Daniel ‘Jungleman12’ Cates, 20, is one of the hottest NLHE players in the world. He started his poker career by playing $.25/.50 heads up cash games in 2008. By the end of 2008, he was playing $10/20 and had won almost $100,000. By 2009, he was playing $25/50. His poker career has rocketed to stardom this year as he has dominated the HU NL games on Full Tilt winning over two million dollars. He recently started making videos for CardRunners and is now stepping up to play the Durrrr 50k hands heads up challenge. All this while he is currently attending the University of Maryland in College Park, while living in Bowie, Maryland.
(Daniel is in the center, with the hat)
How did you get started in the poker world and how did you manage to move up the stakes so quickly to now being one of the most feared regs at the nosebleeds? It seems 2010 has been your breakout year. What have you been doing differently?
Aggressive Bankroll management, aggressive learning (watching videos, playing everyone etc.), and perhaps some sort of natural talent were very important to moving up fast. This year I've had more noticeable success because I've run well and have been playing higher than previous years.
In terms of bankroll management did you take a lot of shots in order to move up quickly or was it more a case of putting in the hours and volume?
Both. I took shots relatively soon in terms of bankroll size compared to most players but with a reasonable amount of buyins every time. I was fortunate that most of the shots I took were successful.
During your succession through the ranks can you tell us what were the key 'a-ha' moments for you? Was there anything that suddenly clicked that really helped you to destroy certain levels?
No single 'a-ha' moment allowed me to destroy a limit, but the accumulation of several did. One 'a-ha' moment was to think of how a player's range on the whole effects a single range, another was that learning how not to bet too thin is almost as important as learning how to bet thin.
What do you think are the most important personal characteristics to have in order to be a really successful player? Can poker really be taught / learned or do you also need to have innate talents conducive to poker?
I think poker can be taught, but there is some innate talent involved. Talent in its most generic sense (i.e. ability to learn) is necessary, but perhaps even more so is also talent in terms of character traits such as work ethic, ambition, open mindedness, rationality, etc. In fact, I'd say these traits are essential to being successful in anything, not just poker. These traits, however, can only partly be taught. I think learning must occur from within.
You keep an interesting blog on CardRunners. It is very refreshing to read a poker blog with philosophical insights into areas outside of poker, though ones that also relate to poker and your win rate. Can you tell us a little about your outlook on life, your thoughts on happiness and success, and how it all relates to playing fantastic high stakes poker (if it does at all)?
Paradoxically success doesn't seem to be that strongly related to happiness, so I'm actually doing research on the subject and considering implementing changes in my life towards the specific goal of happiness. I try to keep playing high stakes poker and life discrete (especially the losing days), although it perhaps necessarily effects my life. That being said, I am happier now that I have had such success from high stakes poker.
Did you ever have a major setback in your poker career? If so what was it and how did you overcome it?
Yes, I've had multiple setbacks. My biggest was when I lost almost 500k to Isildur1, and then proceeded to lose another 90k the next day. I felt really awful for the next few days, but it helped to remember that I had still had a lot of success in poker, and that if I kept my head straight I could still enjoy a lot of success and eventually win the amount back. Fortunately I went on a heater for the next month or so, and won the amount that I lost back within about a month's time.
How do you deal with the psychological aspect of sometimes losing very large sums of money? We noticed on your blog you mentioned that you don't like to be contacted when you are on a downswing / losing streak?
The best thing to do when losing a lot of money is to view it as an experience to be learned from, and then forget about the pain of losing that much. It is recessive to keep thinking about how much it sucks to lose X amount of dollars. Regarding what I said in my blog, I just become more easily irritated when I'm losing. The post was more related to messaging me when I am playing and losing than when I'm in a downswing.
Can you confirm if you are taking the Durrrr challenge and when it might begin? What are your motivations for playing Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan heads up in the 50k hands challenge and how you will prepare for it?
Yes, I will be taking the Durrrr challenge, though I don't know when it will start. My motivations are that I think it is +EV, in terms of money and also renown. I will be preparing for this match more so than for any other match, up to this point this is the single most important match of my career. I'll do some mental preparation and more direct preparation (such as reviewing sessions with him, etc), but most of the homework is already done in the many things I've done to improve my game to where it is now.
Who do you consider to be the toughest opponents you face at the tables? Is there anyone you generally try to avoid playing?
As far as No Limit is concerned, there isn't anyone I totally avoid although I wouldn't want to play isildur1 and luvthewnba at really high stakes. Urnotindanger2 is also very good and a good friend of mine that I tend not to play at high stakes. For PLO, I stay clear of the CardRunners guys, skervjoy, and the older classic high stakes players (Patrik Antonius, Urindanger, etc) although that may soon change.
What are your aspirations for your poker career now? Can we expect to see you taking on the legends of the poker world in Bobby's Room once you turn 21?
I want to make enough money so that I don't have to work a day job the rest of my life. An original goal of mine was to play the best at the highest stakes--back when I was playing micro-stakes I envisioned myself playing Ivey at $500/1k. There is a good chance I'll be taking some shots at Bobby's Room.
What do you like to do when not playing poker?
In addition to hanging out with friends, I like playing video games and pool. I also like music of many kinds, particularly exotic underground music. Although I wouldn't call it a hobby, I'm also now working out and trying to stay in shape.
Do you think it is important to have a work / life balance or would you encourage other aspiring players to dedicate as much time to poker as possible if they want to reach the top levels?
Yes, there isn't much purpose in working if you never enjoy it. In addition, resting may also be prudent for working because if you work too hard, you'll become too stressed.
What is the best thing that poker has afforded you in your life so far, monetarily and non-monetarily?
Monetarily speaking, I'm going to get a nice car soon. Non-monetarily, the renown of having made so much money at a young age and being one of the best at what I do.
Can you tell us something about yourself that our readers might be surprised to hear?
I once worked at McDonald's.
If you could give other young, enthusiastic players one piece of advice for poker and for life what would it be?
That in order to get what you want out of life, you must really apply yourself and what you know and eventually dreams can become reality.
What is your favorite fun poker phrase/slang/acronym?
Street poker - which references playing really wild and crazy, busting moves etc. when playing a competitive match. That’s poker when it's the most fun :) .
If the poker industry disappeared completely, what other career would you most like to attempt?
Maybe trading? Not totally sure.
If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?
A really nice steak, probably Filet Mignon with some fancy steak sauce. Grilled shrimp and/or fried lobster on the side.
When your poker career is over, what would you most like to be remembered for?
Challenging the world, and succeeding.