ArticleMeet Poker Academy Ambassadors – Daniel “Jungleman” Cates

Discover the remarkable story of Daniel “Jungleman” Cates, a once introverted and shy boy who went on to become one of the world’s most renowned poker players.

By Doro | 13 Jun 2023
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Daniel “Jungleman” Cates is a professional poker player, born in 1989 in Bowie, Maryland. He has achieved incredible success at both cash games and MTTs, earning over $12 million in live tournaments alone.

Cates is the proud holder of two WSOP championship bracelets. In 2021 and 2022, achieved a remarkable feat, winning the Poker Players Championship (mixed games) two years in a row. This accomplishment is widely recognized as the pinnacle of professional poker playing. His tremendous success has put him at the top of the world’s best players, proving that he is an exceptionally talented and versatile player.

A type of a loner

In school, he was a loner with few friends due to his introverted personality. He was passionate about video games and this passion eventually turned into addiction. Despite this, he never hindered his school pursuits. On the final exam (SATS) he got a perfect score in the maths section.

He discovered poker when he was 15 years old, while attending high school. During lunch breaks, he would play with his friends and quickly developed an affinity for the game. Two years later, he was introduced to online poker and his passion only grew from there. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the University of Maryland with the intention of becoming a computer scientist.

I did some stuff proactively, but not like directly related to just specifically making friendships. I didn’t like to go out and say “I’m gonna make some friends today” or something like that. It’s more like I learned things about people and learn things about the ways that I was behaving that that just we’re not very effective.

YT Paul Phua Poker

The beginning of a poker journey

Two years later, he started to play in the local casinos, but it didn’t end well for him. In his purse of improvement, he implemented a “reverse game selection”. He figured that in order to make any progress he needed to play with the best players, learn from them and adjust. This plan succeeded, but it didn’t happen overnight. He was still losing and needed to find an extra job in McDonald’s in order to replenish his bankroll.

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Online, he quickly found his stride playing low buy-in cash games and sit & goes (2008). He mainly focused on HU tournaments and eventually transitioned into HU cash games. In just two months, he progressed from the microstakes to NL200. Cates achieved so-called “nosebleeds” in a mere two years, though there were occasional setbacks along the way. 

I think that what helped me to rise through the stakes was being really critical of myself actually or being really objective about what the necessary changes to make.

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The wrath of Isildur

In December of 2009 Daniel Cates and Viktor “Isildur” Blom sat down at Full Tilt Poker for an intense heads-up battle. During a single session, Cates lost half of his bankroll. He was devastated, but did exactly what everyone should do in a similar situation. Moved down in stakes and quickly rebuilt his bankroll.

I beat him at 25$/50$ but he completely wrecked me at 100$/200$. That was like the only times I have ever cried if only for a second, watching my bankroll go from nine hundred something to four hundred something. I was really upset.

YT Poker Listings

In 2010, he put his strong analytical skills into use and made necessary adjustments that improved his game. This allowed him to become a regular in nosebleeds games online in both 6-max and HU format. 

One day, he was presented with the opportunity to challenge the “durrrr” the ultimate online crusher, to a heads-up match. He jumped at the chance and accepted the challenge.

Durrrr Million Dollar Challenge

The timeframe was set at 50,000 hands. The stakes were 200$/400$. If Cates were to lose, he had to pay the winner $500,000 and if he won, Tom Dwan was obligated to pay him an additional $1.5 million. After more than 19,000 hands had been played, Cates was ahead by over a million dollars. Dwan needed a pause. Unfortunately, the “Black Friday” put a halt to the match and made it uncertain if it would ever be completed.

There were some rumours that in 2018 players decided to officially end their challenge. Upon the agreement of both parties, Dwan allegedly made a successful buy-out but the details remain unknown.

“The Black Friday” aftermath

Because of the Black Friday he decided to travel overseas, but first he decided to drop out of the University. He moved to the UK and began to travel the world. He was playing cash games online and some tournaments live. In 2012 he was a runnner-up of the PartyPoker Premier League and hit his first major payday $300,000. He definitely made some waves on the Super High Roller circuit as well. In early 2014 he won WPT8 Alpha for $500,000 and came 2nd in EPT Super High Roller in Monte Carlo for a $1,7 mln payout.

Losing in poker makes me feel frustrated and sometimes even like the world has turned against me. But overall, I should be thankful for poker because it gave me a unique opportunity to make lots of money doing something I enjoy and have an unusual lifestyle. Winning also feels really good, of course!

YT Paul Phua Poker

He registered yet another seven figure win not until 2017. In the Philippines he came 3rd in the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series for a score of little over $1 mln. Next big payout happened in 2019 in another Triton Poker event which was held in London. He finished 5th and won over $1,6 mln.

However, Cates’ biggest accomplishments have come at the WSOP festival. In 2022, he astonished everyone by winning the Poker Player Championship back to back, earning himself another golden bracelet and a whopping $1.4 million prize.

Life outside the world of poker

In 2022 “Jungleman” started his own YouTube channel with poker related content: Winning the Game of Life – “Jungleman” Dan Cates.  He also showed his interest in the film industry. One of his other passions is art. He is an admirer and the creator himself.

© thedancates

Daniel Cates is also exploring more creative endeavors and dedicating a portion of his time and money to philanthropic projects, such as helping build schools in Zanzibar. For him, philanthropy is a lifelong mission and the most important thing to do is act and make small steps in the right direction. After nearly 15 years as a professional poker player, Cates is ready to venture down new paths in and outside the world of poker.

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