Sorry, Phil.
February 20, 2009 4:15 AM   Subscribe

Several months ago, poker player Tom "durrrr" Dwan issued an unprecedented challange. In effect, he is offering 3:1 odds—his $1.5 million to the challengers $500,000—that, playing high-stakes heads-up (one on one) online poker, he will be winning after 50,000 hands. The challenge is open to anyone except for durrrr's good friend Phil Galfond; three players have reportedly accepted, and play in the first match began yesterday. The results are being tracked in real time here and here; you can brave the inanity of twoplustwo (previously) and read the ongoing match thread here.
posted by cmyr (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I heard he was busto.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:37 AM on February 20, 2009


How much of the players' stakes is Full Tilt putting up? This ought to be great promotion for them.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:40 AM on February 20, 2009


It's a great comfort to me that these guys (and/or their sponsors) have hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw around on gimmicky wagers while the economy crumbles around the rest of us.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:48 AM on February 20, 2009


Does he accept $500,000 in Zimbabwe dollars? Because I think I could swing that.
posted by jamstigator at 5:50 AM on February 20, 2009


I think I must be misunderstanding. 50,000 hands? Of poker? All with a single player? Assuming each hand takes only 1 minute and he plays for 12 hours a day with no meal or bathroom breaks, that's still 5 months of continuous poker. Under more realistic conditions, we are probably talking 2 or more years of more or less continuous poker.
posted by DU at 5:51 AM on February 20, 2009


DU, they are multitabling, which means they are playing 4 tables at once. Players who are used to multitabling can get a lot of hands in an hour. At 60 hands per table per hour that's about 3000 hands per 12-hour day. 50,000 hands would take less than 20 days.

So far they have played 1541 hands in about 5 hours. That's over 300 hands per hour, which means more than 60 hands per table per hour. The challenge won't take that long.
posted by splice at 5:57 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be fairly confident that fulltilt as a company isn't putting up any money. It certainly wouldn't be unheard of, however, for individual players to be backing each other, in a situation similar to the Andy Beal v. The Corporation games.
posted by cmyr at 5:57 AM on February 20, 2009


Errr....2 months. But I stand by the "2 or more years" extrapolation.
posted by DU at 5:58 AM on February 20, 2009


4 tables with each table over 1 hand per minute? That barely leaves any time for impassively staring at your sweating opponent or throwing back a whiskey and then meditatively puffing on your cigar!
posted by DU at 6:00 AM on February 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


DU, according to the ESPN article ("unprecedented" link), by playing 4 tables at a time online, a guy like Durrr can play up to 500 hands/hr. That's still 1000 hours, sure, but these guys are essentially set for life. They have all the time in the world to play this, and as a bonus, it counts as practice for the big tournaments they'll inevitably do in between.

1000 hours is 41.666 days. Or approximately 1/4 of the cumulative time I spent playing World of Warcraft before I quit. At least these guys are playing for money.
posted by explosion at 6:01 AM on February 20, 2009


From the "unprecedented" link:
"Playing four tables of heads-up hold 'em online could result in up to 500 hands per hour, more than 10 times the output on the fastest live tables."
posted by Riki tiki at 6:03 AM on February 20, 2009


Oops, division failure! 50,000/500 = 100 hours!

I'm gonna go cry now about my cumulative WoW /played time.
posted by explosion at 6:03 AM on February 20, 2009


4 tables with each table over 1 hand per minute? That barely leaves any time for impassively staring at your sweating opponent or throwing back a whiskey and then meditatively puffing on your cigar!

Heads up play tends to go extremely quickly, especially online. For most hands, one player will raise and the other will fold, which only takes a few seconds. Think speed chess. It's not unusual to go through 10 hands in less than a minute if there isn't a hand that both players decide to try to win. In real life, it goes slower because the cards have to be reshuffled in between hands, and it's hard to keep up even with two decks.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:35 AM on February 20, 2009


Heh. So the challenge is being played at tables with $200/$400 blinds -- $40,000 buy-in per table. It looks like they haven't made much progress playing hands for the challenge because they've been too busy playing (with each other as well as others) at tables with $500/$1,000 blinds -- $200,000 buy-in.
posted by Perplexity at 6:41 AM on February 20, 2009


I don't think this is entirely unprecedented.

The real drama here is how much dwan is better on himself. He's saying, essentially that he his 3-times better of a player than anyone in the world expect for Waterboy Phil Galfond. That is amazing, but wasn't Andy Beal essentially saying he was better than 9-10 of the best players in the world put together? It's not just that the stakes are higher, but he was also demanding much more of himself, and he made a strong showing.

Anyway, both sides are staked out the ass on this I'm sure, and are risking mostly face. It's a good move by durr to increase his visibility in a market than more and more is founded on advertising dollars rather than lucrative games. Poker has yet to prove itself to be recession proof.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2009


He's saying, essentially that he his 3-times better of a player than anyone in the world expect for Waterboy Phil Galfond.

Not really, all he has to do is come out ahead by a small amount to win, so he only needs to be slightly better in 50,000 hands of play to win. If he had to win by a 3:1 margin after 50,000 hands, it would be much more difficult.

What he's really saying is that, out of the people who will take him up on his bet, he will beat at least 75% of them, or have a 75% chance of beating each one.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:22 AM on February 20, 2009


Ah, good point. I am far too lazy to wade through the crap at 2p2 to find the high level discussion of strategy--anyone brave enough to attempt a summary of end-game strat here? For instance, should an opponent stall and try to keep it even throughout the match, then towards the end try to force durr into as many high variance close decisions as possible? It seems like the fewer hands remain without durr having a huge lead the better the odds his opponents have on pushing small edges. Am i wrong?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:06 AM on February 20, 2009


50,000 hands is quite a few. It seems to me that the opponent has to just play "normally" for the bulk of the match. Towards the end, one tweak is that a player can simply fold every hand and lose $600 per two hands. So if someone is winning by over $300k with 1k hands left, he should just fold every hand.
posted by Perplexity at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2009


Is there a statistical reason why 50,000 hands are necessary? Why not 40,000? Or 10,000?

I get that the number is intended to limit unpredictable variance and "lucky" swings, but why that many?
posted by dios at 11:10 AM on February 20, 2009


Like you said, it was meant to eliminate luck. Dwan thinks his edge over everyone else is large so the more hands they play the bigger his advantage. It's the trade-off, he gives them odds but they have to play a shit-ton of poker. 50k is a decent sample size, but not too arduous 4-tabling heads-up. Hell, some kids with no lives can hit 50k hands in 1 month. The 2 year guess is ridiculous, they'll more likely be done in 4-5 months.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2009


Anyway, both sides are staked out the ass on this I'm sure, and are risking mostly face.
Phil Ivey is almost certainly not staked at all. I also believe that Tom is putting up his own money. I know that David Benyamin has a number of backers and I don't know about Patrik.
It seems like the fewer hands remain without durr having a huge lead the better the odds his opponents have on pushing small edges.
These guys will almost certainly be pushing anytime they think they have an edge regardless of the status of the match. A player who is ahead with relatively few hands remaining would be wise to fold his way into the money, but given the egos involved, they probably believe that they are the better player and would rather continue to win the old fashioned way.
Is there a statistical reason why 50,000 hands are necessary? Why not 40,000? Or 10,000?
I think Dwan wants as many hands as he thinks he can get, because he is confident that he is a favorite to win significantly, so the more hands the better. If he thought he could get people to accept 100,000 minimum, he would do that. There certainly is a key mathematical concept of variance that means that he has to set the bar fairly high. If his edge is relatively small and the standard deviation relatively large (both quite likely to be true), he needs a substantial number of hands to ensure that he doesn't pay off the 1.5 million too often. I haven't sat down and run the numbers, but I'm quite sure 10,000 is way too low.
posted by Lame_username at 11:54 AM on February 20, 2009



Poker? How vulgar. Anyone for bridge?
posted by notreally at 3:20 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dwan thinks his edge over everyone else is large so the more hands they play the bigger his advantage.

This would be the case even if his edge was small. Don't most casinos make their fortunes operating on about a 5% odds difference?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:25 PM on February 20, 2009


This would be the case even if his edge was small. Don't most casinos make their fortunes operating on about a 5% odds difference?

Sure, but house odds are based on the invariant probabilities of the games, not on the skill of the dealers—the house always wins over the long run because blackjack (sans Rain Man outliers) pays off in the long run, and slots take in more than they pay out, and 0 and 00 tilt the roulette table over, and the rake in a poker game goes to the house no matter who grabs the pot, and so on.

Dwan's playing a zero sum game; he's got no house advantage, so if he has an edge it has to be exercised, sustained skill. The bigger that edge is, the better off he'll be over the set of hands—he doesn't have the casino's gigantic bankroll and functionally unending play time to iron out the troughs of bad luck, so a bigger edge = bigger average net gains when luck is with him or a neutral factor = less chance of landing in an untenable position when luck is against him.
posted by cortex at 5:15 PM on February 20, 2009


And for those who haven't been following, Dwan probably believes his edge will come largely from his ability to play multiple tables simultaneously. He often plays with the other guys at the nosebleed stakes, but $200/$400 are relatively low stakes for Benyamine, Antonius and Dwan.

As someone else has pointed out, they're more frequently to be found at the $500/$1000 and the $1000/$2000 tables.

On the first day, Patrik appeared to be struggling to deal with playing four tables simultaneously. Lots of calls for time, etc. I've been away though, so I don't know whether he's managed to get to grips with it yet.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:48 PM on February 20, 2009


The swings will be truly sickening. Patrik chose to play Pot Limit Omaha rather than No Limit Hold 'Em. In NLHE you can often get your money into the pot as a significant favorite, but in PLO the edges you have on your good hands are much smaller. You might be only a 60/40 or 55/45 favorite when you stack off after flopping three-of-a-kind or a strong combo draw.

In Hold 'Em a hand like pocket Aces dominates all other hands; before the flop you are an 80/20 favorite or better. Omaha, with four hole cards to Hold Em's two, has no such hands. The best PLO hand, A-A-K-K double suited, is only a 60/40 pre-flop favorite over something like 7-8-9-10 double suited. If you whiff the flop in NLHE with a pair of Aces you've still got a pair of Aces, which is a strong hand. But in Omaha if you whiff the flop with A-A-K-K you've only got a pair, and in a game where straights, flushes, and full houses are the norm, that ain't much.

Really, these guys love to gamble. They're not shy about going all-in on any given hand if they think they have the slightest edge. That is a recipe for huge swings up and down. And I think that's exactly what Tom Dwan wants. He's a total action junkie, and this challenge is giving him all the action he could want. One of them might even go broke before the 50,000 hands are done. If that happens, what's another $500,000 or $1,500,000 on top, anyways?
posted by Khalad at 7:49 PM on February 20, 2009


I dont understand a word of this post.

I guess I'm not going to get far in my new career as an online poker player.
posted by schwa at 9:43 PM on February 20, 2009


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