It was late 2002… a cold wintry evening in Madison, Wisconsin. As below-freezing temperatures gripped the area, a waiter sat anxiously in a booth normally occupied by customers; taking a menu test for the local Damon's Grill. The young man sitting in the booth was 18-year old Tony Dunst. Tony, who had his sights aimed for loftier goals than a tip-derived supplemental income, would go on to fail the exam… for a third time.
Out of a job and already joined at the hip with the game of poker, Tony decided to attend the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in the Fall semester of 2003, and chose theater as his major. "I never dreamed of a career in theater. When I picked my major, I looked at the list and decided on the one that would be the easiest and allow maximum time for me to be a poker player. I initially took an interest in gambling my senior year of high school when I became the school bookie. In February of 2003, I made my first deposit online, something like $80. I got it up to $400 before my parents found out I was gambling online and became upset. I stayed offline and played home games until I moved out to attend college."
It would be two years before "Bond18" realized the college campus was equipped with a wireless internet connection, and any doubts of Tony's eventual profession would be put to rest the day he discovered that fact. Midway through his junior year, Tony's classmates became more involved in acting and stage design, and would have to pry the laptop away from their stage extra to get him to appear from behind the curtains. "I was sitting in the back staring at my computer wondering how the big-name players always got such a huge stack in the $100 rebuy and couldn't name more than two of Shakespeare's plays."
Attention to detail was never one of Bond's strong suits when it came to activities he didn't enjoy. It wasn't until poker came along that he found a means to fuel his competitiveness and earn a living. Upon leaving the campus life for an adventure in the Land Down Under, Tony found himself banned by the country of Australia for failing to renew his student Visa. However, in the months before his banishment, "Bond18" had found his calling… poker tournaments. After a six-month visit to Shanghai, it was time for this beloved PocketFiver to experience the game of poker in its most dramatic and circus-like venue… the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Although his results weren't impressive, he gained valuable experience that would pave the way for his career as a full-time poker player.
Mr. Dunst's poker skills were honed by two highly successful online players – Adam "AJunglen" Junglen (tournaments) and "NoahSD" (cash games). When asked about his poker methodology, Tony is quick to point out one of his main strengths. "I’m a pretty major grinder and bankroll nit. I don’t have a lot of gamble in me. I’m backed for all the live events I play, and also have 'Timex' back me for the weekly $1k tournaments. I put in a lot of volume over a number of sites in order to grind up my roll. I'd like to get it to a point where bankroll concern is never an issue for me. My daily routine consists of waking up around 11:00am, going for a run, having a cup of coffee, taking a shower, and sitting down with my breakfast at noon which is the start of the Full Tilt $150 and UltimateBet $120. From there, I just keep registering and my girlfriend does the same. We play together for many hours on an average day. I'm a huge believer in taking steps towards self-improvement and having responsibility about self-evaluation. You need to be honest with yourself and take other peoples' constructive criticism well. When someone I respect tells me I played a hand horribly, instead of saying Fuck you I ask How so?"
When we asked "Bond18" about his doubts and weaknesses, he had this to say. "One of my most serious doubts about my ability as a poker player is that I’m simply not a very naturally smart guy. People might see me post well or have good results, but really when I post I'm often playing it safe and not trying to go out on a limb. My style is often straight-forward. I was never any good at math and a fairly average problem solver. I can say without any sense of self modesty that I think every single guy I talk poker with on a regular basis is smarter than I am. However, I listen pretty well, adapt to what they teach me, and through trial and error iron out my leaks and mistakes. My other serious doubt is whether I’m a good live player at all. I've come so close a number of times, and through various methods always managed to fail. I mostly want to chalk my live failure up to adjustment, sample size, and losing a few key flips… but I still wonder sometimes if that’s an area I'll ever really become dominant in."
Tony's tournament backing deal with reigning EPT Dortmund Champion Mike "Timex" McDonaldhas been the topic of several discussions in online forums. Approaching $125,000 in tournament make-up, "Bond18" posed a question for "Timex" on last month's PocketFives.com Podcast – asking just how much longer he'd keep his staked player in chips. Mike's response was a mathematical one… "The deeper a horse gets in make-up, the better it is for the backer." Mike went on to state that he had confidence in Tony's poker ability and would stick with him.
Guaranteed major live tournament entries are of utmost importance as Tony tackles his latest project: a 90-day poker tour across several continents. Many poker players have shown interest in a video and written log of Tony's activities during that trip, which would include tournament updates, hand history analysis, strategy segments, footage of party nights, and occasional contributions from some of online poker's biggest names. He's already made somewhat of a name for himself from the short videos currently in circulation that feature "Bond18." One quick search on YouTube of "Bond18 – Elvis" reveals that the world of stage acting may have been even more fortunate than Damon's Grill to be rid of Tony Dunst.
The somewhat formal attire shown in that video is similar to his live tournament wardrobe. Today's major live tournaments are filled with sponsor-laden sports overshirts, hoodies, caps, and more, but Tony prefers to stick to the "look" of his idol, James Bond. Ironically, Pierce Brosnan, whose image Tony uses for his online avatars, gained more popularity in the eyes of young teenagers from his appearance in a Rareware video game for Nintendo 64 than the movie "Goldeneye." Still, one can easily imagine Tony Dunst waltzing into a casino bar, and asking for a shaken vodka martini.
Some experts say that "Bond18" may be on his way to becoming one of the premier poker tournament players in the world. As he continues to learn from the best in the game, Tony has one more advantage that separates him from nearly every full-time grinder on the circuit – he stays in shape. In a game that requires a unique combination of talent, willpower, stamina, and attitude, "Bond18" appears primed for the challenge.
Tony "Bond18" Dunst is a former Top 100 ranked online tournament player according to the PocketFives.com Rankings. His most recent article, the 13th edition of his Things it took me a while to Learn series, can be found here: Part 1 Part 2.