate of 75 hands an hour or Doyle in a lifetime of grinding it out in live games at 15 hands an hour.
You can watch durrrr most nights on the biggest NLH ring games available on Full Tilt and Stars. He is used to playing the best in the world every night for sums that would dwarf the annual earnings of about 98% of his compatriots. Have a look at the kind of hand he is used to playing at the bottom of. In this hand his opponent flops quad 10s and still manages to lose a $135k pot to Dwan.
In recent times he has also taken to live poker, and from November ’07 to January ’08 has cashed for a staggering $650,000 in his supposed weaker offline domain. Highlights of the sick run include 4th in a WPT Championship Event for $324,244 and 2nd in the Aussie Millions Pot Limit Omaha event for just over $90,000. Just 11 days after that he came in runner-up in the WPT Borgata Winter Open to add another $226,100 to his already outrageous bankroll.
He gained more TV exposure during NBC’s National Heads-Up Championship in April ’08. His first round match against Phil Hellmuth ended quickly and in dramatic circumstances which Phil was none too pleased about: see below.
Whatever the future holds for durrrr the chances are it will always involve high stakes action. But on the basis that most poker players go busto some time in their careers one wonders how long this particular balla can cling on to reality. He might find his charmed life doesn’t last for ever. As David Byrne sang in Once In A Lifetime:
And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!
How to become a Balla in one easy lesson: river a straight flush
Full Tilt Poker Game #1830086866: Table Vasari (heads up) – $200/$400 – No Limit Hold’em – 14:21:11 ET – 2007/02/19
Seat 1: Son-in-Law ($67,608.75)
Seat 2: durrrr ($77,241.75)
durrrr posts the small blind of $200
Son-in-Law posts the big blind of $400
The button is in seat #2
*** HOLE CARDS ***
durrrr raises to $1,200
Son-in-Law raises to $3,600
durrrr calls $2,400
*** FLOP *** [Td Ts 7h]
Son-in-Law bets $5,000
durrrr raises to $15,700
Son-in-Law calls $10,700
*** TURN *** [Td Ts 7h] [5h]
durrrr has 15 seconds left to act
durrrr bets $57,941.75, and is all in
Son-in-Law calls $48,308.75, and is all in
durrrr shows [6h 8h]
Son-in-Law shows [Th Tc]
Uncalled bet of $9,633 returned to durrrr
*** RIVER *** [Td Ts 7h 5h] [4h]
durrrr shows a straight flush, Eight high
Son-in-Law shows four of a kind, Tens
durrrr wins the pot ($135,217) with a straight flush, Eight high
Son-in-Law is sitting out
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $135,217.50 | Rake $0.50
Board: [Td Ts 7h 5h 4h]
Seat 1: Son-in-Law (big blind) showed [Th Tc] and lost with four of a kind, Tens
Seat 2: durrrr (small blind) showed [6h 8h] and won ($135,217) with a straight flush, Eight high