Dan Cates Featured in New York Times Magazine

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In the latest issue of the New York Times Magazine, an article on the online poker world’s latest wunderkind, Dan “jungleman12” Cates, details his life story.

The piece, written by Jay Caspian Kang for the magazine’s “Youth Issue,” follows Cates for nearly a week as he plays online poker. The article starts off by detailing a multi-table session that “jungleman12” is playing against several opponents, to the point of passing on a session with Full Tilt Poker pro Gus Hansen.

In the beginning of the piece, Kang informs the reader of Cates’ abilities on the felt and, at the same time, his lack of social skills away from it. The author and Cates head to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day and, after Kang notes they were fortunate to find a table, he quotes Cates as saying, “Why would a restaurant be any more crowded on Valentine’s Day?”

In the body of the article, Kang reveals how Cates has become who he is today in the online poker world. Although an extremely bright child, Cates himself observed that he was “weird, a bit aloof, and mostly spent [time] alone.”

A large part of the article focuses on Cates’ abilities in the video game “Command and Conquer,” a multiplayer, real-time strategy game involving the control of military forces. Kang reports that, at the age of 15, Cates was considered one of the top “Command and Conquer” players in the world. Phil Gordon, interviewed for the piece, believes this is where Cates – and many other young superstars of the online world – have learned their rapid-fire actions on the poker table.

It was also about that time that Cates found the world of poker. Through several home games, Cates repeatedly lost sometimes as much as thousands of dollars. Believing in his own ability, however, he was able to turn that around to the point of winning millions. A graph on the online version of the article demonstrates how Cates, in 2010, never showed a negative month while on his way to making $5.5 million in earnings.

The article by Kang points out the differences between the “new breed” of online players and those of the “old guard.” These new players, Kang asserts, look at the millions of dollars that flow across online poker tables as mere points and seemingly don’t understand the impact of huge wins or losses.

Kang also touches on how Cates is trying to find a balance between his online poker persona and actual life. According to Kang, Cates politely asked to postpone an interview day to meet with a specialist who works on balancing what a person does with their digital life and the real world. Kang cites fellow online player Ashton Griffin as an example, as he has been able to reduce his online time to a couple of hours per day. He also pointed out the recent running prop bet by Griffin in which the poker player earned a $300,000 payday for running 70 miles in 24 hours.

By the end of the piece, Kang wonders if the game of poker and its wild variances will eventually catch up with Cates: “There has never been a player, from Doc Holliday to ‘jungleman12,’ who can go head-to-head with the pain of poker and expect to come out with a positive Expected Value.”

Read the entire New York Times Magazine article.

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