Gotcha! Two of Tom Dwan’s Coolest Bluffs

by Wayne Carter
on May 4, 2018

It’s easy to win when you have a great hand. Even my grandmother knows how to get her chips in the middle when she is holding the nuts. Running a huge bluff? Now that takes some guts. The deeper you are in a tournament, the more difficult it becomes to pull the trigger. The bigger the pot is in a cash game, the easier it is to shy away from attempting a bluff.

If you don’t like hearing about crazy bluffs, then you might as well collapse this page and move on to your next article. My goal is to treat you to the two craziest, most insane bluffs I have ever seen during a cash game session. I am not talking about a story a buddy told me from the $2-$5 no limit game at the Bellagio that may or may not have happened.

I am talking about real-life actual bluffs that took place in enormous cash games. I am going to go over each hand in detail to try and paint a picture of what the player may have been thinking at the time.
The player I am showcasing is one of my all-time favorites to go back and watch, Tom Dwan.

Dwan Bluffs Ivey in $677,000 pot

Ton-Dwan-and-Phil-Ivey
Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen. This hand features two of the purest no limit Texas hold’em cash game players of all time battling it out during their primes. When it comes to running a huge bluff in a nosebleed cash game, you are going to be hard-pressed to find someone who does it better than Dwan. “Durrrr” (his online alias), as Tom was commonly called, was never shy to attempt a big bluff, as you will see in the hand below.

The Setting

This hand took place during the heydays of high-stakes cash games on television. It was on the High Stakes Poker Show commentated by Gabe Kaplan. Poker fans who watched poker on TV from 2006-2011 know exactly what I am talking about. Now, for the hand.

The blinds are $400-$800 and the game is no limit Texas hold’em. I know the size of this game is extraordinary, which makes the bluff that much more impressive.

Wondering if these guys came prepared to play in a game of this magnitude? Tom starts the hand with more than $745,000 behind, while Ivey begins the hand with over $1 million — in case you were interested. We are talking essentially 1,000 big blinds effective.

The Action

Phil Laak opened to $3,900 with Ace-9 offsuit from late position. Given the aggressive nature of the players behind him still waiting to act, I think Laak could have been a bit more selective and mucked his cards. In this instance, he decided to open and received flat calls from Eli Elezra and Phil Ivey. Ivey was on the button holding Ace-6 of diamonds.

So far, everything is pretty standard. Daniel Negreanu optimistically opted to toss in $3,500 with J-3 of clubs from the small blind in hopes of seeing a flop. That’s where things get interesting. There is already $17,600 in the pot and the action is up to Tom Dwan in the big blind. He looks down at a gorgeous looking 8-9 of spades. He only needs $3,100 to call, and given his hand and nearly 6:1 pot odds, calling seemed like the logical choice.

But this is Tom Dwan we are talking about. Tom puts in a sizeable 3-bet to $28,900. This clears the entire field, except for Ivey, who is on the button. The two men head to a flop with $70,700 in the middle. After the dealer spreads the King-Queen-10 flop, with the King and 10 of diamonds, Durrrr follows through with a hefty continuation bet of $45,800. Ivey is in position and just flopped the nut flush draw and an inside straight draw.

The players are so insanely deep, playing essentially 1,000 big blinds effective, that Ivey’s only real option here is to call the bet. The pot is up to $162,300 and we are off to see a turn card.

The 3 of spades brings no help to either player, but that doesn’t halt Dwan from pumping out a significant bet of $123,200. Keep in mind Dwan is merely holding 9-high and knows his only way of winning this pot is by trying to power through it.

Phil calmly flicks in the $123,200 and makes the call, still holding just Ace-high, but with a big draw. Any diamond or Jack would give Phil the nuts. There’s $408,700 in the pot, and the scary thing is we still have to see a river card.

That river card lands on the table and it’s the 6 of clubs, certainly not the card Phil was hoping for. However, little does he know that his pair of 6s is well ahead of Dwan, who now pushes out a gigantic $268,200 bet holding just 9-high. The pot has now swelled to $676,900!

Ivey immediately asks Dwan how much more he has left — to which Dwan sheepishly announces “about 280,” signifying that he still has an additional $280,000 back should Ivey want to re-raise. Dwan knows that Phil not only called the 3-bet preflop, but he called the $45,800 bet and the $123,200 bet on the flop and turn, so he clearly has something.

Durrrr somehow, someway, remained undeterred and fired off the third and final shell. After hemming and hawing for a couple minutes, Ivey reluctantly folds his hand. The young “internet kid” from New Jersey rakes in the pot worth more than $676,000 holding a stone-cold bluff.

Check out the full hand to relive the action and hear what Gabe Kaplan and the players at the table were thinking.

“Durrrr” Puts Bob Safai In a Cage

Let’s just stick with the theme and go with another sweet bluff from the “sicko” himself, Tom Dwan. This hand is another example of Tom’s ability to outthink his opponent. Not only does Dwan end up bluffing with the worst hand, but he knows exactly what his opponent is holding. This information allows Durrrr to understand how small or large to size his bet in order to get the opposing player off the hand.

The Backdrop

This hand takes place again during the glory days of televised high stakes cash games. As you can see in the hand, the table is full of recognizable faces in the poker world. The hand took place on Poker After Dark and Ali Nejad did a fine job in relaying the play-by-play action. I can’t tell you how many of these episodes I used to record on my DVR and watch them the next day.

What I can tell you is that Tom Dwan habitually beat these cash games up, simply by playing far more aggressively than anyone else was at the time. Playing $400-$800 no limit, if you are sitting around waiting for hands, a player of Dwan’s caliber will pick you apart. Tom made his living feasting on those players who played too conservatively, and that is exactly what he did to Bob Safai in the hand below.

Pushing Safai Off the Hand

Dwan and Safai were by no means strangers, as the two had tangled in several pots leading up to this one. Bob knew that Tom was more than capable of running a big bluff, which makes this hand even more fascinating. Safai starts the hand with around $170,000. Dwan, as he typically did during cash games, had his opponent covered.

The hand starts with Bob Safai opening to $2,000 with Ace-Queen. Certainly good enough cards worthy of a raise from the successful commercial real estate mogul. Safai receives a call from Tom Dwan, who is on Bob’s direct left holding 8-6 of clubs. The button and blinds get out of the way and the two men are off to see a flop with a modest $5,200 in the middle.

Once the dealer spread the Queen-5-3 with two clubs flop, I knew all hell was about to break loose. Bob flops top pair-top kicker and is loving the situation. He decides on virtually a pot-sized bet of $5,000. Dwan is in position with a flush draw and has no plans of abandoning ship now. He lets out a few yawns, almost seeming disinterested in the cards, and calls the bet. The dealer peels off the 10 of spades and Safai now pushes out $12,000 into the $15,200 pot.

This is where Tom has a real decision to make. He shuffles his chips, taking his time while thinking through all of his available options. After considering his moves, Dwan elects to call the $12,000 bet and see a river. The pot is now $39,200.

The river brings the harmless deuce of diamonds, changing nothing. Bob still has top pair with top kicker, meanwhile, Dwan is sitting there with a measly 8-high. Once Bob decided to check the river fairly quickly, Tom had made up his mind. Dwan was probably certain Safai had top pair with either a King or Ace kicker. Safai checked the river with every intention of snapping off whatever standard-sized bet Tom was going to make.

After a few moments go by, Bob makes a comment along the lines of “I checked, does he know I checked?” This is when the situation becomes crystal-clear for Dwan.

A massive overbet was in order. The only way he could win the hand and get Bob to fold a fairly strong holding was to apply an uncomfortable amount pressure on Safai. While taking his time and contemplating what to do, Dwan asks, “How much do you have left?” to which Bob laughs off and responds “150 thousand.” The way Safai responded was as if he was saying, “What, are you really going to make that large of a bet and put me all-in kid?” Keep in mind the pot had $39,200 in it at this point.

To the dismay of Bob, Dwan simply tosses in a chip while announcing to the dealer “I’m all-in.” You can actually see Safai struggle to clear his throat as a stunned Phil Helmuth sitting beside Bob removes his glasses. Hellmuth’s thinking, “Wow, did this kid really just do that?”

Had Dwan bet $30,000 or $40,000, Bob Safai would have happily made the call with his pair of Queens. Tom knew that the way the action played out, the last thing Bob wanted to do was make a decision for the rest of his chips. After visibly struggling to come to grips with the enormous size of the bet in relation to the pot, Safai throws his cards into the muck. Antonio Esfandiari immediately asks Tom to show the bluff, knowing that Tom just pulled off a heroic move.

Dwan obliges, exposing his 8-6 of clubs for a missed flush draw and 8-high. This is pouring salt into the open wound of Bob Safai, who awkwardly says, “Ya, nice hand.”

Once again folks, Tom “Durrrr” Dwan at his finest.

Summarizing

If you watched any poker at all when high stakes cash games were being televised regularly, then Tom Dwan is a familiar name. Tom was known for pushing the envelope and playing an ultra-aggressive style in a day and age when most poker players leaned on playing a conservative, more “A-B-C” style of poker. In 2018, players are more than acquainted with 3-bets and 4-bets and floating the flop in hopes of bluffing the turn and river.

Tom was not only thinking about these strategies long ago, he was actually applying them on the biggest and brightest stages in poker. I wanted to highlight the two bluffs I did because they portray this forward thinking that Tom played poker with. He was always multiple steps ahead of his competition, and it is evidenced perfectly in the two examples I gave.

I hope you clicked the links and watched the clips to get a visual perception of how Tom acted while he was pulling the trigger on these massive bluffs. You may even pick up on a trick or two that can help you the next time you looking to make a move on the felt!

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