Why Tom Dwan Won't Finish the "durrrr challenge" With Jungleman
Dwan and Cates hug it out in Vegas back in 2014, a mere four years after their 50k hand challenge started
"I hear the "durrrr challenge" with jungleman might be back on?" Just hearing those words is likely to make anyone who has followed poker over the past few years roll their eyes - yet that was the news Dan "jungleman" Cates tweeted last month. But will it happen? Somehow we doubt it.
There are many reasons why we think the chances of the "durrrr challenge" is unlikely to ever be completed, but the most simple and most obvious one is that in our eyes, and in the eyes, frankly, of anyone who has eyes, Tom Dwan is drawing completely dead.
He is 20,000 hands into a 50,000 hand challenge and is already over $1.2m down playing stakes of $200/$400 NLHE against one of the world's best heads-up NLHE players. If he loses the challenge he then has to pay Cates another $1.5m.
Let's face facts; when their challenge began in August 2010 Dwan was already hopelessly outmatched. When he had first issued the challenge in January 2009 his NL skills were already being questioned by up and coming players - however, at this point none of them had the bankroll to undertake such a challenge, and those already at the highest stakes were generally unwilling to play Dwan.
Later on in the year durrrr's NL reputation took a huge hit as the likes of Luke "__Fullflush1__" Schwartz rather vocally aired his opinions of Dwan before taking him for over $500,000 at NL. Then came Isildur1 - a Swedish newcomer who tore $5m from him in just a couple of weeks playing $500/$1000 in November 2009. By the summer of 2010 there were plenty more sharks coming to the surface, with jungleman12 leading the way.
However, by summer 2010 Dwan had also managed to rebuild his roll, winning over $9m between December 2009 and April 2010 so was, no doubt, full of hubris and feeling invincible once again. It's worth noting that contrary to popular belief, durrrr's bankroll on this occasion had nothing to do with Guy Laliberte; then again, neither did it have anything to do with NLHE. Nearly all of durrrr's profit in this period came from insane, high variance PLO matches against the likes of Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies, and Gus Hansen. He also profited considerably from his other challenge (again PLO) against Patrik Antonius. Throughout this period, however, he continued to lose another $750k at NLHE.
Whatever way you look at it, although his bankroll may have bounced back, his NL game was already failing him badly and his love of action (and his brutal beating by Isildur1) had pushed him ever more towards PLO. All the while the likes of Ike "luvtheWNBA" Haxton, Ben "Sauce1234" Sulsky, jungleman himself, and many more had pretty much dismissed Dwan as a credible top-tier NL player.
When you look at the level of thinking which goes into NLHE today, its clear to even microstakes NL players that the types of plays durrrr was making back in 2008-2009 were somewhat amateurish - and mistakes were being made in pots, the size of which you can't even imagine in today's online game. Here are a couple of examples taken from our recent recap of Hac "trex313" Dang's biggest ever online pots;
Check out durrrr's "Halloween Horror Show"
How to overplay K J off
This isn't to say that Tom Dwan is a terrible poker player of course, just that what it took to become king of the hill in the mid-late 00's is a far cry from what it takes now. Perhaps the best assessment of Dwan's game at the time came from a quote attributed to fellow high stakes pro and former roommate of Dwan, David "Raptor" Benefield who said in 2011, "I always thought he was a fish, but a really creative/smart fish". Unfortunately any "fish", even a creative/smart one is going to be toast against the likes of jungleman.
We've no doubt that Dwan's game has evolved since 2008, it's just that it's inconceivable that it's evolved anywhere near as much as jungleman's, especially at heads-up. Dwan has been playing live poker against a mix of pro/semi-pro/amateur players with very deep pockets. This just can't compare with playing the best NL minds in the world week in week out online - especially as jungleman had a considerably edge to begin with.
Given ALL this, what possible motivation could there be for Dwan to resume the challenge? His reputation perhaps?
It's no secret that Tom Dwan's reputation has been severely tarnished by avoiding the challenge. Prior to this he had a pretty much impeccable standing in the poker community; he was one of the only people inside the company to speak out about Full Tilt not paying their players, and he was generally considered a "stand-up guy". He was also popular among players (old school and new) and fans alike.
Goodwill basically kept Dwan's reputation afloat until Full Tilt came back and he managed a few brief sessions with jungleman after a near 2 year lay-off. However, since then it has all run out, with the likes of Dan Colman and Doug "WCGRider" Polk calling Dwan a straight-up scam artist. Polk went so far as to call the challenge, "The largest scam in poker history". Occasionally tidbits would emerge such as Dwan agreeing to pay Cates $40k for every two months he didn't play any hands - but neither the penalty or the hands materialised. The only person to seemingly ever stick up for Dwan in the interim has actually been Cates, saying in the past that Dwan had been having "problems" which he hoped to sort out, and even tweeting last month that, "tom and I have been talking about this and working on a resolution. We should get some hands this year"
While it makes sense for Cates to stay on the right side of Dwan in case he does every get around to playing the challenge, it makes no sense that Dwan would play it. In fact, I'll go so far as to say he shouldn't play it.
By that I don't mean he should continue to welch on the bet, but think about it; if he is saying he is willing to "get some hands in" then he is implying that he has the means to continue with the challenge (a challenge where he must have accepted by now he is a huge underdog), thus also implying that he has the means to pay up the additional $1.5m if and when he loses. If this is indeed the case then surely by far the best option for Dwan would be to buy out of the challenge as Patrik Antonius did when he was $2m down to Dwan in their PLO challenge after 39k hands?
If he can afford to buy out of the challenge then surely this is the best option? He salvages something of his reputation, he almost certainly saves himself a TON of money, and he doesn't have to play 30,000 hands of $200/$400 NL against an opponent who has him pretty much drawing dead. Unless of course, he doesn't have the money and is, once again, leading Cates on a merry dance.
Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to see the challenge finish. Somehow though, I think I'm more likely to see Jason Mercier and Doug Polk partner up as the "Bad Regs" for this year's WSOP $10k Tag Team event!