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A Poker Life -- Dani Stern

The Newest Member of the Brunson 10

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Dani Stern Back in August, DoylesRoom announced that it was going in a new direction with plans to sign 10 fresh new faces with soaring potential. The latest addition to the Brunson 10 is 23-year-old high-stakes cash-game killer Dani Stern, also known as “Ansky451” online. The barely legal online assassin epitomizes the unique combination the online site is looking for — a young online pro with the poise and professionalism of a seasoned, old-time gambler.

NYC

Stern was born in New York City on Nov. 18, 1986. He grew up with an older brother and competed in sports through high school. As captain of the soccer team and first-baseman on the baseball team, Stern was a jock of sorts, but he also had a knack for learning quickly.

Not only did he receive high grades and an impressive 1480 score on the SATs, but he also swiftly picked up poker when he began playing during his senior year. Chris Moneymaker had just won the World Series of Poker, and the game infiltrated his group of friends like wildfire. They’d play $5 buy-in cash games with nickels and dimes at home, or even in class, and sometimes at a local pizza parlor while watching the pros play on TV. Stern dreamed that one day he too would be playing for millions.

His test scores and high grades got him into McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec. He majored in history and psychology, but he was immediately distracted by poker. He’d already begun playing online over the summer, and he continued to improve throughout his freshman and sophomore years. Stern started out playing small-stakes sit-and-gos and eventually transitioned to modest cash games ($0.25-$0.50 and $0.50-$1). In the beginning, he never thought poker would become his main source of income, but his focus and studious efforts were constantly funneled toward poker, and he began beating higher and higher stakes. By his senior year, the amount of cash he was making playing the game couldn’t be ignored.

“I think I discovered that I could play professionally when basically I realized I could beat high stakes. I wouldn’t want to be a professional poker player if I were playing low-stakes games. It just wouldn’t be worth it. If I was playing $5-$10 — which isn’t even high stakes, it’s more like medium stakes — I could still have a pretty good hourly rate. Once I realized I could be making upwards of $300 or $400, and even more than $1,000 an hour if I’m playing really well, then that was pretty much it for me.”

With three semesters left, Stern left school to pursue poker. At first, his parents weren’t happy, but he had his own way of getting his father to understand.

“The way I explained it to my dad was I asked him if he’d ever taken an economics class. He said yes. Then I asked him if he knew what marginal utility was. He said yes. Then I asked him what the marginal utility was for me getting a degree versus me spending the next year and a half playing more poker and making more money. He kind of understood that if I was going to be playing poker anyway, that it didn’t really matter if I got a degree.”

Career Advancements

Since making the decision to leave college, Stern has continued to evolve in an increasingly talented world of six-handed and heads-up no-limit hold’em cash games, and nowadays he plays anything from $5-$10 to $25-$50 no-limit hold’em or pot-limit Omaha. He’s also had considerable success in online tournaments, and this summer at the WSOP, he had a breakout score and made his first major live tournament final table.

Stern played in the special $40,000 40th-annual no-limit hold’em event, and because of the enormous buy-in, the 201-player field was concentrated full of live pros and online wizards.

“Usually when you play a tournament, your starting table is filled with people who can’t even count to 10,” Stern jokes. “That just wasn’t the case in the $40K. The field was really tough. There were very, very few total soft spots. The only soft spots, really, were other professional poker players who just weren’t as good as you.”

Playing against tough opponents wasn’t something that Stern was new to. He said that when playing high stakes, often you are up against eight good players and one fish, so he felt comfortable throughout the tournament. Stern entered the televised final table seventh in chips.

“Honestly, it was a little nerve-racking during the build-up to it — getting set up and everyone crowding around the final table, but once the cards were in the air and we started playing, all I was thinking about was playing poker.”

Stern doubled up early, but eventually lost a crucial race with pocket fives against Isaac Haxton’s KClub Suit 7Club Suit. After being crippled, he was eliminated shortly thereafter in fourth place for nearly $550,000. Watching the broadcast of his final table brought up some nostalgic feelings.

“It made me think about how six years ago I was sitting in a pizza place with my friends playing for nickels and dimes, watching Chris Moneymaker on ESPN. It’s easy to take the success I’ve had in poker for granted, but you have to remind yourself sometimes of where you came from and what you had to do to get there.”

Reality TV and Sponsorship

This fall, Stern, along with three other cash game pros Emil Patel, Jay Rosenkrantz, and Bryan Roberts, starred in a reality TV show called 2 Months 2 Million on G4TV. The goal was for the four players to collectively make $2 million in two months. During the show, viewers got an inside look at the lifestyle of high-stakes players, as well as the ups and downs.

Perhaps with the attention from the show, the televised final table, and long-held reputation as a consistent cash-game pro, Stern caught the eye of Doyle Brunson and was signed as the fifth member of the Brunson 10.

“I think it’s great. All of these online sites have a big disconnect to the online poker world. A lot of them have sponsored players who are live pros and don’t have much of a connection to the online world. It’s good to see that DoylesRoom is trying to move ahead in the online poker world and see that they need to connect to the people who are big parts of it and who understand it.”

Stern joins Alec Torelli, Zachary Clark, Chris Moorman, and Amit Makhija, leaving five more spots to be filled.

Though the outgoing 23-year-old can’t tell you what he’s doing next week, much less in the next five or 10 years, his early successes in poker and articulate analysis of the game hints that Stern will continue to represent the online poker community with poise and precision, and, for now, as a member of the Brunson 10.