Dewey Tomko, WSOP Main Event Runner-Up in 1982 and 2001

Dewey Tomko

At the age of 16, Dewey Tomko was already earning his living through poker in the pool halls of Pittsburgh. He managed to pay his way at Salem College in West Virginia by winning against troops returning from Vietnam. The record for consecutive entries into the WSOP main event belongs to Dewey Tomko: 2005 marks the 30th straight year that Tomko will play in the $10,000 buy-in championship event. Tomko has finished second in the main event on two occasions (1982 and 2001).

How many WSOP tournaments will you play in this year?

Not very many of them, I'll decide pretty much day by day. I try to focus on the bigger tournaments because I have a limited amount of time to devote to tournaments. So far, I have played in three and cashed in two of them. I will play in the $5,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em event tomorrow, which is something I look forward too. So many of today's tournament players can only play well pre-flop and that works in No-Limit poker, but when it comes to Pot-Limit they are forced to play more flops and a lot of them don't know what to do. They will just go check, check, check, after the flop. You see it on TV all the time, players raising with any two cards, and on the flop they will just check it down.

What is different with tournament poker today compared to in the Eighties and Nineties?

Back in the day, the tournaments were not nearly as fast paced as they are today. A tournament with 100 people in the WSOP used to take 2 days to play out, today they try to do the same thing with 1,000 players, the only exception it the WSOP main event. I am not saying it is wrong, it's just the way it has to be when the fields are so big. But what happens is that a type of player that could never have won a tournament before now has a shot at winning. Pretty much anybody who is fearless with his chips can get lucky and win one of the modern tournaments. For a guy like me, who used to play in side games back in the day where you had to wait players out and didn't have to gamble as much, this poses a new set of problems.

On the other side you have a bunch of players who can do well in tournaments but have no chance of winning in the side games, thus making those very lucrative. I'd say only one tenth of the tournament players of today are winners in the side games. Obviously I wish I had more time to play in side games. There is a saying that me and Doyle Brunson, who is a great friend of mine, always say: the bad players will give you your chips and they will be the ones that bust you.

Do you enjoy playing both tournaments and side games?

Side games are more lucrative, meaning they are softer than they used to be. Also, they serve a new purpose for me: they are a confidence booster. You get so used to losing, because that's what's going to happen most of the time in tournaments, that I play side games to feel like a winner again. With losing I am refering to even something like second place because I will still feel like a loser when I get second. It doesn't matter if its $100, a win is a win. In the side games, I expect to win something like nine times out of ten.

Which starting hands are the hardest to play in No-Limit Texas Hold'em?

I'd say the medium pairs, 99-JJ. Many players of the new breed don't know how to play them and will invariably move in with them pre-flop rather than seeing a flop.

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