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In the fifth episode of our ongoing poker documentary series Easy Game we travel to Malta to bring you the legendary Daniel "Jungleman12" Cates. Cates is one of the most successful high-stakes poker players in the world and he gives us his poker story plus insight into the world of online nosebleed cash games. Keep an eye on PokerListings.com for more episodes in the Easy Game series.
Dan: One of my biggest weaknesses is I hate the idea that someone could be better than me. There's like some part of me just thinks like I can beat anybody.
Narrator: In 2008, American Dan Cates opened an account on Full Tilt Poker with the screen name, "jungleman12". It's now 2012 and he's up more than 7 million dollars. But when Full Tilt Poker was shut down in 2011, Cates said he had 80% of his entire bank roll stuck on the site and since he was living in the US on black Friday he's still waiting to see if he will get it back. Now jungleman travels the world playing poker and we met him in Malta for episode 5 of Easy Game.
Dan: Well, I first got into poker playing with my friends during lunch breaks. They didn't want to play competitively and I'm the kind of person who if I get into something I'm really obsessed about it. There is a game some guys were locally playing. They saw me as a chance to make money off of me and so they took me for a lot of money and they also weren't good sports, let's put it that way. They humiliated me, they cheated me sometimes apparently. I remember one guy called me a retard on occasion. I was really bad at poker at that time just really arrogant towards me. And he was one of the honest ones. I eventually moved to play online, thank God, and I started playing lower stakes and I just, within like 2 weeks I started winning online poker, and from there I gradually moved up and up and up and eventually reached some of the highest stakes.
Man 1: Two of diamonds. Lets see if Ivey's Spidey sense is tingling.
Ivey: I'm all in.
Man 1: It's not he goes all in.
Man 1: Cates calls that means Phil Ivey is eliminated. Lights out.
Ivey: Well done.
Dan: Good game.
Ivey: Thank you.
Dan: Good job.
Man 1: Extremely early exit for one of poker's premier players.
Ivey: That's all she wrote. So where do I go?
Dan: I think that what helps me rise through the stakes was being really, really critical about myself, actually. Or being really, really objective about what were the necessary changes to make. One habit that I had when I was playing was I'd often take detailed notes on my opponets, like how they played exactly. I didn't really particularly care to impress anybody or anything like that, I just wanted to do whatever was necessary to win. This is the point where my knowledge of poker solidified. I started coming up with my own theories and shit. Soon enough I was up to almost getting close to my first million. There is a point which I thought, "Wow I actually made a million dollars from this."
Oh, it was also at this point that I first played as silder at 2050. No news knew who he was at the time and it didn't work out so well. Let's put it that way. I beat him at 2050 but, and he completely wrecked me at 100, 200. I lost like half my roll. That was one of the only times I've ever cried, if only for a second. Is watching my roll go from 900 something thousand to like 450, or whatever it was. I was really upset and then the next day I get back on and I'm like, "All right, I'm going to grind it out," and then I lose like another 100k. I'm like, "Ah fuck."
I'm a little bit disconnected with my family to some extent. I mean they're of course happy for me. At this point they're just like "Do your own thing," and as for my friends they can hardly believe it. The opportunities that I've gotten from poker have really benefited my social life and given me more experience and stuff in the real world. Many other people in many different places have seen many things. For a long time I didn't really understand how to make friends, or was really shy or whatever. I was super in my head. I was definitely a weird kid. I'd always sit by myself at lunch, or I remember when I was in middle school I'd sit on a bench at the park. I didn't want to play because I just didn't think it was fun. That kind of thing. I was fucking crazy.
Narrator: In the fall of 2010, Cates accepted a high stake challenge from Tom Dwan. Dwan put up 1.5 million dollars to junglemans 500k to see who would come out on top in 50,000 hands of heads up no limit hold 'em. The winner, after 50,000 hands, would not only take the side bet money but also whatever profit they managed to grind out.
Dan: I was putting part of my work for my life on the line, in a way, because I played poker for years and it's a huge thing for me to be able to win this challenge and kind of huge if I lose it. So something I was really intent on winning. It's actually late in the night and I'm a little bit sleep deprived, but this whole time I'm just waiting eagerly to get this other chance to play him because I really think so far he's gotten lucky. And he just shouldn't be able to beat me if I keep playing. So I get back online and I start killing him and I think I beat him for like 400 or 350 thousand first match, and then he eventually sits out because his account's low.
And then we play a bunch of other matches and then I just keep killing him and killing him. I win almost 80% of the matches or 75% of the matches or something, and then now, to this day, I'm up like 1.2ish million. And around this time a lot of things go well for me. I'm starting to beat Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius at 501k. Then I'm just beating everybody at the highest stakes. I won a ton of money off Zigmund, for example, but I thought it was kind of fishy. At this point I'm just going on this ridiculous heater and just beating everybody, all the best in the world., etc. By the end of 2010, I mean it's kind of recorded, but I am like 5.5 million or something completely ridiculous. Everything's seriously going pretty well.