You probably know Tony Dunst from his popular Raw Deal segments where he turns a critical – and often humorous – on some of the most interesting plays and players at our final tables. What you may not know, however, is that Tony is a talented player in his own right, having cut his teeth as an online pro before making the transition to the live game.
In the past year, Tony has had a very successful year on the World Poker Tour, both in front of the camera and on the felt where he has cashed four times in the past 12 months, including a final table appearance and a fifth-place finish at the WPT Jacksonville bestbet Open in Florida.
So, what accounts for Tony’s recent success? Let’s break him down.
WPT Blog: You’ve had a pretty good year on the WPT, with four cashes on tour – including a couple of deep runs and a final table appearance – since Season 10’s Five Diamond Event. How do you account for your performance over the past year?
Tony: I’d credit a few things. The first half is variance; I think I’m running better in coin flips and pre-flop all-in situations over that period than in the year previous. But I also believe I’m playing better. I’ve spent more and more time around guys like Mike McDonald, Andrew Lichtenberger, and Dan Smith over the last year, and having regular access to their thoughts on hands in invaluable.
I also think watching every hand of every WPT final table and discussing at length how people are playing with an intelligent guest-commentator is great practice for when I’m out of the tournament.
WPT Blog: You’re probably as well-known as host of the Raw Deal and the WPT Live Streams as you are as a player. Has all the time you spend in the broadcast booth breaking down other players’ games helped you become more successful this year?
Tony: Definitely. At this point, I can’t imagine anyone has watched more WPT final table hands over the last two years than I have. I get to watch every nine-two off-suit fold every orbit for hours and hours. On top of that, I’m discussing the strategy of what the players are doing with a guest commentator that’s always one of the most talented players in the game. And usually, I’m not really adding much of my own strategy; I view my job as calling the action and facilitating the conversation, often by posing strategy or personality questions to the guest. I’m listening to their thoughts on the game much more than I’m offering my own.
WPT Blog: What do you think is most responsible for your current string of success on tour?
Tony: My change in attitude towards focus. Basically, when I used to play live poker, I was half at the table and half wherever I was staring – be it at a TV, my phone, a girl, etc. I didn’t prioritize watching every hand I had folded, and mostly relied on generalizations that I extrapolated from the hands I played and an opponent’s appearance. Now, I view playing a live poker tournament as committing myself to watching somewhere between eight and 13 hours of poker that day. I try to keep myself watching and contemplating the action going on around me, and to maintain that during every hand I fold. I certainly don’t end up watching 100% and I doubt anyone does, but I’m not missing many anymore.
WPT Blog: Do you have any trouble balancing your duel careers as a broadcaster and a poker player?
Tony: Not really, they pair up pretty nicely actually. When I first got the job I had some difficulties adjusting to the professional mindset after spending nearly a decade as a card player. I’d take weeks to reply to emails, flake out on interviews because I was oblivious to them. Poker culture and the media-corporate world are two very different societies, and when you frequently jump between the two you have to keep in mind whose rules you’re playing by.
WPT Blog: You do a lot of travelling as a player and commentator – how do you cope with bouncing around the world so much? What are the essential items you need to make your time on the road bearable?
Tony: Yes, how ever do I cope with paid world travel?
WPT Blog: In the rare downtime when you’re not on the road or playing poker, what do you do for fun? What’s your life like away from the poker table?
Tony: I’ve been pretty boring for a while now. For the last 18 months or so, most of my energy has been dedicated towards writing a book, so most of my life away from the table is spent sitting at home reading, and occasionally writing. I like to work out and play tennis, and I have access to both very close to my house. I don’t really do much around Vegas, it gets a little old after a while. I imagine I’ll get a life again when I’m done with it.
WPT Blog: If you hadn’t gone into poker, what do you think you would be doing today?
Tony: I don’t know. I probably would’ve looked for some other scheme that allowed the possibility of making money with autonomy and no formal employment. Possibly writing, which mostly fits that description. I enjoy writing enough to do it for a living, but it’s as unreliable a living as poker.
WPT Blog: What are your goals for the next 12 months on tour?
Tony: Don’t donk it off.