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Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates Wins WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship

High-Stakes Pro Earned $954,020 And His First Gold Bracelet

by Erik Fast |  Published: Dec 15, 2021

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Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates is renowned in the poker world as a high-stakes cash game crusher, having battled in the nosebleed games in both the online and live arenas. What some fans of the game might not realize, however, is that the 31-year-old poker pro also came into this year’s World Series of Poker with nearly $9 million in prior tournament earnings to his name.

Cates added to that total in a major way at the 2021 WSOP by taking down the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship nine-game event, defeating an elite field of 63 entries to earn the top prize of $954,020 and his first gold bracelet. This was the fourth-largest tournament score of Cates’ career, which increased his lifetime earnings to $9,868,264.

“Oh yeah, one of those bracelet things,” said Cates, who dyed his hair a shocking shade of neon turquoise and dressed as a video game character for the final table of this event. “It is actually pretty cool and I’m happy to have won one. I think I have one of each now, [with wins in] the World Poker Tour Alpha8 and I have a Triton Poker win. I think that gives me the trifecta, I am not sure how that works. Did I win a European Poker Tour? I don’t know. But this is pretty cool, especially [to win] a tournament that is named after Chip Reese, who has passed away.”

(Editor’s Note: The Triple Crown consists of a WPT, EPT, and WSOP win. Only nine players have accomplished this feat.)

For Cates, coming out on top this time around was a forgone conclusion.

“I knew I was going to win. I said I was going to win. So I won,” Cates told the gathered poker media after closing out the title after 3 a.m. local time. The final table lasted more than 13 hours.

In addition to the money and the bracelet, Cates was also awarded 612 Card Player Player of the Year points and 572 PokerGO Tour points after surviving the marathon final table. This was his first qualifying score for either points race.

It took almost three full days of play to reach the money, with 2019 WSOP Player of the Year Robert Campbell earning the unwanted distinction of bubble boy.

The final ten players finished in the money, earning a minimum payout of $82,623. Mike Wattel (10th), Daniel Negreanu (9th), Nick Schulman (8th), Matt Glantz (7th), and Josh Arieh (6th) all bowed out before the final day.

In fact, because of the day off before the final table, Arieh was able to late-register the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event and final table it alongside the $50,000 event he had just busted. He went on to win his fourth bracelet just 30 feet from the final table he was previously seated at. You can read more about Arieh’s accomplishment on pg. 28.

Rising high roller tournament star Chris Brewer began the day just a handful of big blinds short of the lead, but he slid a bit and then doubled up a short stack to fall to the bottom of the chip counts. Brewer soon found himself all-in with pocket sevens against the pocket jacks of three-time bracelet winner Ryan Leng.

Most of the chips went in preflop, and the rest followed on the flop despite both an ace and a queen hitting the board. Brewer was unable to come from behind and was eliminated in fifth place, earning $211,235 for his first WSOP final-table finish.

Despite coming into the day as the leader, Eli Elezra spent several hours as the short stack after Brewer was eliminated. The four-time bracelet winner managed a few comebacks to put himself out of the danger zone, but he was eventually sent to the rail in fourth place.

He got the last of his chips in the middle on fifth street playing razz and was at risk against three-time bracelet winner Paul Volpe. Volpe improved to a 9-6 low on seventh street to best the 10-7 of Elezra, who earned $286,983 for his fourth-place showing.

Three-handed play lasted more than five hours, with multiple lead changes along the way as Cates and the pair of three-time bracelet winners slugged it out across the nine games included in this event’s mix: no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, no-limit single-draw deuce-to-seven lowball, limit triple draw deuce-to-seven lowball, seven card stud, stud eight-or-better, razz, limit Omaha eight-or-better, and limit hold’em.

Cates was nearly eliminated in third place during a round of limit hold’em. He raised all-in on an AClub Suit JSpade Suit 7Diamond Suit 9Heart Suit KClub Suit board with KDiamond Suit QClub Suit for 900,000 total after Leng had made a 600,000 value bet with his AHeart Suit 5Spade Suit. Leng had check-called the flop and checked the turn, and was getting around 11:1 on the call. He laid down his top pair, which he later admitted was a mistake.

In his own words, “It was atrocious, abysmal, absolutely horrendous, bottom line.” Cates would have been knocked out had Leng slid in the 300,000 chips more, but instead, Cates took down the sizable pot of 3.3 million to give himself crucial maneuverability as three-handed action continued.

As 2 a.m. approached Cates overtook the lead thanks to a sizable razz pot won against Volpe. He was able to pull further away from the pack, leaving the other two to jockey for position as they tried to survive to heads-up play.

Volpe was ultimately the next to fall. He got the last of his chips in with KSpade Suit 6Heart Suit in limit hold’em, with the last bets going into the middle after a QSpade Suit 10Club Suit 2Heart Suit flop. Cates called with KDiamond Suit 2Spade Suit for bottom pair. The 2Club Suit turn improved Cates to trip deuces to leave Volpe drawing dead. The 7Spade Suit was a mere formality to make Volpe’s elimination in third place for $404,243 official.

Cates took more than a 5:1 chip lead into heads-up play with Leng, who had earned his third bracelet just a few weeks earlier by taking down the $1,500 eight-game six-max event.

Leng earned an early double-up and closed the gap even further after that, but Cates was able to regain control thanks to a few key wins in no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball and stud eight-or-better. Leng doubled up again, picking up pocket aces against the pocket sixes of Cates in no-limit hold’em. He slid back down the leaderboard after that, however, and was critically short heading into what would be the final game of the tournament, a round of limit hold’em.

On the final hand, Leng had nearly half of his chips posted in the big blind. Cates raised on the button with QClub Suit 3Diamond Suit and Leng defended with 10Diamond Suit 5Spade Suit. The AHeart Suit JHeart Suit 10Heart Suit flop saw Leng bet his last chip with bottom pair. Cates called with his gutshot draw and overcard, and hit a pair of queens on the QHeart Suit turn to take the lead. The 3Spade Suit on the river improved Cates to two pair, locking up the pot and the title for the man known as ‘Jungleman.’

Leng earned $589,628 for his third top-two finish of the 2021 WSOP, having also placed second in the $1,500 Monster Stack event shortly after winning his third career bracelet a few weeks ago. This was the largest cash of his career, and it increased his lifetime earnings to more than $3.1 million. ♠

Final Results

Place Player Earnings POY Points PokerGO
1 Daniel Cates $954,020 612 572
2 Ryan Leng $589,628 510 354
3 Paul Volpe $404,243 408 243
4 Eli Elezra $286,983 306 172
5 Chris Brewer $211,235 255 127
6 Josh Arieh $161,422 204 97

$50,000 Poker Players Championship Winners

Year Entrants Winner Payout
2006 143 David ‘Chip’ Reese $1,716,000
2007 148 Freddy Deeb $2,276,832
2008 148 Scotty Nguyen $1,989,120
2009 95 David Bach $1,276,802
2010 116 Michael Mizrachi $1,559,046
2011 128 Brian Rast $1,720,328
2012 108 Michael Mizrachi $1,451,527
2013 132 Matt Ashton $1,774,089
2014 102 John Hennigan $1,517,767
2015 84 Mike Gorodinsky $1,270,086
2016 91 Brian Rast $1,296,097
2017 100 Elior Sion $1,395,767
2018 87 Michael Mizrachi $1,239,126
2019 74 Phil Hui $1,099,311
2021 63 Daniel Cates $954,020