durrrr challenge: What's really at stake?

Tom Dwan
Tom Dwan is putting a lot on the line for his challenge.

The terms of Tom "durrrr" Dwan's million-dollar challenge make it clear that anyone who takes him up is going to stand the chance of winning - or losing - a pretty big sum of money.

But how much money, exactly, will the online star and his opponents be risking in this high-stakes experiment? Exactly who should be lining up to take on durrrr four tables at a time with this kind of money on the line? And does Dwan have an edge in this bet?

To find out the answers to these and a few other questions, I sought out the insights of 2007 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure winner Ryan Daut.

In addition to his extensive online multi-tabling cash-game experience, the New Jersey native was also once a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics.

What's really on the line?

According to Daut, figuring out how much money is likely to change hands is all about each player's win rate. Unfortunately, that's one variable that's hard to predict, given the skill and experience of the players involved and the multigame nature of the challenge.

"I was talking with Isaac Haxton and Scott Seiver and we couldn't come up with any reasonable numbers. Scott was saying that win rate could be anywhere from -8 to +8, and it's just impossible to tell," said Daut.

He said that Haxton and Seiver, both heads-up players for the most part, both contend that the better player will over time generally start to figure his opponent out and thereby pick up an edge.

Daut has run simulations for win rates in that range. Even for relatively reasonable win rates in the range of three big blinds per table, sometimes the swings up or down would be in the range of 60 buy-ins.

At a $200/$400 game with a buy-in of 75 big blinds - the lowest level that the challenge will be played at - a swing of 60 buy-ins would be worth $1,800,000. At the maximum blinds of $500/$1,000, the same swing would be equivalent to $4,500,000.

And keep in mind, those are the swings for the winning player.

"I would assume that for the bet, you'd want to have [a bankroll of] at least $10 million to do this," said Daut. "But if you're putting up $1.5 million, or even $500,000, the risk of ruin is definitely still something that's not zero."

durrrr's edge

Daut said that Dwan is the favorite in his challenge despite the fact that he's putting up three times as much money as his opponents will be.

In addition to his estimation that durrrr has an edge over anyone in No-Limit Hold'em and most players in PLO, Daut said that the mathematics of the situation also favor Dwan.

"Tom is putting up $1.5 million against $500,000 from the other player, so on the surface you would say Tom needs to win 75% to be profitable. But that's not true - they're keeping the money that they're playing for," Daut pointed out.

"If on average he wins $1.5 million [of his opponent's money] when he wins, that's going to make up for the side bets when he loses it. In actuality the money at stake is much more than the side bet. So if Tom wins 60-65% of the time he's going to end up ahead overall."

And the challengers are ...

Seven-figure swings aren't for the faint of heart. There are certainly numerous players out there who could stomach the swings of such a match, but not all of those players are adequately bankrolled to take on such a challenge. That leads to the next question: who is properly equipped to take up durrrr's bet?

"The only people who should be taking it up are [Phil] Ivey and Patrik [Antonius]. I don't think anybody else is bankrolled for it or good enough to put up a fight," said Daut.

"I suppose that [David] Benyamine could do this but I don't really know his financial situation; there are some big swings and I don't know how his heads-up game compares to his six-max game. I think very highly of his six-max PLO game but I don't know how he is heads-up, so I'm uncertain. I really think Patrik and Ivey are the only two who should be doing this at this time.

"I suspect that Patrik has the best chance of anyone, being that he could be a better heads-up PLO player than Tom is, but I'm uncertain. He's played more PLO and done better in PLO than Tom has, and he seems to be a very good heads-up player, so I think that will be the best chance anybody has in any game.

"But Patrik and Ivey are both very dangerous players in any game, so you can never tell really."

The multi-table aspect

Dwan's two best-equipped opponents are similar in that they are world-class poker players in every regard. But Daut said that one major difference in their immediate chances for the challenge is that they'll be playing four tables at a time.

"I think the fact that they're playing four tables won't hurt Patrik, because Patrik's been playing online and playing a ton of tables for a long time. But I think Phil is going to have some adjusting to do and is going to have practice a little bit of this," said Daut.

"He's probably had less experience in terms of the amount of hands played heads-up compared to the other two players, so he probably does a lot of his decisions on the fly and he hasn't really worked it out over and over again. So that's going to be a little harder for him as well; you can't work out all your stuff on the fly every single hand when you're four-tabling. A lot of it has to be sort of like muscle memory."

Daut said that Ivey will face a disadvantage at the outset due to playing more tables at a time than he's accustomed to, but he also imagined a player of Ivey's caliber catching on to four-tabling pretty quickly.

"I don't think four-tabling is too much. It is a lot for heads-up, but they're both playing four tables and they're playing each other. That's four times as many situations where each player can get reads on his opponent."

How long will it take?

As for how long the challenge will take, Daut said that will mostly depend on the players themselves. He said that the competitors could knock the challenge out in two weeks by playing five hours a day, but that's highly unlikely.

"The problem is that when the high-stakes games are running and there's a lot of good games, they aren't going to want to play heads-up against each other. Then sometimes they're not going to want to play [at all], and sometimes they're going to be traveling," said Daut.

"So while they could get it done in two weeks, I can see it dragging out for maybe three months."

That means there will be plenty of time for poker fans to check out the action when durrrr and his first opponent, Patrik Antonius, get started following the Aussie Millions.

With Phil Ivey and David Benyamine lined up to play as well, this could well end up being a big year at the high-stakes tables - just from the action on Dwan's challenge alone.

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