On the Button: with poker pro Tony Dunst

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Tony Dunst is one of poker’s best-known personalities, thanks to his TV work on the WPT segments, known as the Raw Deal, and his strategy columns. In October, he got his name on the WPT Champions Cup for the first time by winning the Caribbean event in St. Kitts. Our Big Dave Lemmon spoke to Tony recently on the Poker Action Line podcast.

Tell us about your recent victory at the WPT Caribbean event, your first major title. Well, really it was just a tournament I ran the best in; I feel I played similarly in previous events but this was one where everything fell my way. I had good starting hands, I flopped well and I had some people attempt some poor bluffs at me. As far as being a player, it didn’t really mean that much to me, but from my overall career perspective it was important because it made my superiors at the WPT very pleased. It’s actually going to be a televised event, so viewers that say. “Well, he talks a good game, but can he play?” will get their answer. It felt good for me, but I try not to be too results-oriented. I think it’s a misconception that people played especially well in tournaments that they won. I remember being pretty focused at the table and paying close attention, but I do that in a lot of tournaments that I bust out early in.

Let’s talk about Bet, Raise or Fold, an excellent portrayal of the human-interest stories of three online players: you, Danielle Moon-Anderson and Martin Bradshaw. I thought they did a really good job of picking three people who represented different aspects of the poker experience and they originally were going to add a few other characters to broaden that even further, but when Black Friday struck during the early production, they realized they needed to capture that moment in time and it wouldn’t be economically feasible to add more people to the equation. We were lucky in that regard that the three of us represented those aspects of the poker world so nicely and so neatly.

What is its future as far as exposure and as a result, profitability? (It’s) available on video-on-demand platforms through X-Box and cable, everything right now except Netflix, and I think that will happen in the future. So, the availability will be great, but as far as the economics of the film, that’s not something I’m privy to, so whether they made big money or not, I don’t know.

What has been the reaction to your appearance? Mostly positive … I think people resonated with the anger I expressed after Black Friday and the film expresses something that they were a part of and now feel deprived of, so it has been quite positive.

Tell us about the process involved with putting together the segments for the Raw Deal. I write a lot of the segments at home and then bounce my ideas off the producers. We work together to come up with a finished product, but I need to give my producers and editors a lot of the credit for making the segments visually come together, because they take the jokes and ideas that are in my head and mold them into something that people at home enjoy watching. So it feels great to have a good team behind me that can help manifest my imagination.

What has been the reaction from players who may have been critical targets?
You know, I’ve never really taken much flak for it. I’m pretty surprised about that, but I guess people understand that I’m a tongue-in-cheek dude, so it’s been cool.

What is your future in 2014 at the felt? I’ll probably play the same amount of tournaments that I always do, a few cash games and try to strike a nice balance.

You been through the success and downfall of online poker, you’ve moved into a whole new area now; are we finally moving in the right direction? It does seem that way, with three states having intrastate poker and the promise of the DOJ to finally refund the online funds, so I think we’re making progress . . . I can’t be totally sure, but I think we are.