Maryland Native Dan Cates Makes History With Back-To-Back $50K Poker Players Championship Titles

Written By Steve Schult on July 7, 2022
Dan Cates

Dan Cates is arguably the best poker player ever to call Maryland home. He made history at the World Series of Poker last week and he did it in style.

In the early hours of Friday morning, the Bowie native won the $50,000 Poker Players Championship event for the second consecutive year. It’s the first time in the history of the event that anyone successfully defended their title.

Over the course of the five-day event, the 32-year-old navigated his way through a field of 112 entries, made up mostly of the best poker players on the planet. He defeated Brazilian Yuri Dzivielevski heads-up to cap off the feat and earn $1.45 million for his efforts.

Cates wins one of the most coveted titles in poker …. again

While there were several six-figure buy-in no-limit hold’em events on the schedule this summer, this is the largest buy-in for a mixed game format. A combination of the buy-in and the skill needed to navigate all nine games in the rotation makes the event one of the most prestigious on the poker calendar.

The event debuted in 2006 as the premier event for mixed game players. For the first four years of the tournament, it was simply a $50,000 HORSE event to represent the most common mix rotation at the time.

In 2010, pot-limit Omaha, no-limit hold ’em and 2-7 triple draw were added to the mix and the title was changed to the Poker Players Championship. The event moved to a 10-game format in 2015 and reverted back to 8-game in 2016 before adding a no-limit 2-7 single draw in 2021.

The tournament is played six-handed. It features a rotation of these nine games:

  • No-limit hold’em
  • Pot-limit Omaha
  • 2-7 triple draw
  • No-limit 2-7 single draw
  • Limit hold’em
  • Omaha hi-lo
  • Razz
  • Seven-card stud
  • Seven-card stud hi-lo

The top 17 spots finished in the money for at least $83,738. Here are the results from the final table:

1st: Cates – $1,449,103
2nd: Dzivielevski – $895,614
3rd: Naoya Kihara – $639,257
4th: Benny Glaser – $464,420
5th: Johannes Becker – $343,531
6th: Koray Aldemir – $258,812

It’s Cates’ third-largest tournament score of his career and his fourth worth seven figures. With the victory, his career tournament earnings jump to $11.85 million.

He joins Michael Mizrachi and Brian Rast as the only players to have their names etched onto the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy more than once. Rast won in 2011 and 2016, while Mizrachi earned the title in 2010, 2012 and 2018.

‘Macho Man Dan’ couldn’t be stopped

It’s hard enough to win the Poker Players Championship. But Cates did it with pizzazz.

Instead of the traditional comfy poker attire that is the pants and hoodie look, Cates played the entire final day in a professional wrestling costume. His get-up was eerily similar to what ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage wore during his WWF career.

Cates even referred to himself as ‘Macho Man Dan.’ To his credit, he didn’t break character. Ever.

Jeff Platt, PokerGO’s sideline reporter for the event, asked Cates before the start of the live-streamed final day about his competition. Cates responded like it was the beginning of Monday Night Raw.

Cates’ commitment to the bit was so impressive that another high-stakes regular thought he may never stop. Chris Kruk, a frequent participant in high roller tournaments and high-stakes cash games, sarcastically tweeted the sentiment as Cates went deeper into the event.

Cates won the 2021 PPC in costume as well

The poker world never saw the ‘Macho Man Dan’ persona from Cates before. However, playing as a character isn’t new for Cates.

During his victory last year, Cates played the entire final table dressed as Goku from the popular Japanese animated series Dragon Ball Z. In fact, Cates is known as a bit of an enigma in the poker world.

PokerGO broadcaster Ali Nejad summed up Cates’ personality succinctly during the final table live stream.

“If you weren’t already familiar as a member of the poker community and you had to describe this individual to someone outside the bubble, it would be a delightful challenge,” said Nejad.

While Cates was dressed as Goku, he played one of the most memorable hands in recent poker history. Kruk even alluded to it in his tweet.

The final three players in last year’s event were Cates, Ryan Leng and Paul Volpe. Cates was the shortest stack of the three when the hand went down.

During a hand of limit hold ’em, Leng bet the river with top pair and Cates moved all-in with the second pair for less than a full raise. Despite the small amount Leng had to call, he mulled over his decision for quite some time before folding the best hand.

Cates continued to chip up after that and eventually beat Leng heads-up for his first WSOP bracelet. You can watch the hand at the 19:53 mark of the video below:

The legend of ‘Jungleman’

Last week, he was ‘Macho Man Dan.’ But the rest of the year, most poker players refer to Cates as ‘Jungleman’ or ‘Jungle’ for short.

Like most poker players Cates’ age, the nickname is simply his online poker screen name. He started playing poker under the screen name ‘jungleman12’ on PokerStars.

Since he was one of the most dominant online high-stakes cash game players of the pre-Black Friday era, the name stuck with him even after the poker world found out his name was Dan.

Cates began taking the game seriously while enrolled at the University of Maryland as an economics major. Eventually, Cates dropped out to pursue poker full-time.

When he first took the virtual felt, he played small stakes no-limit hold ’em. But it didn’t take Cates long to move up in stakes. In just two years, he went from playing cash games with blinds of $0.25 and $0.50 to blinds of $25 and $50.

Although Cates was already playing stakes 100 times bigger than when he started, he didn’t stop there. It wasn’t long after his ascent to $25-$50 no-limit hold’em that he made the leap from high-stakes to nosebleed stakes.

In case you’re a novice player, nosebleed stakes is a slang term referring to games that are such high-stakes that they give you a proverbial nosebleed from the “altitude.”

Accepting the ‘Durrrr Challenge’

In 2010, Cates was the second player to accept the ‘Durrrr Challenge.’ It was an open challenge issued by fellow nosebleed-stakes legend Tom Dwan, who went by ‘Durrrr’ online.

Dwan challenged anyone to play four tables simultaneously of $200-$400 heads-up no-limit hold’em against him for 50,000 hands. Aside from the action on the felt, there was a sizeable side bet on the match.

Dwan laid 3:1 on $500,000 that his challengers wouldn’t finish the allotted 50,000 hands in the black. If Dwan’s opponent was up even just $1 at the end of the challenge, Dwan would pay the challenger $1.5 million.

Through the first 20,000 hands, Cates won $1.25 million from Dwan. Unfortunately, the match was interrupted by what the poker world refers to as ‘Black Friday.’

On Friday, April 15, 2011, the U.S. government seized the assets of the three largest online poker sites in the world. Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Ultimate Bet were forced to exit the U.S. market after the government charged some executives with bank fraud and a host of other felonies related to the banking system.

The challenge never concluded, and it’s rumored that Dwan still owes Cates a seven-figure sum.

Transitioning to live poker

Following Black Friday, Cates steadily began getting out from behind his computer screen and into brick-and-mortar poker rooms.

He played the highest stakes available online. And he did the same in the live arena. How big was he playing? Well, in August 2015, Cates tweeted that he lost $5 million playing in the Philippines.

“Sooo manila didn’t go well, only lost about 38m hkd (5m usd)… Gonna play some 5/10 online and take another shot,” tweeted Cates.

He was a world-class no-limit hold ’em and pot-limit Omaha player. But the more live poker Cates played, the more he found himself playing in ‘Bobby’s Room.’

Bobby’s Room is the segregated area in the back of Las Vegas’ Bellagio poker room named after 1978 WSOP main event champion Bobby Baldwin. It’s home to some of the biggest poker games in the world.

However, most of the games played in Bobby’s Room are mixed games. At the highest stakes, players want to avoid specialists and will instead play multiple games to avoid players that are very skilled in just one specific format.

The results of those games are basically impossible to get a hold of. It seems unlikely he was a favorite when he first started playing those games. But at some point, Cates turned into a winning mixed games player. He became more than a specialist at no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha.

At least based on the frequency he was in Bobby’s Room. After all, if he was losing in those games, he’d eventually run out of money and stop showing up.

But given his skill and love for the game, he’ll be a familiar face for the foreseeable future.

Cates’ biggest tournament scores

Date Buy-in Event Finish Cash
April 2014 €100,000 European Poker Tour Monte Carlo Super High Roller2nd $1,774,145
August 2019 £250,000 Triton Poker Series London Super High Roller Short Deck 5th $1,651,028
June 2022$50,000 World Series of Poker Poker Players Championship 1st$1,449,103
February 2017 HK$100,000 Triton Poker Series Philippines No-Limit Hold'em Main Event 3rd$1,000,365
October 2021 $50,000 World Series of Poker Poker Players Championship 1st$954,020
Photo by WSOP / Rachel Kay Miller
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Written by
Steve Schult

Steve Schult has covered the gambling world for the last decade. With stints as a staff writer for the World Series of Poker and Bluff Magazine, as well as the online content manager for Card Player Media, the New York native covered high-stakes poker tournaments and the overall casino industry. He’ll shift most of his focus to the Virginia, Maryland and Florida markets as a managing editor for Catena Media.

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