What can we learn from Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan?

Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan is one of the most exciting poker players to ever play the game. Whether it’s online or live, Dwan crushed the highest stakes cash games in the world against extraordinary competition such as Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius and more. What’s more – he did it in style. Before durrrr you rarely saw huge river overbets, crazy triple barrel bluffs or wafer-thin value bets that are all now commonplace.

Dwan has been out of the public eye for a few years now but poker fans still love revisiting classic moments from his career, such as this PokerStars.tv list of his Top 5 hands:

If you’re a low-stakes player it’s entertaining to watch Dwan play, but you can also learn a lot from him too. Here are some Dwan-esque tactics that you should take to the tables next time you play on PokerStars…

Size your bets accordingly

One thing Dwan is excellent at doing is knowing how much pressure to exert at any given time to make his opponent fold when he is bluffing. It’s all too easy to get into a pattern of always betting the same amount on the river when you are bluffing, regardless of the situation. For most players this will be between 50-75% of the pot. In general, this will work well but there are definitely times where it can be valuable to deviate from the norm.

Tom Dwan knows this and uses it to his advantage to pick up pot after pot that he shouldn’t really be able to steal. Let’s say you have called bets on the flop and turn with a draw that misses on the river. Now your opponent checks and you are pretty confident they have a decent hand – like top pair, good kicker – but not a very strong hand. It’s most likely that they are checking this river to you in the hope that you bluff so they can call and win. The problem is that a standard 75% pot-size bet will be called and their plan works out perfectly. In this spot playing like Tom Dwan would leave you with two options; check and give up, or overbet a huge amount that puts a ton of pressure on his hand. Try an overbet of 150% of the pot and, assuming your read that they only have one pair is correct, you will force them to fold most of the time. It’s exactly what Dwan does to Bob Safai in the video above – and it works a charm.

Of course, there is a disclaimer to a high risk strategy like this. You must have a strong enough read on your opponent’s hand and you must know that they are capable of folding top pair. If that’s not the case then this is a very expensive bluff to mess up.

Play it fast

Tom Dwan’s image at the poker table is that he’s hyper-aggressive and loves to bluff. One of the major positives to this image is that when he actually does have a hand he invariably finds a way to get paid off to the max. If you watch the videos – in particular the $500k+ pot versus Antonius and the $1.1m pot versus Ivey – you’ll see that whenever Dwan hits the nuts he plays it very fast, immediately reraising and looking to get as much money into the middle as possible.
In general, this is going to be a much better tactic than slow playing, especially when you and your opponent are deep-stacked. When you slow play you run the risk of cards coming down on the turn or river that will kill the action, or even let you get outdrawn.

For example, you have Qd-Td and the flop comes down 4d-7d-9d. This is an amazing flop for you, giving you a Queen-high flush which is almost certainly the best hand. If your opponent starts to show a lot of strength – by making a big bet or raising – then you should try to get all the chips in right here instead of slowing down. Imagine your opponent has a set or top two pair; they’re not folding and you will get all the money in as a substantial favourite. However, if you just call and the turn is a fourth diamond they’re unlikely to pay off another bet and you may have cost yourself a ton of value. Secondly, they might have a hand like Ad-9c which is behind now but has decent equity against your flopped flush. With a hand like this your opponent might be prepared to gamble but if you both see the turn they are possibly only putting more money in if they hit the nuts.
At first glance the advanced plays that Tom Dwan made famous may appear out of reach to the everyday, casual (and mortal) poker player. But when you break down it is that Dwan does to reap in the huge profits and become feared at the table it’s clear to see that everybody – including you – can take a little inspiration from the durrrr playbook.