Friday, September 03, 2010

Railbirds Gather for Durrrr Challenge II

Durrrr Challenge IIYou probably heard something about this second version of Tom Dwan’s “Durrrr Challenge” having recently taken off over at Full Tilt Poker. Looks like the sucker kicked off one week ago (August 27th), with Daniel “Jungleman12” Cates having stepped up to take on Dwan.

It’s been a long, long time -- like 18 months now -- since the first “Durrrr Challenge” was issued and accepted by Patrik Antonius. So long ago it is hard to remember what the original terms for these here challenges.

Looking back, it was early 2009 when Dwan said he’d play anyone -- except Phil Galfond -- to play four tables of heads up simultaneously, either pot-limit Omaha or no-limit hold’em, at a minimum of $200/$400 blinds. The challenge would last for 50,000 hands, and if Dwan’s opponent was up at the end -- even by just a buck -- Dwan would give his opponent a handsome prize of $1.5 million on top of the winnings. Meanwhile, if Dwan ended ahead, his opponent would owe him an additional $500,000.

Antonius was the first to try -- with PLO the chosen game -- and there was a lot of initial hype as the pair started playing their first hands. We also heard at the time that Phil Ivey would be next in line to take on Dwan, but that match has yet to materialize.

A few months passed, and by the summer it was obvious it was going to take Antonius and Dwan much longer than most had thought it would take to get through the 50,000 hands. According to the Full Tilt Poker site’s tracking of the progress of that first challenge, they’ve now played 39,436 hands and Dwan enjoys a hefty lead of about $2.06 million. As Dwan explained earlier in the week on This Week in Poker, his lead isn’t necessarily insurmountable, but he’s definitely looking as though he is in position to finish off the Finn.

Perhaps because that match seems to be somewhat in hand for Dwan, he’s begun a second challenge with Cates -- with the game being no-limit hold’em this time -- and the pair didn’t take long to move through the first 6,800 hands or so. Dwan is already down something like $700,000, as shown on this here graph appearing in the Two Plus Two forum sticky devoted to the Dwan-Cates challenge (click to enlarge):

Looks like they’re still getting the official tracking page together for Durrrr Challenge II over on the Full Tilt site, but meanwhile AlCantHang has set up this here page to report on the proceedings. Dr. Pauly has chimed in over there as well with a guest post commenting on it all; check it out: “Freaky Styley: Durrrr and Jungleman12.”

Most of the talk seems to suggest this second match will probably finish much more quickly than did the first with Antonius, and in fact might even conclude before the Antonius one does. Interesting how the second challenge appeared to get the forum guys and most other pokery people excited again about watching online poker, despite the fact that the first one had become kind of a running joke, with “Durrrr Challenge” having become a handy metaphor for anything tedious or slow-moving.

I’ll admit I remain highly intrigued by it all, and like most folks continue to find Dwan a highly compelling figure. On the most recent episode of the TwoPlusTwo Pokercast, Scott Seiver -- another interesting figure, not to mention excellent poker player (both online and live) -- commented a bit on the challenge. (An excellent interview, by the way, with a highly articulate, smart, and likable guy.)

Seiver was asked for his take on why he thought Dwan was issuing the challenge, in particular why he thought Dwan was willing to give that 3-to-1 advantage to his opponents. Seiver said he didn’t know exactly what Dwan might be thinking, but that he thought it had to do both with the publicity it drew and the fact that when playing that many hands offering 3-to-1 “isn’t that big of a deal.”

“If you’re the better player, you’re going to make enough money to overcome any odds you basically give as a side bet,” explained Seiver. He later added another comment about the challenge that I thought was very insightful, and perhaps helped explain why it remains interesting:

“To be able to play something like the Durrrr Challenge where you are in the spotlight and playing 50,000 hands against the same opponent, you can’t ever let doubt or fear creep in. And that’s what I think is one of Tom Dwan’s best assets, that he just has so much confidence and he doesn’t have the fear to make the right play.... Sometimes you know what a right play is, but it’s tough to actually pull the trigger on it. I think that’s one of Tom’s biggest strengths.”

I’m sure Dwan has his moments in which he experiences doubt, or even fear. If he’s human, that is. But still, it’s fascinating (I think) to see someone operate in a way that suggests he has neither, and even inspiring to see someone act with confidence, whatever it is that person is trying to accomplish.

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