This is Starting to Get Out of Control


If you’ve been following the poker forums or poker news websites you’ve probably been as shocked as everyone else with these super nosebleed swings that have been going on recently. Tom “Durrr” Dwan drops $5 million in a month. Next Isildur1 drops $5 million in a single 24 hour period. What’s next? Is someone going to dump $5 million in one hand?

On 2+2 they’ve been debating how many of these players actually have the proper bankroll to be playing these levels. With the exception of a few players like Ivey, most probably do not though there’s no telling what kind of staking arrangements people have or how much they’ve got behind.

But, I think the more interesting thing is whether or not playing these stakes even makes sense for many of these players. I mean, after a certain point your game selection is almost non-existent. I mean, how many people can actually sit down with you at a $500/$1000 PLO game? If you have to constantly sit around playing people like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius, Ziigmund, and Isildur1 you’re going to have wild swings like we’re seeing now.

All of these players are aggressive, tough players. It’s not like the Big Game in Bobby’s Room where Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Jennifer Harman, and Todd Brunson sit around pushing chips back and forth waiting for some monied up tourist to come along who wants to try to beat the best of the best.

These guys are getting into massive pots against each other. They’re taking huge risks against opponents they probably have a minimal edge over (over the long run – on any particular night anything goes). It’s turned into a show. One begins to wonder if they do it because they think it’s +EV or if they do it because they’re action junkies and the only thing that can get their blood flowing is chillingly large pots.

Other very skilled players don’t seem to have the same action-itch. Daniel Negreanu could arguably play at these levels and for awhile he was somewhat well known for laying down challenges but so far he hasn’t felt a need to jump into the million dollar swing club. And there are many more players who have both the bankroll and the skill to be playing at these levels but prefer to skip the limelight and grind away at more sane levels.

Is it ego? Is it some degenerate gene that drives them to take ever-increasing risks? Are they addicted to the fame and glory of seeing their name in forums and on poker news sites?

Or is it that after a certain point you can’t possibly win huge amounts without taking huge gambles? Isn’t this what the whole mortgage market meltdown was about. When you ran out of safe and sane investments you started lending money to anybody who had a pulse.

Huge risks may have huge rewards but they’re still huge risks. How many minus $5 million months can someone like Dwan stomach? How many $5 million single day hits can any of these players swallow?

And let’s say that Dwan has another bad month next month and he’s wiped out. Sure, Ivey or even Full Tilt might cover him for a few hundred grand or maybe a million to get him back on his feet but they’re not stupid either. They would want to see him grinding it back to pay them off not taking million dollar coin flips on their investment.

So what does that tell you? That playing the slow and steady road is the more sure path. Every one of these nose-bleed players can crush smaller limit games. In fact, one might argue that they might even make more crushing the smaller limits than playing the best of the best where their edge is the smallest.

While there might be some crowing rights in beating Phil Ivey or dominating some of the best players in the world there are surely less risky ways to do it. The Dwan Challenge is certainly a good example of capping the downside while still establishing who gets to claim to be the big dog.

Then again, maybe the Ivey’s, Dwan’s and such read something like this from someone who has never been in their shoes or at their level and thinks I have no idea what I’m talking about. But almost all of these nose-bleed heroes acts as a poker ambassador via their online poker room sponsorships so they should be promoting proper bankroll management, staying within your limits, and other principles of playing smart poker.

Photocred to laura.wilkerson1333

6 thoughts on “This is Starting to Get Out of Control”

  1. The problem with No Limit poker (or even Pot Limit) is that you cannot make money management within the table. Gambling theory suggests that you should never risk your whole bankroll even if there is 0.0001% chance of losing the hand. Nevertheless your opponent will shove it and you will have to call it in such a situation and inevitably sometime lose. You will with almost absolute certainity go broke with AA in your hand on 100 consecutive shoves against a bigger stack. The only solution is to have money management outside of the table. Which means you should bring only a fraction of bankroll to the table (and there is actually a way to calculate the optimal amount). This will put a cap on your losses. Bringing all your bankroll is by theory losing play (even half is bad enough). I don’t know how those pros are backed up by their sponsors, but if they are playing with full bankroll at some point they will go broke, and I will be there to see it.

  2. Personally, I hope they all keep playing those stakes. It keeps them out of the $10/$20 games.

    Be careful what you ask for, Bill.

  3. @Jordan: I agree we want fish but I think it hurts the image of poker more to see guys winning and losing $5 million a day than it does to let players know that they should have X number of buyins before playing at a certain level. I’m not talking about turning players into world class champions. I’m talking about teaching them not to go broke . . . which, is a good thing for poker as players can play longer rather than taking a shot once or twice and never playing again.

  4. Plainly agree with your post.

    What happens in this “high stakes bubble” is becoming ridiculous.

    I also think that this gives a very bad image of poker. A lot of people, even outside the US, are trying to change the public opinions and the governments views on this game, and seeing a bunch of kids *gambling* millions of dollars over the Internet is certainly not good to make people understand that poker is a smart, skill and thoughtful game.

  5. Very insightful, but my only quibble is with: “But almost all of these nose-bleed heroes acts as a poker ambassador via their online poker room sponsorships so they should be promoting proper bankroll management, staying within your limits, and other principles of playing smart poker.”

    Poker Ambassadors, loosely speaking, should be putting on a good show for non-players, to bring legitimacy to the game and to encourage expansion by attracting new players. But promoting proper bankroll management, etc. should not be in their job descriptions. They are merely there to legitimize the game and tempt the fish, not to educate the fish, necessarily. Some might take on that role, like Negreanu, but others can and should freely ignore that element of the game. After all, we want new fish, not new sharks.

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