The Tom Dwan Million Dollar Challenge will make its live debut in London, England next month in conjunction with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Europe festivities, according to its promoter, Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn.
Dwan will square off against four opponents for 500 hands. Each player must buy in for $500,000 and blinds will be $500/$1,000. London cash game pro Sammy George was the first to accept Dwan’s challenge, with three more poker hopefuls waiting in the wings. Hearn sat down with Poker News Daily to discuss the background of the high-stakes live spectacle.
Poker News Daily: Tell us where the idea for the live version of the Million Dollar Challenge came from.
Hearn: I met Tom for the first time during the filming of the PartyPoker Premier League in London. I found him quite fascinating, to be honest, and as a poker fan, I admired his play and watched quite a few of his online sessions. I found it intriguing that someone so young with such a “normal” background was prepared to gamble with such huge stakes.
From a marketing perspective, I could see Tom was becoming a phenomenon. Every post on every forum that featured his name was attracting huge numbers and he was clearly creating headlines throughout the industry. The launch of his online challenge was mind-blowing. Offering 3:1 odds to the greatest players in the world? That’s like Tiger Woods offering Phil Mickelson strokes! I wanted to take advantage of his huge hype and televise the biggest cash game challenge that the world has ever seen.
PND: Why is Dwan a marketer’s dream for these types of high-stakes heads-up challenges?
Hearn: Tom is perhaps the only player in the world that is prepared to play anyone for any stakes. That’s what makes him so special. He is totally fearless. It’s also why he is so fun to watch because he is relentless. He will continuously put pressure on you and grind you down. As a television spectacle, it’s going to be something really special.
PND: What was your reaction when you found out that Sammy George would face off against Dwan in London?
Hearn: I have known Sammy George for a while and he is a good friend of mine. He was the first person I asked when I announced the challenge because this is made for him. Sammy loves the limelight and the buzz, two things that this event features. Sammy is a competent player and has played plenty of hands in high-stakes games. While he is not someone you would list as one of the best players in the world, he has deep pockets, a big heart, and plenty of balls. He won’t be scared of Tom. Instead, he’ll look him in the eye during every hand and test his mettle at every opportunity.
PND: Four players are scheduled to face off against the youngster as part of the Tom Dwan Million Dollar Challenge. When will you announce the other competitors?
Hearn: There have been many players who have come out recently stating they would like to play Tom. It’s a different story when we ask to see their money. We have laid out the challenge to a number of players, including the world’s very best, and we will announce the other participants in the coming weeks. I guess it’s different than an online challenge in that there are no hiding places and buttons to sit out. It’s just you and the most fearless cash game player of all-time battling it out under television cameras for $1 million.
PND: As you said before, Dwan offered his online challengers 3:1 odds on a $500,000 bet. Will any odds be given in London?
Hearn: There will be no odds. It’s a simple heads-up cash game with a $500,000 buy-in. The edge is in the sample size. Online, his challenge is over such a huge sample that he feels his skills will overcome his opponent. Over 500 hands, it gives his opponent a much better chance, but it’s heads-up; sometimes there is no escaping getting it all-in on a coin flip.
PND: Where and when will the four heads-up poker matches take place?
Hearn: The games will take place in London during the WSOP Europe. They will either be just before the Main Event or during its final table (providing Tom and his opponents don’t make it). With all due respect to the WSOP Europe, it’s been a real disappointment in terms of organization, exposure, production, and television distribution over the last few years. The Durrrr Million Dollar Challenge carries significantly more hype than the WSOP Europe ever could.
PND: Besides Sammy George, what other players would be good fits to play against Dwan in London and why?
Hearn: They say in boxing that styles make fights and it’s the same thing when selecting the opponents for this match. That’s why Sammy is such a great pick because it’s like matching two big punchers with plenty of heart. I want Dwan to play against the best and so does he. Tom has left it completely in my hands and when I asked him if there was anyone he didn’t want to play, the answer was simple: “No.” Everyone is crying out for a match between Dwan and Luke “__FullFlush1__” Schwartz. Tom would love to play him for sure. I think the challenge may come a little early for Luke, but I know he is trying to get his bankroll together to make it happen.
PND: Tell us about Matchroom Sport and its promotion of the event.
Hearn: Matchroom Sport is the world’s leading producer and distributor of televised poker. We produce over 100 hours of fresh content every year with events like the PartyPoker Premier League, PartyPoker Poker Den, The Big Game, The World and European Opens, and the Full Tilt Poker Million. Away from poker, we are market leaders in sporting content, producing darts, boxing, pool, golf, snooker, fishing, and bowling events throughout the world.