Hand of the Week: When Isildur1 Met durrrr and a Star Was Born

Tom Dwan
Hang on. New guy on the other line.

About five years ago, a virtually unknown player appeared in the high-stakes games online and turned the entire poker scene upside down.

He went by the name Isildur1. And he challenged all of the best players in the world at that time, sometimes simultaneously.

One of them was Tom "durrrr" Dwan.

At the time Dwan was the unofficial king of the No Limit Hold’em realm. Then one day Blom and Dwan clashed in one of the most memorable duels in online poker history.

They played 7,500 hands in one session and by the end a new star was born. Blom had taken $800,000 from the king.

This is how the biggest pot of that legendary session played out.

The Hand

Viktor Blom
From virtual unknown to high-stakes legend in 7,500 hands.

The blinds are a staggering $500/$1,000 and effective stacks are $287,000. Dwan is on the button and gets    

He raises to $3,000. Blom reraises to $12,000 and Dwan calls. There's $24,000 in the pot and effective stacks are at $275,000.

The flop is      

Blom bets another $15,000 and Dwan calls again. There's now $54,000 in the pot and stacks are at $260,000.

The turn is the  

Blom now bets $36,400 and Dwan ships all-in for $260,000.

Blom calls and shows    

His top set wins the pot after a meaningless   on the river.


At first glance you might think Dwan just gave away over a quarter of a million dollars.

Tom Dwan
What made him successful could also make him look stupid.

But that's actually not the case.  Dwan makes a standard raise pre-flop to 3 BB. He does that with almost any hand to exploit being in position.

Blom raises it up to 12 BB, which today would seem unusually high. Although he's out of position Blom doesn’t really want to lose his customer here.

Dwan calls with a marginal hand because with 287 BB he sees gigantic implied odds if he hits the board properly.

The flop Q 5 8 has something for both of them. Top set for Blom, who quite simply flops the nuts, and middle pair for Dwan plus a backdoor flush draw.

It's a pretty good hit for Dwan in a heads-up match. So both the bet and call on the flop are standard.

On the 9 turn the situation escalates. Blom continues to bet, now two thirds of the pot, and Dwan reaches for his whole virtual stack.

The bet of $260,000 gives Blom odds of 1.5 to 1. That's not a lot, and Dwan would surely have made many hands fold. Of course top set is not one of them.

Viktor Blom
The stuff poker dreams are made of.

Dwan is semi-bluffing here for a reason. He's thinking that he would definitely have outs in case he gets called. As it turns out he only had 18% equity, which was surely less than he had expected.

Blom obviously doesn’t even consider a fold. Yes, there are two straights out there that could beat him, but the board also offers plenty of draws and semi-bluffs.

Also, would Dwan really want to push his opponent off the hand if he had the nuts? Even if Dwan had hit a straight – worst-case scenario – Blom would still retain 23% equity as he’s drawing to a full house.


In what is ends up being a wild heads-up hand Dwan goes all the way on the turn but is unlucky to find Blom has the upper part of his range.

Dwan’s play looks very much like a bluff but there are still not many hands that Blom can call with.

It always makes you look a little stupid if you run into a monster, but over the course of several years this was exactly the playing style that made Dwan so successful.

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