Tony Dunst is easily one of the most recognized pros in the world today. As host of the Raw Deal segment on World Poker Tour broadcasts, Dunst gives his unique opinions about all things poker. At the tables, Dunst is typically one of the sharpest dressers and his poker skills are just as sharp as his outfits.
Earlier this year, Dunst made headlines after finishing runner-up in the Aussie Millions Main Event, a tournament he admittedly only had 15% of his own action. The former WPT Champion has enjoyed a blessed run in the WPT Championship over the last two years, finishing 3rd in 2014 and 6th last year.
Dunst took part in this year’s inaugural WPT Tournament of Champions but fell short of his third straight Championship final table. Prior to the start of the TOC, PokerUpdate editor Shira Stieglitz spent some time with him talking about the potential popularity of the TOC, whether the Global Poker League will be successful and where can find him this summer.
Listen to his interview here:
PokerUpdate: So you’ve made the final table at the WPT Championship the last two years. Tell us a bit about what it takes to make a pair of epic runs, such as these, and how you feel about your chances at the Tournament of Champions.
Tony Dunst: Mostly what it takes to go deep in a poker tournament is good luck. I know as professional poker players, we always want to attribute our skill and for the long term, our success is attributable to skill. However, when it comes to a given tournament such as the WPT Championship, a one and done tournament, you just need a lot of good luck to make a deep run.
I think it was just fortuitous to make the final table in back-to-back years in that specific event. As far as this event upcoming, you obviously have to run good. It’s a slightly smaller field than you are dealing with than in a lot of the big WPTs. You need familiarity with the players that are going to be at your table, which I feel pretty comfortable with. I play enough events that I should know these guys and then you just need for nothing terrible to happen to you.
PokerUpdate: Where do you feel the WPT Tournament of Champions ranks, in terms of prestige when compared to other events, such as the WSOP Main Event or the Aussie Millions Main Event?
Tony Dunst: I don’t want to get into ranking any of them, particularly before we even run the first event. But I do think it is unique in the sense that it is the only exclusive tournament for people who are among a group of champions in poker. They have a bunch of open events at the World Series or high stakes events, where if you have enough money you can also come in and enter.
They have invitational events where they try to put a good TV table together but as far as an exclusive unit of champions, that really doesn’t exist right now in poker until we start up tomorrow. So I like the concept. I think it adds more prestige to having won a WPT title. As far as where the tournament itself ranks in order of importance, I don’t know.
PokerUpdate: Do you think that if the Tournament of Champions does do as well as it is expected to then other events might start implementing the same concept, bringing in past winners to play for an ultimate title?
Tony Dunst: Maybe, you could maybe see something like the World Series doing that. They really value the idea of the bracelet. I don’t know of any other major company that puts so much emphasis on having a title. Perhaps the European Poker Tour maybe being the only other one that comes to mind. I don’t know. Potentially.
PokerUpdate: This is the first time the Tournament of Champions is instituting the 30-second shot clock. It’s been supported by many, it’s been argued by many that think it shouldn’t be used. What are your comments to those who think that, sporting events such as poker like this should not have a shot clock?
Tony Dunst: My comments are, I disagree. I love the idea of the shot clock. I think that there are only occasional moments in poker where you really need more than 30 seconds to make a decision. Particularly amongst a table of professionals, many of them won’t often need more than 30 seconds and I believe we have some kind of extension option, like a chip where you can extend your time bank.
So I think that is a good format and would prevent any unnecessary tanking. But overall, I like the idea of a shot clock. I think increasing the amount of pressure that we play with in poker is good because it leads to people making mistakes. So for a professional, that’s a good thing to me
Overall, I just think that to a degree, tanking in recent years has become kind of vogue and it’s really annoying when your at the table and you know people are tanking unnecessarily. Yesterday, even at our final table, we had someone tanking decisions that weren’t decisions. And just watching it, when I’m not at the table, it’s frustrating. So, I’m all for the shot clock.
PokerUpdate: You’ve won a WPT title and over $2.3 Million in career earnings. What would winning the Tournament of Champions mean for your current career?
Tony Dunst: It means about another $300,000 in winnings, a slew of prizes and my bosses being very pleased with me. A corvette – it would mean a corvette. Membership in the gold card concierge service for a year, I believe.
In terms of sentimental value, I try not to place too much sentimental value on poker tournaments because then you’ll live a life of disappointment. But, of all the poker tournaments that I play in a given year, I would really like to win this one because you get the sort of defacto bragging rights over your fellow champions for a year. Since it is the first iteration of this tournament, it’s always just cool to win the first of something.
PokerUpdate: What are thoughts about the potential popularity of this new format? Do you think the fans will love it or do you think it will be something of a gimmick, where you see with the November Nine starting to fizzle out a little bit?
Tony Dunst: Well, I think the fans typically like televised final tables where they know the people involved and this type of event leads a higher likelihood of the fans knowing the people involved at the final table. So, no, I don’t think there will be a quick or an immediate fizzle out affect. It’s not a concept that relies on its novelty.
People already know what a Tournament of Champions is and it just really hasn’t been applied to poker before in a very serious way. So, I don’t think it has to worry about that. It’s really a question of will your champions show up for the event. And if the champions show up for this, they get a good turnout, it creates a positive buzz and champions like this idea of having some exclusivity elements to their title, and then I think it should be received well.
PokerUpdate: Do you think fans will be more likely to watch this than other poker events just because there are bigger names, people that you know?
Tony Dunst: Yes, I do think they are more likely to watch this and I think that we’re not the only poker company to come to that kind of conclusion. Essentially something like the Global Poker League exists for that very reason. Let’s just take all the pros, people are familiar with, stick them together and have them play matches and see if people watch.
PokerUpdate: Speaking of the GPL, what are your thoughts on its chances of succeeding? Do you think it is really going to sportify poker as everyone is saying?
Tony Dunst: I don’t know and I don’t want to speculate on something that I’m fairly poorly informed about but I think that most poker start-ups in the last ten to fifteen years have fizzled out. So, history just works against them and with online poker getting tougher all the time. I really don’t know very much about the Global Poker League, I just think it’s hard to start a new company in poker, and so that works against them. But I don’t really know too much about what their plans are, what their viewership is like and what the participation from the players is like, so I really don’t want to speculate very much about that.
PokerUpdate: What are your plans after the Tournament of Champions? Will we be seeing you this summer at the WSOP?
Tony Dunst: Briefly, but mostly I’m going to go to Montreal for World Poker Tour Montreal. Then Amsterdam for the World Poker Tour event we are having there. Nottingham for a World Poker Tour National event at Dusk ‘Til Dawn. In Canne after that for again a WPT National event. And then I’m going to go traveling in Europe for a while and skip as much as the World Series as possible until I go to Los Angeles to do a little bit of filming. And then, reluctantly, go over to Las Vegas and play some poker tournaments.
I was gonna see The Revenant, but growing up in Wisconsin was enough suffering through winter for a lifetime. #Revenant— Tony Dunst (@TonyDunstWPT) February 29, 2016
PokerUpdate: Last and final question, we’re asking everyone this question. If you win the Tournament of Champions, what are you doing with the corvette?
Tony Dunst: I like corvettes. I think they are nice cars. I don’t live anywhere. I don’t have an apartment or a house where I could put the corvette. I don’t drive or like driving. So, I would give it to my parents, I guess. I don’t know, maybe my dad wants a sports car.