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Dan Cates On Getting 'Scammed' Out Of $1.9 Million

Poker Pro Also Talks About Full Tilt Money, Durrrr Challenge


Dan Cates is one of online poker’s greatest players. He is up more than $8 million between Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars over his short career. This year, he has won six figures already.

Cates was on a historic upswing prior to Black Friday in April 2011, when online poker — on the major offshore sites — shut down in the United States.

Even though the Maryland native has solidified himself as one of the most fearless pros of all-time, he said he doesn’t want to be around poker forever. He finds the high-stakes life pretty stressful. He said he doesn’t like how it feels like gambling day in and day out.

However, for now, Cates is still in the thick of things, and also waiting for his seven-figures of missing Full Tilt Poker money to hit his bank account. That was scheduled to happen this winter. That money will be nice for him, but he is also bitter about a fellow high-stakes pro not making good on a debt. Card Player had the chance to catch up with Cates to talk about that and a variety of other topics, including the stagnant “Durrrr Challenge.”

That contest, where Cates is up $1.5 million after 20,000 hands, is more than three years old now and has no end in sight. Tom Dwan and Cates were supposed to play 50,000 hands together, with the winner receiving a massive bonus.

Brian Pempus: I read in an interview on where you were talking about some of the money that people owe you. Can you talk about how much you owed and by whom?

Dan Cates: Well, the situation is different now. Basically, David Lerner scammed me for $1.9 million. He scammed a bunch of other players also. That’s about the end of that. That’s the only real situation of that sort with someone. The Durrrr Challenge is kind of unfortunate, but I’m not being scammed. Viffer is scamming me [on a side bet with the Durrrr Challenge], but he’s an idiot and I don’t know what his problem is.

BP: How did David Lerner manage to scam you out of that much money?

DC: Well, we were playing $3-$6 and cross-booked one hundred times. I have no idea what the f..k I was thinking in this situation. So that happened…first session we played, he won like $460,000. He told me to ship it, and I shipped it, which was retarded. I should have been a little bit more assertive. The next session I won $1.1 million. He doesn’t ship it back, which really irritated me. Later I saw him playing Harrington at some massive stakes, and I call him and say, “Why are you playing Harrington at super high stakes? It seems not very nice.” He said, “Someone is forcing me to play, blah, blah, blah.” He then ships me about $250,000 back, which is convenient of course. But he never ended up shipping the rest back. And then I kept playing him, and he basically never paid me. I was up around $1.9 million total.

BP: Why did you keep playing him after he scammed you in the first place?

DC: Because you could still win money. I guess he never intended on paying. I don’t know exactly what his deal was. It was stupid at the time. I don’t know why I trusted him.

BP: Who is David Lerner?

DC: He’s a live player of some sort. He has been around for much longer than me apparently. He apparently he has scammed a variety of people – Cole South and Phil Galfond. He was involved with playing in the New York live scene, but I have no idea if he does these days.

BP: In the high-stakes world, do you kind of have to take those chances in order to find action?

DC: That may be true. The way I handled it was poor. I should have been more cautious. Basically, it would have been a dreamy spot if it was legit. If you are going to get in those good spots you have to make sure they are legitimate.

BP: Why does one cross-book like this?

DC: It’s really hard to put money online. It’s not like you whip out your debit card and bam you have hundreds of thousands online, especially after UIGEA.

BP: Now, you mentioned the Durrrr Challenge and it is being held up. Do you think Tom is avoiding you or just really busy or what?

DC: Clearly it is not his absolute priority. I think he actually means to make amends on it for a variety of reasons.

BP: I interviewed Dan Bilzerian recently and he said Tom was broke. Is that true? Do you think he just has no money to play you?

DC: I’m honestly not totally sure. I couldn’t really say Tom is broke. Someone that knows Tom very well, much better than Dan I assume…I couldn’t say he’s broke exactly. I assume he has some kind of assets somewhere. I was also told he has assets. I have no idea what his situation is. I am not in the position to say how much money he has. I am not his accountant.

BP: So, you’ve filed a petition with Garden City Group to get your money back, right?

DC: Yes I did, and they gave me the exact amount, which is pretty cool. I’m looking forward to that. There is no reasonable dispute. They got it perfectly right. So far, no issues. We’ll see how it turns out. I’m pretty thrilled though. I have to figure out what I am going to do with it. I could put it online, but there aren’t a lot of good $500-$1,000 games running. These days the softest spot is Isildur1. He’s the only person who plays high and doesn’t know exactly what he is doing and will actually post for the most part. There’s a reason why all the high-stakes players are playing him at no-limit.

BP: What do you make of Gus Hansen losing money at an incredible clip?

DC: I don’t think he is a favorite against anyone he is playing against. I think he’s a dog in almost every game he is playing in. Not everyone, but pretty close. That’s not to say that I think he is a bad player, but he is not picking his spots very well.

BP: Do you think he will ever straight up quit online poker?

DC: There’s a possibility he will improve. He’s a smart guy.

BP: Going back to your Full Tilt Poker money. You were on a big upswing prior to Black Friday. Were you able to get some of your money off before the site shutdown?

DC: Yeah, I got quite a bit off, but not nearly the amount that was on it. I got seven figures off and I had more than seven figures stuck on it.

BP: Are we talking multiple seven figures?

DC: Well, you know, seven figures. It could be multiple or not multiple. I didn’t have eight figures, though I wish I did. It’s hard to have eight figures from poker, let me tell you that.

BP: Do you have any hatred for the former Full Tilt guys, like Lederer and Ferguson?

DC: I haven’t really hated them too much, ironically. (Laughs). What you said reminds me of when I play. I get so mad at the other guy, but I haven’t hated them that much, even though they have cost me way more…but no not really, especially when I get my money back. It would be nice if they gave me some interest, but that’s not going to happen. That would be the day.



almost 4 years ago

Sounds like he needs to learn the old say "Money on the Wood makes Gambling Good"