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Poker, Still Red Hot

Money will change hands. While the flow of dough in the highest stakes poker games on the Internet has been considerable over the years, the running frequency of the biggest `nosebleed stakes' games has gone down.
 Poker, Still Red Hot
 
 
Money will change hands. While the flow of dough in the highest stakes poker games on the Internet has been considerable over the years, the running frequency of the biggest `nosebleed stakes' games has gone down. Blame the recession, the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) of 2005, or simply the fact that the former top players just aren't good enough any more, but where there were once ample opportunities for the cyber-based card sharp to relieve some hapless rube of his riches, there now exists merely a boneyard of lost wealth. A loss, too, for the poker industry compounded by the straitjacket of prohibitive US legislation - many sites block financial transactions from American players. There could well be a queue of rich competitors in line waiting to play, but if there is, they won't have easy means to do so. Not to mention that at a time when money is short for many, the idea of losing grotesque amounts of cash at the click of a button is not an appealing notion. LONE SHERIFF One man has been standing alone in the current wasteland, waiting patiently for a dance partner. But for 22-year-old Tom Dwan, opponents willing to play him for $100,000 (£70,000) a pop are a rarity. Recognised as one of the very best players in the world, his reputation is one conducive to being avoided rather than confronted. But the New Jersey-born Dwan, better known online as his screename `durrr', has issued a challenge that has been tough for the big names to ignore. Dwan will play against someone for 50,000 hands at no-limit hold'em or pot-limit Omaha at minimum stakes of $200/$400. This means that Dwan and his nemesis will be bringing $40,000 (around £28,000) to each table he is playing - at least - and he will be playing four tables - at a minimum. At most, there could around half a million dollars being thrown around like confetti on the Internet at one time. And we thought the days of reckless trading were over. If his opponent is ahead overall at the end of 50,000 hands - even by just $1 - Dwan will pay him $1.5 million. (£1 million). If Dwan is ahead, his opponent owes him $500,000. (£350,000). And the winning player keeps the profit he makes from the marathon session - a profit that could easily hit seven figures. For the first time in a while, we will see the kind of tussles at the highest stakes online that poker fans, or `railbirds' worldwide have been waiting for. But at what cost to the loser? Top online pro Ben Sulsky confirms: "It's highly likely someone will win or lose $5 million plus over the course of the match." So will the contest go the duration? "It probably won't take the full 50k hands to make apparent who the better player is, so someone will likely buy out. But then ego is such a huge component of this thing on both sides that there is always a chance for a bloodbath," Sulsky adds ominously. THE CHALLENGERS Due to the financial reward skewed in favour of his opponent, Dwan already has a line of prospective challengers - a who's who of top names including multiple World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Ivey and the Finnish high stakes machine Patrik Antonius. With the pay structure so against him, Dwan's confidence in winning the challenge seems sky-high. "I don't get enough people to play me heads up. Even though there is more money to be made in other games, rather than playing heads up at one or two tables, it's so interesting and you learn a lot," he says in an interview with Cardplayer. "I think I might have an edge here, but it's more to have fun and gamble a bit." And with Phil Ivey predicting that somebody will likely go broke, this gambling `a bit' just might turn into something altogether more brutal.
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