In between being an author, a scholar, and a teacher, Brandon Adams finds time to sit in some of the biggest cash games in the world. When he’s not teaching Applied Game Theory at Cambridge, writing Broke: A Poker Novel, or preparing to receive his PhD in business from Harvard, Brandon plays anything up to $1,000/2,000 NLHE and PLO with the likes of Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius, David Benyamine, and the other characters involved in “durrrr”‘s latest high stakes challenge.
I figured Brandon’s expertise in Game Theory, coupled with his intimate knowledge of these games and players would make him the perfect person to chat with about durrrr’s insane challenge.
Image credit: https://upswingpoker.com/
Justin Shronk : Brandon, I decided to make you my “durrrr Challenge Expert” because you’ve played with all these guys, are well-versed in handicapping interesting prop bets, have played with all the parties involved, and are one of the smartest guys I know. SO – what were your very first impressions when you read about the challenge?
Brandon Adams : I thought it was a bad idea. Warren Buffett once said, “In investing, there are no called strikes.” Gambling is the same; you can wait around for the fat pitch. Most of us don’t, but it’s an option. Usually the worst thing you can do in gambling is to throw a lot of bets out there, because adverse selection kicks in — your bets are only accepted when they’re not good for you. This bet might or might not be bad for Tom, but there are definitely better spots.
Justin Shronk : To those of us that are semi-entrenched in the poker world, this just seemed like a crazy idea. You’ve called durrrr “the closest thing we have to a poker prodigy.” That being said, he is laying an insurmountable price; so basically my question is – is he crazy?? Can he actually beat this thing laying such a gigantic price?
Brandon Adams : He’s not crazy. If a substantially worse player had taken the bet, they would be drawing almost dead. They might figure to lose $1mill and then quit (losing another $500k). Also, Tom seems to be without equal in playing multiple screens for high stakes.
Tom is assuming that he has a decent win rate against anyone who takes the bet (such that they are drawing very, very thin over 50k hands). I think of win rates in high stakes poker as being very fluid and uncertain, such that historical win rates have limited predictive power. After Kaibuxxe won $4 mill straight in Omaha, Kenny told him, “I think you should quit.” These things just seem to cycle. Now, Tom’s record is remarkable in terms of its consistency, but it doesn’t seem to me that you can be confident enough in your win rate against the best to lay 3-1.
Justin Shronk : So far some challengers have already stepped up to say they will play. It seems a trend will be a few people getting together to back someone they think could possibly beat durrrr. First, is that something you’ve thought about getting involved in (the backing of someone); and second, if you were to back someone, who would it be – who do you think is durrrr’s biggest threat?
Brandon Adams : I wouldn’t get involved in this bet on either side. There are strong competitors all over. Patrik has a record that is equal to Tom’s, and he has tremendous focus and drives. Ivey clearly has an amazing record as well. The big question in both those cases is the impact of multi-tabling.
Justin Shronk : What kind of strategic changes would someone playing durrrr (and durrrr himself) have to make in this kind of challenge? Do you just throw out the part about trying to finish up at least $1 to win the side bet and play your regular game? Or is the money in the prop bet enough to make you have to make some tweaks in your game?
Brandon Adams : It’s 50k hands, so there shouldn’t be much tweaking. The one thing I would do if I were Tom is sell pieces of myself on a contingent basis before the match begins. For instance, he might have all of himself initially, but if he gets down $1mill, someone takes a third of his regular action and gets a third of the prop action at some specified discount. Tom has to avoid the very bad cases, and it’s better to sell contingently so that he doesn’t have to think about personal finance issues during the match.
Justin Shronk : How do you think this thing ends? You know all these guys, about how they’re rolled, and their relative skill levels. Does durrrr play one match and lose? Play one match and win, but decide the swings were just too volatile? Play multiple matches with mixed results and therefore end up losing money? Kill everyone and have the matches become something of poker lore for years to come?
Brandon Adams : I never know how anyone is rolled. With gamblers, I always assume they are broke, and then make small updates from there. Durrrr has done very well, obviously, but no gambler could lose two of these things and be in decent shape. I can’t guess on potential outcomes, but all of the names that have surfaced around this bet are guys not afraid to live near the edge, so I think we’re going to get some great stories out of this regardless of outcomes.