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Capture the Flag - Daniel ‘Jungleman12’ Cates

Capture the Flag - Daniel ‘Jungleman12’ Cates

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Oct 15, 2010


Player Name HereEven though Daniel “Jungleman12” Cates isn’t old enough to play in a casino, he is one of the most feared cash-game players in the world.

Cates, who is taking at least a semester off from the University of Maryland, started playing micro-stakes games online only a few years ago. In his brief poker career, he has graduated to nosebleed stakes at just 20 years of age.

Cates, who was given the nickname “Jungleman” because of his crazy style in live cash games when he first started playing poker, has recently begun playing in the second installment of the “Durrrr Challenge.”

Tom “durrrr” Dwan offered Cates the opportunity in late July, and it didn’t take long before the two online regulars started dueling at $200-$400 no-limit hold’em. Through just 6,820 hands, Cates was up $692,400.

In preparation for the 50,000-hand match, Cates said that he has done meditation and tried to have a positive state of mind before each session against Dwan. He also put his education on hold indefinitely to focus on competing at the highest stakes offered online.

Cates, who turns 21 in November, began his journey to the top of the poker world when Dwan was already playing $500-$1,000 on Full Tilt Poker.

“I believe that the first time I saw the screen name durrrr, he was playing $500-$1,000 against Phil Ivey,” Cates said. “I had no idea who he was.”
However, it didn’t take long before the two online phenoms met on the virtual felt as peers.

Cates is the quintessential meteoric-rise story, and he sat down with Card Player to talk about the ascent and the most important match of his young career.

Brian Pempus: When you started playing poker, did you have aspirations
of playing at some of the highest stakes in the world?

Daniel Cates: At one point pretty early on, I had a dream of playing Phil Ivey at $500-$1,000. It became a reality not too long ago. I once thought — or hoped — it would happen. I think it was somewhat of a fantasy at first. In the beginning, I thought I had some kind of shot, but I had no idea how real it was.

BP: What has given you the ability to rise so quickly in high-stakes online cash games?

DC: It’s pretty shocking, because I had a rough start in poker and never expected to rise this quickly. I thought it would have been closer to five years before reaching this level. I definitely would describe myself as really aggressive. I’ve tried to gain bits of information from pretty much everyone. I try to take little pieces of other people’s games and see what works and what doesn’t. However, my style is defined mostly by myself. I also have run calculations and figured out how to use the [heads-up display] in ways that some other people haven’t. So, I have discovered some things on my own that I’ve incorporated into my game, and they’ve seemed to work.

BP: Were you surprised when Dwan wanted to face you in the Durrrr Challenge?
DC: Yeah. It was an indication of his ego when he said that I should play it. It really surprised me, because given several different facts, such as my success against him, it just didn’t seem like a smart move, unless he has information that implies that he’s never going to lose to me. I tend to think he is overconfident.

I also think he just believes that he’s better than me and wants to prove it in a grandiose way. It can’t be a good deal for him at the 3-1 side-bet odds, either. I think the Durrrr Challenge is a bit arrogant, actually — giving any players 3-1 that they can’t beat you over 50,000 hands. Eventually, someone is going to come along and have the ability to win.

BP: Why did you choose no-limit hold’em as opposed to pot-limit Omaha [PLO] for your contest with Dwan?

DC: I’m not really sure if I have an edge against Dwan in PLO. I would be slightly surprised if I did. I’m not sure how good I am at PLO in general. I have beaten him really badly before at no-limit hold’em, and fundamentally, I understand that he has leaks in that game. It just seems that his no-limit game is weaker than his PLO game right now. It seems likely that I have an edge in hold’em. Also, for the most part, I’ve focused on no-limit hold’em in my career. It’s so popular, and I originally thought I would be good at it.

BP: Do you think there is anything that Patrik Antonius has done wrong en route to his large deficit in the first Durrrr Challenge?

DC: I haven’t been paying too much attention to that challenge. They started playing before I learned PLO, so I can’t really comment on what he’s done wrong, or anything like that. I’m sure that Patrik is really confident in PLO and poker in general, so he can’t really be doing too much wrong. I’m sure that he’s not running well, also.

BP: Could you take us through your thought process during any interesting hands that you’ve played?

DC: There are some classics and some hilarious hands that I have played. There are a couple of hands that I didn’t expect to win. There have been some four-bet bluffs — or something really crazy like that — that have worked. I don’t want to go into any specifics or go through my thought process right now, though.

BP: Do you think that you and Dwan have a similar style of play?

DC: There are actually a few very subtle but important similarities. I can’t really go too much into what they are right now. There are some aspects of our games that are almost identical, and there are other things that are completely different. I wouldn’t say that our styles are exactly similar, though. I am selective with the information that I give. There are some things I do that are vastly different from what everyone else does.

BP: How would you describe your relationship with Dwan?

DC: I met him briefly at the [PokerStars Caribbean Adventure], and we talk on [AOL Instant Messenger] a bit. I wouldn’t say that we are exactly friends, even though I know him slightly well.

BP: Have you sold some of your action in the challenge?

DC: Yeah. I briefly wanted 100 percent of myself, but it was a stupid idea. I talked to other people, and they convinced me that it was a bad idea, because I could legitimately go broke if I had 100 percent of myself and ran terribly. For a while, I entertained the idea, but it didn’t take too much to convince me otherwise. Going broke isn’t very pleasant.

BP: Have you ever been in danger of going broke since you began playing nosebleed stakes?

DC: Last December, when I lost $500,000 to Isildur1 and then lost $90,000 the next day, the thought, “Oh s—-, I might go broke,” started running through my mind, because that was a huge chunk of my bankroll at the time. I took a few days off after that. Other than that, I have never been in danger of going broke. There have been times during my career when the possibility has been kind of close, but it has never been a real danger.

BP: What changed after the tough session with Isildur1?

DC: I moved down a limit and tightened up my game selection. I moved down to mostly $50-$100 and lower. However, I would have played $100-$200 against a donkey. It’s really upsetting to have to drop down, but sometimes you have to do it. The ability to move down when it’s necessary is very crucial to a poker player’s success.

BP: How did you ultimately rebound from that big loss?

DC: Really well, actually. I didn’t expect to win it all back as fast as I did. It helped that I ran well after the match with Isilidur1. I tried to remember that I still was a grinder, that I didn’t take any stupid shots in my career, and that I could still make a lot of money playing poker. I thought about how much money I had made that year. It just helped to think the big loss wouldn’t matter that much after a while.

BP: What advice would you give cash-game players who are trying to move up in stakes?

DC: One thing would be to play everyone and have good bankroll management. Practicing good habits for the long run is also very important. You should always think in terms of the long run instead of the short run. I’d consider going on tilt to be one of the weaker areas of my game. Losing affects me quite a bit emotionally.

I try not to let downswings get to me and affect my play, or change my performance in other areas of life. Avoiding or minimizing going on tilt is another good thing.

BP: How has your success in poker changed your life away from the tables?

DC: Poker parallels life in a lot of ways. My success in poker makes me believe that having good virtues in life will take me far. I think that certain virtues like courage — all the cheesy things people talk about — perseverance, integrity, and other very honorable character traits will make more good things happen for me. My success has definitely made me significantly happier, and changed my life a lot. ♠