Tom Dwan Says Stare-Downs Are Ruining No-Limit Hold’em Tournaments

Tom Dwan Says Stare-Downs Are Ruining No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments

Tom Dwan is one of poker’s biggest stars, and over the years has delighted and entertained poker fans with the hyper-aggressive style of play he brings to the cash tables against the world’s best players.

Since moving to Asia to take advantage of Macau and Manila’s high-stakes games, Dwan has also become on of the game’s most mysterious pros, with just the occasional juicy tit-bit of information about him making its way into the mainstream media. The latest involves his view on no-limit hold’em tournament, and as he recently explained to PokerNews:

“I think the few tournaments I’ve played lately.. people have taken the ‘staring at you’ to a whole new level, taking a long time every hand. Now I feel like people are taking it to an extreme and it’s not that fun.. not that sporting.”

Short Deck More Fun

Despite being a cash game specialist, Dwan has participated in a number of tournaments over the past 13 years, and currently boasts $3,166,253 in live winnings, $252,320 of which was recently added following a 5th place finish at the Triton Super High Roller Series HK$500k No Limit Hold’em (Short Deck Ante-Only) event in Jeju, South Korea. That cash represented just his fifth tournament score since 2011, with the pro explaining that he was drawn to the series on account of the “short deck” hold’em events it was offering.

Talking about his experience at the Triton Super High Roller Series, Dwan praised the diverse mix of players represented at each of the tournaments, and the easy going and friendly atmosphere in which they took place. Explaining that stare-downs are usually more of a feature of bigger buy-in events in which there are more pros than recreational players, Dwan, who recently turned 32, had these words to say:

“Part of that is the location and the set-up and who’s running them and all, but I think part of it is also the dynamic of a more friendly.. healthy, take-a-long-time-only-if-you-have-something-decent-or-you’re-really-thinking-of-bluffing type of atmosphere.”

Reason for Stare-Downs

Those who have followed Dwan’s career over the years may have been surprised to hear his view on the subject, especially since many remember him being the master of stare-downs in the numerous television appearances he has made on shows such as High Stakes Poker. Nevertheless, Dwan’s comment emphasizes that the stare-down can still be a necessary part of the game in order to help a player make the right decision, as well as making a hand memorable in the eyes of spectators.

In other words, professional players gauge reactions to their stare-downs to gain valuable tells on their opponents, although more skilled players usually reveal fake tells in order to disguise any such information. For example, as the Body Language University website states:

“If they look back at you and they are sitting on a good hand, they will often offer a smile slightly after making eye-contact. But be careful. A true smile will bring the corners of the eyes back as well as the corners of the mouth. A fake smile where only the mouth smiles is usually an indicator of weakness. You’ll need to be sure you are able to tell the difference between a genuine and fake smile.”

Dwan’s point, however, is that some people stare down their opponents on almost every hand played, and according to the pro, poker is a not a sport, but a game that should be conducted in a fun atmosphere.

Reaction to Dwan’s Comment

As can be seen here, Dwan does acknowledge the substantial contribution he has made to the history of poker stare-downs over the years. However, he did qualify his comment by stating that the times he did it was when huge sums of money were at stake, or when he needed the extra time time to determine whether it was a good opportunity to run a bluff.

Nonetheless, Dwan was still accused of calling the kettle black by some pros, such as Chad Power who tweeted “Hey, I know im pretty awful with this, but other people are worse now and I don’t like it”. That said, Dwan did receive many messages of support from several high profile pros, including Antonio Esfandiari, who tweeted:

“Could not agree more. Absolutely terrible for poker. Who wants to go to a poker table and just be stared at?”

Meanwhile, Bryn Kenney made his thoughts known via Instagram, with the New York pro stating that a penalty should be introduced for those professionals staring at amateurs, explaining that tanking detracts from the enjoyment of the game, and “people need to understand how important it is to make the game fun to attract players to wanna play.”