Tony Dunst best example of roller-coaster poker life

Tony Dunst best example of roller-coaster poker life

February 14, 2017 3:00 AM


A recent feature article in an industry magazine discussed the “up-and-down ride that has been the poker career of Tony Dunst.” So much so that at one point, he almost gave up on the game.

In case you were not aware, Dunst is the young professional player (just 31) who discusses poker hands during the “Raw Deal” segments shown on the World Poker Tour TV broadcasts.

An “up-and-down ride” brings to mind the seesaws we so enjoyed when we were kids. I wondered if that could be an appropriate way to describe the inevitable ups and downs experienced by poker players – even the best of them. you start off losing (as is most likely); you are down. Then, happily enjoying a brief winning streak, you are back up and, soon, a bit ahead. But, shortly after, you end up with several second-best hands; so, again, you are down – losing. Now you play to get even. If you are skilled enough and patient, and are fortunate to get a bit of good luck, you might even go home a winner – up again.

So I phoned my poker buddy, Lucy, and asked what she thought about my seesaw analogy for the game of poker.

After a short pause, she responded, “Rather than a seesaw, how about comparing poker with a rollercoaster ride?”

That’s a rather exciting – even scary – ride often available in amusement parks. It has sharp curves and steep inclines on which the cars roll on overhead tracks. I remember, with my safety belt firmly fastened, I was holding onto the sides of the car as tight as I could, and screaming aloud as we sped down a twisting incline high above the ground.

After thinking about it, I said: “No, I don’t think poker is quite that scary.” Then, I added, “Lucy, perhaps a better question is how can we avoid those ups and downs?”

Poker players often refer to these inevitable ups and downs as variance – the swings between winning and losing from your average result. Looser and more aggressive players are likely to experience wider swings. And, they usually go broke. Sometimes, they blame the table or the dealer for their “bad luck,” and move to another table – hoping to get even.

“Good point,” Lucy answered. “How about playing tighter; go in with better starting hands, especially in early and middle positions? And do a lot less chasing when you have only a few good outs.”

Then, by way of explanation, she added, “Irene, like you, I use Epstein’s Hold’em Algorithm in selecting my starting hands. I read the book over and over again. And then, after the flop, with a drawing hand that must improve to become a winner, I estimate the card odds and the implied pot odds to be sure I am getting a Positive Expectation – putting the odds in my favor.”

I fully agreed with her. “One other suggestion, Lucy, as the time passes at the table, we are bound to get tired and mentally weary,” I cautioned; “then, I find myself focusing less on the game, distracted more often by the football game on the big TV screen on the wall – and starting to lose hands more often. Worst of all, I am then more prone to chase hands, even though I really know it’s the wrong thing to do. My hunches rarely work out. So, I have decided to quit while I am still ahead. But, it’s hard to force myself to do that; I so enjoy playing the game.”

I paused a minute, and then added: “Sometimes I cash out and take a long break to have a relaxed light dinner. Then I sign back up on the board for a second session of poker.” Lucy liked that idea.

On that note, we turned to other topics. We got into a long discussion about our new President Donald Trump. Neither of us had voted for him, but we do have high hopes t he will be “good for the country” – and maybe for poker too. Hopefully with not too many ups and downs.