Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Durrrration of the Poker Spotlight

Was thinking a little about that news this week of Tom “durrrr” Dwan parting ways with Full Tilt Poker 2.0. Dwan is no longer one of the site’s three sponsored “Professionals,” leaving Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom to carry forward as the site’s primary player-reps.

PokerListings got the word from an FTP spokesperson a few days ago, noting how Dwan hadn’t been part of some FTP-related recent events alongside his fellow “Professionals.”

Another story on PL referred to the long-in-limbo “Durrrr Challenge” between Dwan and Daniel “Jungleman12” Cates and what appears little likelihood of its continuance. That article included an interview with Cates who seems like he is more or less shrugging his shoulders and saying “wtf” over and again in response to questions about the status of the pair’s competition.

Like both Hansen (long ago) and Blom (more recently), Dwan had his moment of being the focus of much of the poker’s world attention for a short period just a few years back.

Dwan first got on the radar for most of us around 2008, particularly after ousting Phil Hellmuth in the first round of the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, luckily cracking the Poker Brat’s pocket aces with a pair of tens, then watching Hellmuth predictably crack up himself afterwards.

Then the “Dwan era” dawned in earnest right around early 2009 with the launching of the first Challenge (versus Patrik Antonius), followed shortly thereafter by a celebrated appearance on High Stakes Poker a month later that included one hand in particular that seemingly had everyone buzzing for months.

I wrote a post here about the hand then titled “Tom’s Adventures in Wondurrrrland” (creating the graphic to the left for the occasion). Those who saw it remember it well -- a crazy eight-way hand that saw Dwan, Barry Greenstein, and Peter Eastgate make it to the turn with Dwan holding the worst hand of the three (behind Eastgate’s trips and Greenstein’s pocket aces), yet somehow getting the other two to fold after his fourth-street bet.

It was later that year Blom emerged -- or rather, his alter ego “Isildur1” did -- to take over the poker spotlight from Dwan, but not after the then-23-year-old had somehow gotten himself nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame by some zealous visitors to the WSOP’s website.

Right around that time -- late 2009 -- Dwan became a Team Full Tilter, a designation that lasted until April 2011 and Black Friday. A relative newcomer to FTP’s shameful circle of owners and mismanagers, Dwan was more or less on the outside with the rest of us (or appeared so) in the months following Black Friday, and particularly after the amended indictment and civil complaint came in September 2011 that more specifically damned FTP Version 1.0, Dwan’s association with the site faded quickly only to be revived a year later with the FTP’s second incarnation and the “Professionals” signing.

It’s all sort of felt like an extended anticlimax after that blockbuster beginning for Dwan. All of those forces that helped create a poker celebrity of him so quickly -- the online game and televised poker, especially -- have now waned considerably when it comes to influence and image-shaping. Now we’re more or less in an era when conspicuous tourney successes seem to be the primary means to poker stardom (be it brief or lasting), with live wins much more capable of creating “stars” than online ones.

Dwan is still winning online. And he’s playing live, too, although it sounds like much of it has been at the high-stakes cash games in Macau, more or less out of the purview of those who might be curious to make him the subject of forum threads and other “railbird reports.”

I was as fascinated as everyone else by Dwan for those few months a few years ago, and am still somewhat curious about what he might do next. But his departure from FTP 2.0 and its team of “Professionals” inspires thoughts of how the whole idea of poker celebs -- that different class of poker “professionals” -- once such a very effective construct of online sites and abetted ably by the TV shows the sites sponsored, seems like something from an earlier era.

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