Arts & Entertainment

Phil Hellmuth on Poker: Rematch Against Tom “Durrr” Dwan

After winning my first round match in the National Heads-Up Championship against Mike Sexton and beating amateur Jeffrey Ishbia in the second round, I found myself in the Sweet 16 facing 22-year-old internet poker sensation Tom “Durrr” Dwan.

No doubt about it, Durrr has enormous talent and potential. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually becomes the best poker player in the world. He eliminated me in the first round of last year’s Heads-Up Championship when his pocket tens beat my pocket aces on the third hand played.

In this year’s match, to my great surprise, Durrr came out playing slow. He rarely raised or reraised a hand before the flop; that’s just not the Durrr the poker world knows. He’s generally super-aggressive and plays a fast style of poker – raising and reraising like a crazy man!

You see, I’m the player that typically comes out playing a controlled game. I prefer to observe my opponent’s tactics and then devise an effective counter-strategy to whatever approach he has in play that day.

The fast and furious match that everyone expected turned into a slow small ball affair. Though I was prepared to compete against a fast playing Durrr, I certainly didn’t mind playing a slower Durrr. When I play a great player heads-up, it’s usually a slow match, at least in the early stages.

I managed to build a nice lead of $105,000 in chips to Durrr’s $55,000 in the first hour. That’s when Durrr changed gears and started to play fast. I picked up on this change and countered by concentrating on making solid reads.

If Durrr raised or reraised with an apparent weak hand and I also had a weak hand, I’d put in another raise, hoping to force him to fold right there. If he raised or reraised with a weak hand and I had a super-strong hand, I’d slow play it, letting him have the last raise and setting him up to bluff off some of his money to me.

In one hand, with the blinds at $1,000/$2,000, I opened for $6,000 with 6s-3s. Durrr made it $15,400 to go.

I watched him go through his motions before raising it up and sensed some serious weakness. I decided that I needed to follow my instincts in order to win this match. So, within twenty seconds of his raise, I announced, “I’m all-in.”

That was unquestionably an aggressive move! If I was wrong and Durrr did have a strong hand, I’d be a huge underdog. I would have handed him $110,000 and he’d have taken a $50,000 chip lead!

But that’s not how it turned out. Durrr folded his hand fairly quickly after my shove.

I trusted my instincts, made a big move, and picked up another $15,400 in chips. I now held a $120,000 to $40,000 chip lead.

Many players would have revealed their hand to gloat or to put their opponent on tilt. I didn’t because I respect Durrr and felt that showing him a bluff would have given him a free read on me. If I showed my cards, he might have attempted a similar move on me. If I didn’t show, however, he’d probably think that I had a strong hand and that would be the end of that.

I went on to beat Durrr on an interesting pot which I’ll review in an upcoming column.

Next up, I play another young superstar, Bertrand “Elky” Grospelier, in the Elite Eight. That match airs on Sunday, May 10 on NBC.


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