By Sean Chaffin
When Tony Dunst heads off to work, that usually means the poker tables – either playing or manning the mic for the World Poker Tour. A regular on the high-stakes tournament scene for years, the 34-year-old Dunst calls the action for the show along with longtime commentator Vince Van Patten.
With $3.7 million in live tournament winnings, Dunst has the background to offer plenty of insight into the world of poker. Dunst, who lives in Las Vegas, took over commentary duties from Mike Sexton in 2017 after offering his strategy opinions during the show’s Raw Deal segment for seven years.
Being part of the WPT has allowed him to play poker and play a major role in broadcasting the game he’s so passionate about. At the tables, Dunst has numerous big finishes including winning the WPT Caribbean title in 2013 in St. Maarten for $145,000. He also won a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2016.
$15,000 WPT Tournament of Champions, he took runner-up for $250,265 and then added another runner-up finish at the WSOP in a $5,000 No Limit Hold’em event for $374,886.
This month, Dunst offers readers some advice on issues related to one of the most popular plays in poker. They’re the big moves that can cost a player even holding a superior hand or make a player look foolish when he gets caught. Bluffing is a unique aspect of poker, and Dunst breaks down some interesting concepts that just might help your game.
Casino Player: What is one element of bluffing players should keep in mind?
Tony Dunst: A frequent bluff players run too much is the continuation bet, meaning a player has raised before the flop and feels the need to take a stab at the pot no matter what hits the board. Dunst warns against doing this too much.
“One of the first things I’ll say about bluffing is that I think a lot of beginning players fire too many continuation bets as bluffs,” he says. “They just think, ‘I raised preflop and this opponent called me in position on the big blind or whatever it happens to be. I need to be continuation betting at a really high frequency.’
“I think, especially when you’re out of position and you get called by somebody in position [meaning acting last], you find through further study that there’s actually a lot of checking needed there, as opposed to just betting. One of the first too-frequent bluffs people can take away from their game is that continuation bet bluff when they’re out of position. It ends up bloating the pot when it’s not really beneficial to you.”
Players can be forced to play in bigger pots than they’d really want to if their opponent calls these c-bets. They then have a big choice to make about running the bluff again on the turn and river, or slamming on the breaks.
Are there certain times in a tournament a player should consider bluffing?
Players are advised to pick pots that have more value with a bluff, and look for potential from certain board textures.
“I think a lot of the multi-street bluffs that we want to run are when we flop a hand that has three-street value potential that always get there with any kind of showdown value,” he says.
For example, Player A puts in a raise with 9-10♠ and the flop comes 8-3-2♣. With that board the player has some overcards and backdoor draws, meaning there are some possibilities. He may put in a bet as a possible bluff to steal this pot.
“On a lot of different turn cards, maybe a spade, a Jack, a Queen, whatever it happens to be, I’m going to continue with this bluff,” Dunst says. “And if I think my opponent has a medium-strength hand such an 8 or a pair, I’m going to triple down with this some percentage of the time.”
In other words, Player A will continue the bluff on the river, even if that card offers him no help.
“It’s especially nice to be triple barrel bluffing in spots where your opponent can also have hands that were drawing, and is just going to be forced to fold those,” Dunst adds. “I think a lot of people conceive a bluff as showing a huge amount of strength and try to get an opponent to fold a big hand. But really, we just want to be making bluffs that are likely to work and likely to make a profit.
“Part of what we want to be bluffing against are hands that our opponent can never call with. So, you want to identify situations where your opponent can get to a river with a lot of hands that were drawing. Maybe you ended up there with a 10-high draw that never made anything by showdown. But the runout was such that your opponent could have a lot of drawing hands. That’s a pretty beneficial spot to bluff as well.”
Do you see new players too often thinking an opponent is bluffing?
“It depends. A lot of beginner players are making overly tight folds preflop, and overly loose calls on the river,” Dunst says. “I think that beginning players fail to understand how likely it is that somebody has reached the river with a very strong hand – especially in multiway pots.”
Beginner players have to learn that sometimes their hands are good enough to call even preflop raises, and not be hesitant with what they might consider subpar hands. This prevents players from bluffing them preflop with hands they were actually in good shape against or had the right price to make a call against. ´
Follow Tony Dunst on Twitter at @TonyDunstTV. The World Poker Tour airs on FOX Sports regional networks at 8 p.m. EST on Sundays and 11 p.m. on Wednesdays.