Durrrr Day - Part 2
June 26, 2011
It's twenty after midnight and the 5k Omaha is on a break. i find Tom Dwan in the room down the hall playing the 10k Horse, trying to get more than twenty minutes out of his chips. By my estimate, today he’s played eight hours of Omaha, one hand of the 2.5k NL (all-in and a call), and about a dinner break’s worth of the 10k Horse. Durrrr’s in a pot as I arrive, but that’s kind of like putting your hand in a jar of jellybeans and grabbing a jellybean. A steady pro named Abe Mosseri is giving Tom dog’s abuse tongue in cheek about a prop bet of undetermined stature. After the hand Dwan is earnest in placing his case, maybe a little more strident in tone than ten hours before. Lord only knows when he last had time for the toilet. Durrrr loses the next pot, looks at his phone, and jumps up away from the table, long legs pumping as he gazelles through the room. “Good luck,” calls Mosseri, as Dwan bolts away. “I’m rooting for you.”
Mosseri probably is, you know. Rooting for Dwan. And that attitude extends down the line from every top pro. As long as they’re not betting against Tom Dwan, they are rooting for him, pretty much every single one. They root for Tom Dwan with some kind of bemusement when he’s there and sick admiration when he’s gone. Because if the collection of the poker community’s elite is a collection of men with the biggest hearts and the most courage in poker, then Tom Dwan has the biggest balls of them all. And that’s just a fact. Is he a sick gambler? That’s not really the story. The story is that he can lay more on the line than any other and still perform at the highest level. Perform better even. Whether or not this is what gives him a rush and keeps him going is for him and the psychiatrists couch. Being in the gambling world, you see plenty of guys with big balls. We all do. But Tom Dwan has the biggest balls of them all. And there’s not even anyone anywhere close to second.
The boys are waiting for him back at the Omaha in the next room. Dwan’s actually a minute and thirty seconds early, the tournament clock on the side of the room counting the break down. He’s probably regretting not having played an extra hand in the Horse. Here they’re down to three tables, just eighteen players remain, and this is now officially Tom Dwan’s best chance for a bracelet so far at the 2011 WSOP. But what a table. Tournament god Jason Mercier on his left and Tom’s best friend Peter Jetten on his right. Devilfish, Moorman, and another round the table out. Actually, aside from the fact that he’s down to 200k and change, about a half average stack, Dwan is probably loving this spot. A typical day for him in Omaha is versus the other five best players in the world. Or sometimes just numbers two and three. That’s if Dwan is the best. And that depends on who you ask.
He must be feeling the hours. The pressure, the weight of life and fear of loss should hang like an anvil. But you can’t see it yet. If he’s crying when he’s alone then he puts on one hell of an act. The story of Tom Dwan is a wait for the meltdown that hasn’t come. Right now he’s sitting up, back straight, head over the table, gaze steady, actually chuckling at one of the Devilfish’s jokes. Most Americans, come one o’clock in the morning, don’t even know what planet the Devilfish is from. A Hull accent can do that to you.
The Devilfish bets twenty odd thousand on the turn and Dwan splashes five greens into the pot, one hundred twenty-five thousand straight. Devilfish starts muttering, but this time Dwan doesn’t smile. When he’s in a hand he’s serious, face blank as a chalkboard and eyes gone mudball steel. The Devilfish counts his chips out and looks at Dwan. “I know how much you want to win this fucking bracelet,” he says. “I know what it means.” Well, we all do. Or no one does. But the Devilfish is saying that Dwan can’t be bluffing here. He folds the hand.
A big crowd has gathered on the rail, about thirty people too many for this stage of the tournament at this time of night, and alongside someone says to me, “What do you think? Why are they all here?”
“It’s Dwan,” I say. “They want to watch Durrrr.”
“I just can’t see the draw,” says your man. But Durrrr is the draw. Tom Dwan is the number one draw. And it’s not aspirational. It’s more magical. It’s mythical. The draw is to be witness. And it’s hardly about what Tom Dwan does, basically he sits and shuffles chips and turns his head and stares. The draw is how he does it. I met a rounder the other day, a guy who’s been around for long enough and on his own and at the highest level without a bad word spoken towards him so that just nothing impresses him more than half an eyebrow. But when I mentioned Tom Dwan he nodded and said, “A class act. Throw seven figures of red at him and he doesn’t blink. He’s a class act all the way.”
There’s something funny about Dwan sitting on Peter Jetten’s left. It’s funny because they’re best friends, everyone knows they are best friends, and it’s a perfect example of who Tom Dwan is. In one of the first events of the WSOP, Dwan drew Jetten in the first round of the 25k heads up. Now Dwan had made a ton of side bets on the event, many involving his first round match. The first thing he did was to give everyone the option of calling off their bets. The second thing he did was to not tell Jetten how much he had bet on the match. He didn’t want to throw Jetten off his game, he didn’t want Jetten not to be trying his best. It wasn’t about being fair. It was about bending over backwards to avoid even a sniff of impropriety. It’s a statement. I can’t make a bet big enough for it to be worth my reputation. And here in the Omaha, Jetten raises a pot and Dwan takes it off him on the flop and the Devilfish says something like, “Look at these two. Just passing chips all night!” Everybody laughs, including Peter and Dwan. Because every single one of them knows how with others you might actually worry, and here how far it is from the truth.
The Devilfish flops a set against Dwan’s straight and flush draw, and they get the money in on the flop. The Fish hits quads on the turn and says, “Oh, Baby!” For Dwan, that’s pain, but he manages a thin smile, gives up the chips and reaches for his phone, thumbs a blur with texting. He’s down to less than 100k now, about twelve big blinds.
There’s something you need to know about gamblers. A gamblers word is his bond. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Benny Binion once said that he’d rather have the word of a gambler than a contract from a bank. He was talking about a man’s reputation and pride being worth more than a balance sheet. I’m pretty sure that he was speaking about the spirit of Tom Dwan.
There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of anger over the fallout from Black Friday, about accounts that have not yet been repaid. And the reason that people are upset has little to do with waiting a few months for their money. I’ve waited years for money owed. And made other people wait longer. But as long as it was a debt between gamblers, who really cared how long it took. So let’s put it out there. We all know what has upset people about Full Tilt Poker. It has nothing to do with being owed money. Who cares about that? What upsets people, and perhaps they were wrong for thinking this way and you can put it down to deceptive marketing or sheer naiveté. But the reason people are upset is because they believed that Full Tilt Poker was different. Full Tilt Poker was not supposed to be a company, and Full Tilt Poker was not supposed to be a bank. What Full Tilt Poker was supposed to be was something much simpler. It was a debt between gamblers. And a gambler’s word is his bond.
It’s noticeable, of course, how quickly Tom Dwan reacted to the news of Black Friday in his way. First, he stated that he would personally guarantee a million dollars’ worth of Full Tilt debt. Later he said that if worst came to worst, he would pay all the money that he has received in Full Tilt sponsorship dollars back to those owed. Was he less vested than others? Surely. Does he have as much at stake? Unlikely. But that’s hardly the point.
Dwan has opened the pot and Jason Mercier has reraised and now the decision is back on Dwan. There’s a bit of a commotion going round the table. Someone calls to Mercier from the rail, and Pokernews has got a camera behind the Devilfish and pointing towards Tom Dwan’s face. Some WSOP staff have closed in around the table and a blogger is just behind Dwan with a notebook poised. A cocktail waitress saunters by calling, “Cocktails? Water, Redbull.” A dealer is standing behind the one who’s seated, ready to tap in. The rail is pretty thick for two am. It’s Dwan, of course. It’s Durrrr they’ve come to see with thirty-eight minutes left in the night and ten big blinds.
Obviously, every man has a price. It’s part of the human condition. Maybe we hope that the men who can’t be sold for any price only exist in the movies, or else it makes the rest of us seem so frail. But you find out a whole lot more about a guy when the chips are down than when things are going the other way. And Dwan may be a lot of things, a lot of people have a lot of comments about what he does and the way he plays. But you can’t find a single person in the world who claims to know his price.
The money goes in and Mercier’s got the aces and Tom Dwan’s out. Shakes hands and bolts the room. Probably a little sick. Back over at the 10k Horse and they’ve just bagged and tagged for the night. Dwan doesn’t even get to sign off for his stack. But the chips are there to keep the action going, tomorrow.
You know, that Tom Dwan means to win. Somewhere inside the wispy demeanor and the awkward stares, he means to win his way, without being reduced to a castrated gambler with scared eyes and broken dreams who must prostrate himself in front of money men like George C Scott. Three years ago, you would have hitched your wagon to Tom Dwan’s plough. Now, the odds are against him. Maybe he’s shaken away the chaff. Maybe he’s reduced his believers to himself alone. He’s got persistence, I’ll give him that. He’s got talent, he’s got heart. He’s got the biggest balls in poker, and there’s not even anyone anywhere close to second.
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