Poker Writer Confessions: Tom Dwan and the Untouchables

TAGs: European Poker Tour, full tilt poker, Lee Davy, Poker Writer Confessions, Tom Dwan


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The first time that I saw Tom Dwan in the flesh remains the most absurd moment of hyper-media attention I have ever seen in my time on the live poker tournament. Granted, I have only been around for three-years, but nobody comes close to the attention that this scruffy little kid got when he turned up to play in the European Poker Tour (EPT) Vienna main event in 2010.

It was frenzied; as people smothered his table desperately trying to take a shot of the man who was one of the hottest talents the game of poker had ever seen. And yet, despite all of his apparent skill, which today seems to be more of a media induced illusion than actual truth, it comes as no surprise that Full Tilt Poker (FTP) have decided to cut him loose now that his contract has expired.

As Viktor Blom showed, during his short and sweet time with the mega marketing supremos at PokerStars, it takes a lot more than game to be the face of one of the world’s premier online poker organizations; you also need personality.

Let’s face facts here. Dwan has the personality of a brick, his interviews have always been appalling, his desire to pimp the organization that is paying his wages has sorely been lacking, and he has shown nothing but disrespect since his relationship started. Not just for the site he represented, but the thousands of fans who live to learn more about him.

He never gave a shit, doesn’t give a shit, and never will give a shit.

Or was he just a little shy?

Perhaps, away from the felt he is one of the most engaging and wonderful personalities, who just happens to freeze when a television camera is thrust into his face? A guy who took the deal for the money, and when he realized he would have to actually work for it, decided to act like an Ostrich?

Tom Dwan isn’t the only person who believes he breathes a different type of oxygen than the rest of the swollen fish who scour the depths of the ocean floor. You can add Phil Ivey to that list also.

Ivey’s mug is the most marketable face in the world of poker, and yet the most elusive – the prima donna who can only be interviewed by a unique few, because he doesn’t want to catch your scent of ordinariness. The man seems to have an invisible barrier that deters all human interaction.

Once again those closest to him will tell you that he is a marvelous fellow, but it’s the ordinary folk that want to know what makes Ivey tick; not the elite few. The same ordinary folk that he is trying to reach out to with his social media offering: IveyPoker.

The irony is tragic.

Phil Ivey operating a social media site.

Give me a break.

Alexander Dreyfus, the CEO of the Global Poker Index (GPI), says that in order for poker to break into the mainstream, we need to ‘expose poker’ and to do this we need to ‘expose our player’s to make them well-known, ‘elite’ and ‘sports star’ like.

Fortunately, we already have people representing the world of poker that fit into this mould, and we have PokerStars to thank for that. And yet I’m worried that we haven’t gotten the balance right. We have forgotten that the reason poker is so amazing is it is one of the only games in the world that allows the common man to sit next to, play with, and communicate with a star.

At a recent EPT event I received a media message that the Brazilian footballer Ronaldo was going to be playing an event. The media message gave strict guidance on how we should approach this Zeus like figure. For the sake of brevity I will just tell you that the message said to stay away from the man, with a smattering of contradiction thrown into the mix when it said ‘he wants to be treated like a normal person.’

Ronaldo is no different to Tom Dwan or Phil Ivey, and I believe Rafael Nadal is going to be the same. These people are chosen by marketing machines to promote a game that they don’t even seem to play.

And yet it works…. sort of.

Rafael Nadal won a single table Charity event and the result elevated poker into every single media outlet in the world, and yet I bet you needed to have security clearance that would get you into Buckingham Palace to get a word out of the guy.

Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to get interviews with these people. In fact, I believe that if you really want it, you will get it. My argument is the irritability of the difficulty of it. It comes across as aloof. The sort of school playground ‘better than’ nonsense that generally ending with my head being thrust into the nose of some upper class talk-a-lot with a brand new pair of Nike running shoes.

During a recent event at Old Trafford I managed to speak to the great Bryan Robson. It was one of the few times I have been genuinely nervous about speaking to another human being. I had looked up to this man for decades, and when I met him he was warm, accepting and very normal.

But that’s not the full picture.

Before you get to interview someone like Bryan Robson the teams press officer needs to see your questions. I submitted 10 of them, and by the time I had sat down next to Captain Marvel, the new list was thrust into my face covered in more red pen than a 10-year olds Mathematics schoolbook.

“Do you play poker Bryan?”


“Do you know anything about poker Bryan?”


Great. I was left without a pot to piss in.

Ready in…one…two…three…lights…camera…action.

Now that’s what I call ‘blagging it.’

The end result was a complete and utter waste of time. Five minutes of time with a man like Bryan Robson and the output for the reader was inconsequential. They had heard it all a thousand times before.

Now, in that same competition, I got to talk to the United midfielder Darren Fletcher; an extremely humble human who talked to you just like your Dad would; another common man, with no apparent signs of a place in the societal structure that pisses me off. He showed respect, made you feel at ease and I loved him for that.

Matthew Pitt, UK PokerNews Editor, has posed the question of who will take Tom Dwan’s place?

He suggests Sam Trickett, and I think that’s a decent shout. I’ve seen his tears and I have heard his heart creak open a few times, and he is very marketable. He speaks his mind, has an opinion, doesn’t dodge questions and never sidesteps an interview. He’s good looking, loaded, talented, lucky and plays in the highest stakes in the world.

I can see his face elevating poker to the mainstream media. I just hope that he doesn’t forget where he has come from and what has made him a star in the first place.

It’s this great game of ours…oh, and the swollen fishes that swim along the ocean floor searching for the scraps.


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