Hand of the Week: Tom Dwan, Profit Maximization Artist

Tom Dwan
Unorthodox genius or reckless gambler?

Today we're going to dig into one of the finest cash-game hands ever.

It was played in the year 2008 and it involves the work of two of the leading players at the time.

With his ultra-aggressive, opaque playing style Tom 'durrrr' Dwan was both respected and feared at the online poker tables.

Read on to see just how tricky of a player he was.

The Action

Tom Dwan
Won't let a street pass him by.

We're watching a No-Limit Hold'em table with $500/$1,000 blinds. There are five players at the table and Dwan raises from first position holding

   

It’s a raise to $3,000 but the player to his left – Di Urindanger Dang – re-raises to $10,500. Everybody else folds and the action comes back to Dwan.

The effective stacks are a massive 327 big blinds. Dwan calls and there's now $22,500 in the pot. The flop falls

     

Dwan takes the lead with a bet of $17,600 and Dang raises to $44,200. Dwan calls and there's now $110,900 in the pot. The turn is the

 

Dwan retakes the lead and bets $71,200. Dang makes the call. There's now already $253,300 in the pot and the players still have about $200,000 left. The river is the

 

Dwan moves all-in and gets a call from Dang. He shows his set, Dang mucks and Dwan rakes in the money. The pot is $657,000.

Tom Dwan
Plan is obvious: Build a pot.

Analysis

This whole hand is of course a standard set-up: A pair versus overcards.

One of the players hits a set and the other one very likely holds A-K. Yet there are several reasons why it’s worth a closer look at this hand.

Let’s start pre-flop. Dwan doesn’t have position but he still calls Dang’s re-raise with a small pair. This is correct play only because both players are 300 big blinds deep.

If they had only 100 big blinds a call would always be wrong here as you don’t hit the set often enough to make-up for the losses you will suffer.

So, the pre-flop action is standard but it gets really interesting on the flop. Dwan leads and bets $17,500 into a pot of $22,500.

That’s not really textbook behaviour; usually you’d be expected to check to the raiser. But his plan is obvious. He wants to build a pot as early as possible.

A Remarkable Turn Decision

Dang’s response is a little surprising. He raises – probably with a strong ace – but there are very few draws on this board he would have to protect his hand from.

Dwan must have been pretty happy with Dang’s raise. The all-in is drawing nearer. Then he makes another remarkable decision on the turn.

The call on the flop makes Dwan’s hand look very strong and he doesn’t want any street to be checked through so no more money is added to the pot.

He leads out with another donk-bet which Dang just calls. By now Dang knows he is either way ahead, and he can let Dwan bluff at it, or he is way behind.

The river 6 is a total blank. It doesn’t change anything.

An eight or a three (also a seven or a four) would have been a different story as Dwan could have played an open-ended straight draw like that with 6-5.

Dwan’s plan is working out perfectly. He built a pot big enough to be able to go all-in with about three quarters of the pot left in front of him.

Tom Dwan
Portrait of an artist as a young man.

Dang calls, most likely with A-K, and Dwan wins the pot. It's #27 in the ranking of the largest online pots ever.

An Artistic Way to Maximize Profit

The raise on the flop was a huge mistake by Di Dang. It enabled his opponent to get all his money into the middle.

Dwan, on the other side of the table, managed to bet 317 big blinds in just three betting rounds thanks to his unorthodox play.

It was an artistic way to maximize his profit, and it paid off to the fullest.

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