Already known in the online world Dunst represented a new generation of young player in the live arena - smart, competent, good-mannered ... and even well-dressed. Since then he’s established himself as an important voice in poker as the host of “The Raw Deal” on the World Poker Tour broadcasts. Dunst has returned to Prague this year as a representative and commentator for the WPT and as a PartyPoker ambassador, but he’s not just about poker anymore. PokerListings caught up with him for more on life on the road, poker on TV and his growing fascination with fantasy football.
PokerListings: Despite all these jobs we see you with the HendonMob says you’re still a very active player, too.
Tony Dunst: My schedule is often that I’m working for a couple of days, or a week in a row, and then I’m off for a few weeks that I have for myself. Just like between the last event and this one here in Prague where I had the chance to hang around in Europe, visit friends and attend a wedding.
PL: WPT was sold to Ourgame which Alex Dreyfus called a great step in the right direction. Do you agree?
TD: I’m not really on the executive side of things and it’s not really my area. I guess they just liked the partnership with Ourgame and it bears the potential to expand in new markets like for example China.
PL: Do you yourself still spend a lot of time traveling like back when you wrote “Around the World in 90 days?"
TD: Yes. I’ve actually been living out of my suitcase for the last six or seven months and I’ve been in a lot of places. I have another long trip coming up tomorrow and I think I have kind of a love-hate relationship with the constantly traveling lifestyle. On the one hand it’s nice to go to different places and learn new things all the time; on the other hand it means spending a lot of time waiting at airports. It would be great to just stay with people, friends and family longer.
PL: WPT Prague is certainly one of the best stops in Europe during the year. How do you account for the dropping number of players?
TD: I’m not really sure. It’s my first time at WPT Prague and I don’t know what the setup and the circumstances were like in earlier years. I’m also not really privy to these things. So I can’t say if there are economic factors or management factors, but obviously we’d like to see larger numbers in the future.
PL: How many WPT events do you visit per year?
TD: On average around 10. In some years less, in others more. There are a lot of live streams on the schedule where I work so it might amount to 10-15.
PL: Do you still prioritize fashionable clothing when you play?
TD: Sometimes. I still try to dress nice; even so my best suit was so wrinkled I couldn’t wear it when I started playing here at the main event.
PL: Not saying everyone needs to wear suit and tie but is wearing socks asking too much?
TD: No, it’s not. Some players even wear these kind of shoes that end at the heel and don’t require socks, and it’s when they do no shoes no socks where I draw the bottom line.
PL: The last two times you've final tabled the WPT Championship. Was that just coincidence?
TD: I guess it would be coincidence. If you play a bunch of tournaments throughout the year your expectations might be to maybe final table one of them. It just so happened that I did it at the same event. I will say that this particular tournament has a lot of players I’m familiar playing with, but it’s still a tough deal and I was lucky to get to that final table twice in a row.
PL: About two to three years ago poker was big on TV with plenty of programs running in prime time. Now it seems to have disappeared.
TD: Stalling is probably one of numerous reasons. The players of today are typically more quiet and reserved. Obviously the decisions are about a ton of money and need some time, but it makes me cringe when someone needlessly tanks all the time. We have also come to a point in poker where it’s become standard to stall when they’re approaching the bubble, and that happens in real money online poker, too.
We’re at a level of competitiveness now where everybody takes it very seriously, and when it comes to poker on TV what made it so fun was these outlandish characters you had at the tables. Today it’s hard to find guys who would prioritize entertaining the audience over just winning the money. Having come from the same background I don’t blame them for being so serious but as a poker fan I find it kind of unfortunate that it’s not the same fun watching it anymore. But it’s not only that we have less reckless gamblers at the tables, the way that poker is played today is different, too. It’s a little less active and aggressive now.
There’s been a phase where poker became increasingly aggressive with 4-bets, 5-bets and 6-bets pre-flop and they got themselves into battles. But then in recent times it’s tapered off again and there’s usually a call after a 3-bet. People even start limping again in certain situations where they wouldn’t have done it before. Players will do anything to reduce their variance and many prefer to play post-flop more often than in the past.
PL: What do you think about the new, old fashion to limp again pre-flop?
TD: I think there are spots where it can be very smart and dynamic to limp, like when you’re in late position and you have a hand that doesn’t necessarily play well against a raise with 20BB stacks behind. If you think the guy on your left is not likely to shove then you can start limping a bunch of hands and get a chance to see a cheap flop and maybe steal the blinds post flop.
PL: Is poker dynamic enough to keep changing or will it eventually be solved?
TD: I can’t say for sure but my guess is that people will always try to exploit what is the accepted mainstream play. Certain mathematics and fundamentals of poker will always remain true but there will always be attempts to find new ways to exploit certain patterns.
PL: But if more and more people exploit that then that becomes the new mainstream, doesn’t it?
TD: Right, which is why it has to go back and forth like that. The one thing that has definitely happened over the last 10 years is that people got better and better.
PL: I hear you’re also interested in fantasy football?
TD: I do a lot of fantasy football, yes.
PL: Why is this the new thing?
TD: Basically the same amount of money that used to flow into US online poker sites now flows into fantasy football sites because they found a loophole in the US legislation. A few people even spend enough time on it and are mathematical enough in their approach to make a living off it.
PL: How is it possible to find an edge?
TD: You don’t necessarily do a lot of math yourself, although there surely are some people who have designed their own algorithms. I look at projection sites, read a couple of articles, follow the sports news and then combine it into a big soup and place my bets for Sunday.