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Poker After Dark, Durr v. Hellmuth

by Roy Winston |  Published: Dec 15, '09


From time to time I watch some poker on TV. I like to see if I can pick up anything specific on the players for use against them later and also general playing style as well. So I recorded Poker After Dark this past week, which was a high stakes cash game, and watched it over the weekend. It had a great cast with Patrick Antonius, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu and Tom Dwan. I thought it was one of the best line-ups possible; all great players and the banter would be enjoyable as well.

Much to my surprise I found it not even close to my expectations. Early on they each (except for Hellmuth) put $100,000 in the middle and just ran out the whole board. They wanted a little gamble and hoped it would put some of the players on tilt if they lost, and while this may be fun to do occasionally, it’s not poker. They showed very few hands and the ones they did, really were not representative of great poker. Although I will say Patrick made some big folds that I thought were good against Tom Dwan even though he was ahead. Sometimes you need to fold the best hand. Hellmuth and Dwan mixed it up a few times, and those hands were interesting. Dwan had 66 and Hellmuth 77 and although the pot started multi-way, Hellmuth continued on the flop, which missed both players, and Dwan hung around to catch a six on the turn. Hellmuth got away from Dwan’s value bet on the river. I don’t think Dwan played the hand very well, other than catching a two outer on the turn. The show then cut to this year’s NBC Heads Up match between Hellmuth and Dwan where they get it all in pre-flop with AA vs. 10 10, and Dwan hits a 10 and sucks out. Hellmuth does berate Dwan for his call with pocket 10’s. I am not sure Dwan is ever folding pocket 10’s pre-flop in a heads up match unless he is much deeper. What was interesting is that Negreanu bet Hellmuth that he would lose in the poker after dark cash game, and that was the source of some good natured abuse. Durr did double up Hellmuth in a hand where the flop hit Hellmuth and Durr turned a flush only to have Hellmuth river a bigger flush. Interestingly enough Durr when deciding whether or not to call Hellmuth’s all in on the river talked through the possibilities and concluded Hellmuth had it, and then called anyway. It was like a page from Negreanu’s play-book where he correctly deduces his opponents hand, which beats him and then calls anyway.

I find that I am asked on a regular basis about Tom Dwan or Durr as he is known online and is he the best. Everyone wants to know how he does what he does and about the stakes he plays. In many a sport a dominant player emerges and for their time they are unbeatable. In basketball I always think of Michael Jordan as that guy. Although Theo Tran argued with me that he though LeBron James is much more dominant today than Jordan ever was, I don’t even think this is worth addressing. In golf it was Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and now Tiger Woods, although Tiger recently moved his ball into a hazardous lie and wound up on the wrong side of a club. In their own time they were each the best and since they never played against each other while in their prime, you cant really compare them.

I say the same thing about Durr. He is that type of dominant player. Although unlike professional sports there is a fair amount of luck involved which will have an impact on short-term performance. In poker it’s sometimes hard to pick the overall best. You have cash games and tournaments, lots of different games and high stakes, very high stakes and just plain crazy. There is no question that Durr has changed poker and the way it is played. I am waiting to see his final results with Patrick and then of course Ivey. I would have to say across the board from game to game and tournament to cash, it’s hard to pick anyone who is better than Phil Ivey. It seems the action is heating up with the relatively recent arrival of the somewhat mysterious Isildur1. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I had a brief chat online with Isildur1 who seems like a good guy. I don’t see myself playing those stakes anytime soon or for that matter ever, unless I inherit like half a billion from a rich relative that I don’t know about, but I enjoy the stakes I play and am content only meeting those guys at the tournament tables. The way I look at it is it would be fun to take a shot but if I lost, which is highly likely because in a cash game I would not be comfortable at those stakes, which would negatively affect my play and I am definitely an underdog in that group anyway. Still it would be fun, right up until I lost my buy-in and wanted to find Dr. Kevorkian. I wonder if you have to wait a long time for an appointment, and does he take my insurance, I guess he could just bill me?

One topic I address frequently with new players is bankroll management. It is perhaps the fundamental corner stone around which a winning poker game is built. Even a solid winning player that plays above their bankroll can find them selves broke with a short run of bad luck. I am very conservative when it comes to bankroll management. In cash games you should have a minimum of 20 times the buy-in, and I’m liking 50-200 buy-ins. You may think that’s crazy and it depends what games you are playing and whether they are live or online. For instance if you are playing 6 simultaneous games online each with a 1k buy-in and lets say they are PLO where more often than not your whole buy-in will be in the pot several times in a session versus someone playing a live limit game with a 1k buy in, bankroll requirements will be quite different.

If you are playing 200/400 PLO and you are 100-200k deep, you can go through several buy-ins in a day and if you run bad over the course of a month, which sooner or later happens to everyone, it is conceivable to drop 10 million or more. So how big does your bankroll and net worth have to be? Pretty damn big, in fact almost nobody should be playing those limits. For some players ego dictates they level they like to play, other’s look for softer games, whatever choices you make try and satisfy a few rules. Never play so big that you are jeopardizing money you need for necessities, Don’t play so big that you are uncomfortable and it affects your play, try and pick a level you can beat or at least tolerate the losses.

Roy Winston finished 16th in 2007 Card Player, Player of the Year race. He won the WPT Borgata Poker Open and finished the year with well over $2 million in tournament poker winnings. Roy plays online exclusively at Full Tilt. For more information on Roy Winston, you can visit his website: or send an email to: with your questions or comments. The contents presented herein on this blog are purely the opinions of Roy Winston, and are not intended to reflect or promote the opinions of any other person, group, or entity. If you like what I write than thanks for reading, and if not well, thanks anyway.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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