Online Poker Keeps Paying Off For Tony Dunst with WSOP Bracelet #3

The World Poker Tour’s Tony Dunst continues to build out his impressive on-the-felt poker resume with his third World Series of Poker gold bracelet.

Jeff Walsh
Jul 5, 2024

They say nothing good happens after 2 a.m.

Don’t tell that to Tony Dunst.

On Monday morning, just before 5 a.m., after more than 13 hours of play, something very good was happening for Dunst who was putting the finishing touches on his victory over more than 2,400 runners in World Series of Poker Online Event #15 ($500 NLHE Deepstack) for $134,887 and his third career WSOP bracelet.

“It was just one of those tournaments that in order to go deep, big things just have to fall your way,” he said, talking about how the tournament came together for him. “It’s just one of those things that it is just so big, it’s such a massive deal.”

Perhaps, nowadays, Dunst is best known as one half of the commentary team for the World Poker Tour. Sitting side-by-side with the legend Vince Van Patten, Dunst is beamed into millions of households every week, on the sidelines calling the action of some of the most prestigious live poker tournaments on the calendar.

But, for those not in the know, Dunst is a pro’s pro on the felt. Originally known as an O.G. online young crusher in the early days of online poker, identified by his old online handle ‘Bond18’, where he cut his teeth and made his mark on the game. As it turns out, more than 20 years after he got his start in poker, and all of his success in the live arena he still finds the online streets where he feels most at home.

“I’m most comfortable online for a couple of reasons. One, it allows for a better life-work balance than live poker tournaments,” he said. “If you Day 2 [a live event] and a play starts at Noon, you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to be in your chair. I tend to sleep in a bit and try and get a lot of stuff done in the afternoon, and then when online poker starts around four o’clock, five o’clock, I feel like I’ve kind of lived my whole day, gotten what I need to done and I can fully concentrate on the game.

“Whereas with live, it also requires a level of patience that I feel is not necessarily my strength, like waiting it out for hours when you go card dead and making patient folds and just not trying to force things. I think live, I tend to force things a little bit, whereas online the action is so rapid. It just kind of plays into my strengths of being able to follow a lot of action at once in multiple tables.”

That’s not to say that Dunst hasn’t found plenty of success playing live. The first of his WSOP bracelets came back in 2016 when he took down a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament in the halls of the Rio. And, of course, he’s a member of the WPT Champions Club with his name inscribed on the WPT Mike Sexton Champions Cup with his World Poker Tour title from 2014. In total, according to the Hendon Mob, Dunst has more than $4.2 million in live earnings. That said, all of that success arrived on the foundation of online poker and after more than two decades of grinding, Dunst says that online is simply in his blood.

“I mean, it was where I got started with real money poker in my late teens,” he said. “The options were pretty limited where I was living and I can’t remember if I was even ‘casino age’ at the time but online poker, as soon as you turn 18, is just like I was playing in late high school or college and everything and have a lot of good memories of that era of online poker. So it’s been good that they have this new liquidity sharing between the three states now that has been a real shot in the arm for the online ecosystem in the United States and it’s kind of nice to see big online tournaments in the US again like when I was coming up in the game.”

One might think with his duties for the World Poker Tour that Dunst doesn’t have a ton of time to devote to poker, serious poker. But that’s not always the case. Dunst says that to stay sharp, he spends free time studying, mostly training videos, and works with solvers to pick apart his own hand histories to keep ahead of the up-and-coming competition. And despite his high-profile role in front of the camera, he often finds the time to keep playing poker as a part of his day-to-day life.

“It goes in waves where there are periods where I need to really prioritize my work with the WPT, being present at events, doing broadcasting, especially around World Champs where we just have so much going on a day-to-day level,” Dunst said, “And then there are other periods where I might not be doing anything in person for the WPT for a month straight and there’s a little bit of correspondence and social media involved working from home, but for the most part I don’t have to be somewhere for work and I can completely invest myself in playing poker, playing online, studying the game, keeping up on all the trends. Again though, the flexibility of online poker is really helpful in that and trying to marry the two.”

Undoubtedly, his dedication to staying sharp, both for his own game and to relay the thought process of others to a global audience, is a big part of why Dunst has proven time and time again that he’s a threat in any tournament he enters. While his trophy case continues to fill, when pressed, Dunst says he enjoys the titles but that’s not really what keeps him coming back to the tables.

“I lean on the money side. I really like playing poker for the income and I just always appreciated that it can provide an income outside of traditional sources that it can allow somebody that kind of flexibility. But also, just chasing titles as a player of games is really fun for anybody who’s just kind of competitive and just kind of seeing what they can win at.

“I’m not too caught up in the whole titles thing, but one accolade that I would love to get, and kind of doubt that I will, is to win a Triple Crown because I’d have to go to Europe and grind a bunch of EPTs and I’m just never really there, but that’s just one of those very unique poker accolades that I just think it would be super cool to pull off at some point.”

It’s clear that, even days later, Dunst was stoked about his third bracelet win. For him, despite all the hours playing online, all the live titles, and the hours in the booth, when he makes a deep run – live or online – the adrenaline and nerves are still there. At nearly 40 years old, the thrill of the game is still there for Dunst.

“You get 10…11…12 hours into a poker tournament, you’re hopes start to get really high and you start thinking of the multiple of the buy-in that you could make. This win was worth, what, 250x my buy-in? That’s crazy. That’s sick. And just as a competitive person, you really, really want to win. So yeah, there’s a degree of nerves and adrenaline whenever you go deep in a tournament.

“I mean, part of what I find really hard about playing live poker at a high volume is once I get to Day 2, and especially if I reach Day 3 in a live tournament, my body is just on edge. My nerves are firing, I’m full of adrenaline, I’m not sleeping my best, I’m not eating or digesting my best. I just feel off in a way that thankfully is, to a degree, muted with online poker.”

The talk of running deep in a tournament instantly brings back memories of the 2023 World Series of Poker where Dunst dominated part of the television coverage with his deep run to 66th place for more than $130,000. And sure, he may prefer the comfort of grinding the online bracelet schedule from the comfort of his couch, but he’s already gearing up for his next shot at the Main Event.

“Yeah, I’m already signed up. I’m going to be there on Day 1D.

“It’s going to be crazy in there, I just know it and I’m looking forward to it in the way I always look forward to the Main, which is, I am really excited for it, but I’m also very fatalistic about it. I’m just like…I’ve played the Main almost 20 times and took some of the most savage poker beats of my career in the Main Event.

“Like it could go down any number of ways. I’ve had a few deep runs where you really start to believe ‘I might final table the Main Event.’,” he said. “I’ve had it go all those different ways and so I’m just kind of like, look…it’s probably going to end in horrific tragedy because it’s the Main Event and that’s what it is.

“But…maybe it’ll go that other way.”