Poker Legend Daniel Cates Discusses Life Outside of Poker

At just 31 years old, Daniel Cates, also known professionally as Jungleman, has climbed to the top of the poker world and experienced a level of success that very few poker professionals reach. Since 2014, Cates has won over $11,000,000 in online poker and over $7,000,000 in live tournaments. Similar to many poker professionals in this tier, the ride from small stakes online poker grinder to one of the most notable names in poker was not easy. 

Cates began his poker career at the age of 17 at his local casino where he suffered consistent losses and even took a job at McDonald’s to support his new hobby. Around the same time, online poker was catching fire and Cates decided to dive in by playing $0.25/$0.50 level stakes on Full Tilt Poker under the moniker Jungleman12. 

The Quickest Way to Learn is From the Best 

This is where things get interesting. Cates, who has been praised for his emphasis on reverse game selection, decided to do the exact opposite of most aspiring poker pros at that time. He located and found the toughest games and started playing with the best players that could be found at those stakes. For many poker pros, or “grinders”, playing with a table of regulars is typically a recipe for lost alpha and high competition.

This competition is what fueled Cates, who replicated a similar strategy as many entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss, who actively seek to be the “dumbest person in the room” in order to open up personal growth and opportunities. As a result, Cates quickly became a force both in online poker and on the felt. 

Cates explains, “This is a strategy that anyone can apply to their lives. Doing something new, especially something competitive, can be intimidating and a hard mental barrier to get over. We all have an ego and for many of us that ego prevents us from accepting losses in an effort to improve.”

Cates has recently been documenting this process and his outlook on life in a new Medium blog, where he discusses everything from poker to philosophy. 

Cates says, “I have always been interested in philosophy and writing. As an introvert, this has helped me develop. For example, one could link reverse game selection to lessons from famed philosopher Marcus Aurelius who praised private tutors over public educators. This concept of learning from the best through a series of discomforts goes back many generations. It’s just really hard to put into practice unless you really want it.  

Always Seek Delayed Gratification 

For Cates, the road to success was never about finding the path of least resistance. Life after full-time poker has brought new goals and aspirations. Cates is currently exploring more creative endeavors such as becoming a producer in Hollywood and even dabbling in acting. After nearly 15 years in an isolated and often-times lonely world of poker, Cates is intrigued by the allure of art and creating art with others.

“The film industry has always fascinated me but I never had the chance to devote much time to pursuing it. I am grateful to be in a position now where I am still young enough and have the flexibility to start a concurrent career path. It won’t be easy but I am going to apply the same principles I learned in poker and life to grow into this new challenge.”

For entrepreneurs or even aspiring poker players, Cates is an inspiration to continue to pursue your goals and dreams, even if it seems like a pipe dream. If Cates had quit poker after his first year, he would have missed out on all of the amazing accomplishments he has achieved over the past decade.

Give Back When You Can  

You might be thinking, what else is next for Cates? Outside of poker and more creative endeavors, Cates is dedicating a portion of his time and money to giving back. His first philanthropic project is working with a friend to help build schools in Zanzibar. Cates acknowledges that philanthropy is a “life-long mission” and that the most important thing to do is act and make small steps in the right direction. 

Cates adds, “This project is very exciting and I am using it as a pilot program to hopefully larger and more frequent charitable activities. This is something that I plan to do for a long time, even after poker and other activities slow down.”

If there is one takeaway we can learn from Cates is that life is full of opportunities – opportunities to succeed, grow, push boundaries, give back, and live thoughtfully. 

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