WSOP Bracelet Hunters: Daniel "Jungleman12" Cates

Dan Cates
Dan "Jungleman12" Cates

I was fortunate enough to watch Derren Brown the other night.

If you don’t know who Derren Brown is then picture a cross between David Blaine, Criss Angel, Dynamo, Professor Xavier and Gandalf and you kind of get the picture.

He stuns me. My mouth remains open longer than normal; he makes me question my limits of possibility and confuses the hell out of me.

The man drags me in, deeper than the Mariana Trench, but his brilliance makes it ok with me.

That’s exactly what I think when I talk to Daniel "Jungleman" Cates.

Friends with the Gods

He's what I would call an "observer."

My earliest memory of him was a front cover of a magazine. I think it was BLUFF.

He looked a little bit like Dynamo the Magician. He looked cool, and the write-up made him seem cooler.

He was still impossibly young and yet he managed to turn poker sessions with his schoolmates - where they used torn pieces of paper for chips - into sessions where he regularly challenged and beat the crap out of the very best poker players on the planet.

I’m not talking about the "superstars" of the live tournament scene. The types of guys you see on television.

I’m talking about the Gods of the game. The heroes hidden behind closed doors. Faceless avatars.

Then when I met him he was completely different. He has the most infectious laugh that grabs me every time.

He’s what I would call an "observer." A little like the bald guy in the TV series Fringe.

Just watching from afar but able to step into the equation when a difficult sum is called for. 

“I found it quite difficult to make friends when I was younger. It didn’t happen as naturally for me as it seemed to happen for other people around me," Cates told me

Poker and Nothing Else

The Jungleman dissects points of view on a first come, first served basis. He is meticulous.

A real deep thinker who surgically pulls a point apart - not a mindless moron who pulls sweeping statements out of his mouth with abandon.

Dan Cates
Dissecter of points of view.

“People are born with different propensities to focus on different areas of their life. I just didn’t focus on things like being sociable, or whatever else the world cared about.

"I only cared about things that directly involved me. You only have a limited amount of awareness. You can’t focus on six things at once.

"I was very talented at academics. That was something that came naturally for me. I never had to study and it all seemed pretty easy to me.

“So yes. I was a bit socially oblivious when I was younger, but I am more equipped now. Fortunately, these decisions are why I have become so successful at poker.

"I was absolutely fixated on this one thing. Poker and nothing else.”

If He Was a Light, He'd Be Switched ON

Cates' success is one route towards a successful set of communication skills, and this is something that's not lost upon him.

“My additional confidence in this area is partly derived by having success, and the encouragement that it provides you with.

"You have to practice at it but there are also certain genetic factors that are linked with confidence.

“People are capable of doing far more things than they would ever imagine, but sometimes their mindset, and upbringing, shapes their behaviors in such a way that it makes it more difficult for them to realize their ability easily.”

This isn’t a man who is unaware of his capabilities. If he was a light, he would be switched ON.

He has an acute awareness of everything that is going on in his life and is constantly thinking about how he can find an edge - both in life and poker.

“There is all kinds of shit going through my head at times {Laughs}. I am always thinking about ways of further enhancing my effectiveness and I also spend a lot of time on emotional thoughts that bother me.

Dan Cates
If he was a light, he would be switched ON.

"Particularly if I think I have been screwed over. I will spend a long time rationalizing it. Questioning whether they were right or I was wrong. Figuring out if I made an error, and how I could have avoided it. I don’t naturally blame people.

“I also imagine succeeding a lot, and visualizing what success looks like. This leads me to constantly go over my actions to see if they make sense.”

A Self-Critical Psyche with High Expectations

“I am extremely self-critical. There is a certain part of me that wants to be extremely, perfectly rational, but that’s the hardest thing to ever be.

"I used to think that I was totally unbiased, but I have recently realized that I have some biases. It’s as if you can only reduce certain things to some extent, and you can’t completely rid yourself of inefficiencies.”

A self-critical psyche often leads to high expectation and frustration when things don’t go to plan. And then BOOM! The kettle starts hissing, rockets get launched and shit goes all over the place.

“I can get extremely angry when things don’t go my way, over a period of time, or something absurd happens, and then I get very upset at myself for not handling the situation.

“I remember one time giving a friend of mine odds of 10:1 that a girl we were talking to would know what the word ‘tinder’ meant.

"Of course she didn’t have a clue. It was only a $100 bet, so I lost $1,000 - which is not a lot to me - but it really effected me.”

A leak. So what is he doing to plug it?

“I have purchased lessons from Jared Tendler and he talks about injecting logic into situations. That’s been helping, but it’s pretty tough to get rid of this issue, I can tell you.”

No Time for Cool, Little Time for Ego

His success comes from his focus and attention to detail. So it’s no surprise when I ask him what’s important to him and he says that it’s a drive to be successful.

No respect for fake fur.

”I would say being successful for myself. It seems selfish, but that’s the way it is. I also highly value making the lives of my friends better. So, for example, when I sell action I always make sure it’s +EV for my friends, and things like that.”

Truth and integrity are core values to him, although he surrenders that there are times when inauthenticity or untruthfulness can be used for the greater good.

He has no time for cool. Little time for the ego. No respect for fake fur. This is a mink coat or bucket of blood type of guy.

I set up the interview because I believe in lucky streaks and Cates is on one. Whilst he may be a God of the cash-game online world, his live tournament results have not been able to turn a chubby into a stiffy.

But a win at the World Poker Tour (WPT) Alpha8 in Joberg for $500,000, and a runner-up spot in the European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final Super High Roller for $1.77m, perked my interest.

The Jungleman was going to grab the vine, swing into the Rio and pick-up a bracelet on his way through. That was until I spoke to him.

“I just find tournaments so unsatisfying. I hate being locked into a schedule, especially a long one - it drives me insane.”

But you are on a roll Daniel?

“Don’t be fooled by results. There is a ton of luck involved. A ton of luck.”

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