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Dan "Jungleman" Cates on Reading People and how to stay Mentally Tough

Tags: Dan Cates, high stakes, Jungleman.
Posted on 02 September 2022 by "T".

Poker pro Daniel Cates shares advice on how to stay mentally tough even when you're losing, why reading people is the biggest skill you need in poker, and the mindset he used to become great at poker.

The 32-year-old millionaire poker champ got featured on the series "Top of the Game" by CNBC Make It. The series takes a deeper look into the habits, mindsets and routines that top athletes use to reach peak performance and success.

Then and Now
Just like most fledglings in the game, when Dan Cates first began playing poker as a teen in Bowie, Maryland, he quickly racked up thousands of dollars in debt.

Fast forward today, the 32-year-old who goes by the nickname "Jungleman", is a world-class player with over $11.8 million in lifetime winnings. A far cry from 15 years ago, when he was just a teenager in over his head.

Dan tells CNBC Make It, "I found some people in the local neighborhood, but they were much better than me and I lost $3,000 when I was 17, which was most of my money. So my parents locked my account. And I had to get a day job at McDonald's for a month to make some money."

He recalls he made about $1,000 in a month in that job, which he then used to bankroll his burgeoning poker habit. He tried to take it slowly, playing lower stakes poker online and studying his opponent's best strategies and tactics.

In the next couple of years, he learned various crucial skills - including how to read his opponents and not allowing a losing streak throw him off his game.

At 19 years old, Dan amassed over $1 million in poker winnings, mostly by just playing online. As he became so "obsessed" with poker, it hindered his economics studies at the University of Maryland, so he ultimately dropped out to play poker full-time.

He promptly lost about $600,000 of that $1 million "almost immediately", but he still stayed committed. More than a decade later, in June 2022, Dan won his second consecutive Poker Players Championship title at the 2022 WSOP in Las Vegas, raking in seven-figure hauls from his opponents both times.

On mindset, reading people, and how to stay mentally tough

  • In this exclusive interview, Dan discusses three things:
  • The mindset he needed to become a world-class poker player
  • How he stays mentally tough even when he's losing big, and

The importance of being able to read people

The mindset Dan used to become great at poker

The growth mindset is important - to be open to the possibility that there are other ways of doing things.

Dan said:
"As a child, I was very arrogant. I knew I was smart by quite a young age. I had good grades and I didn't really have to work that hard. But when I started playing video games, I remember thinking, "Well, maybe I'm not that smart, because people are crushing me."

Then, I'd see other things that people were doing and I'd learn from them. I learned a lot. And I realized, "Wait, this mindset of being arrogant not only pisses people off, but it closes me off to possibilities that can be even better than what I know.

Now, I beat these people who are arrogant - like, always - in poker. Many, many [of my opponents] thought I was such an idiot. And they always got crushed. The more that they thought I was an idiot, usually the harder they got crushed.

The worst situation possible is if you think that, for sure, you're better than someone - and you're not. This is exactly how you lose a lot of money."

How to stay mentally tough, even when you're losing

"Losing by itself isn't really a reason to quit. It's more about how determined you are to actually win, how willing you are to change.

It's certainly easy to be discouraged. There were many times, even in my biggest winning years, where I just had all of these nightmare sessions of playing all night and losing. A consistent lesson of mine was that, even when it appeared like there was no hope - when I thought, "Oh, I'll never win again, I lost 12 times in a row″ - it never was true.

It's really tempting to fall into that mindset of despair. But I've essentially found ways to put my eggs in other baskets, which is a complicated process for everyone.

The simple answer would be to find meaningful friendships. Have hobbies. Basically, don't put your whole life where all of your emotions are hinged on this one thing. If that one thing is volatile, then your emotional state will vary a lot.

You also don't want to let winning too much affect you negatively. It's easy to think, "Oh, I'm just always going to win." It's not how it works."

Why reading people is the biggest skill you need in poker (and in life)

"I think it's the ability to find the truth, to recognize what is truth and what is falsehood. You need that in combination with something else: the ability to take action on it.

In poker, you need to be able to read your opponent and respond appropriately. I find that the real-life equivalent to this would be something like: "Watch their actions, not their words." When you're looking at someone's face, they're going to try to hide their emotions really well. It's when they don't know you're looking, that's where you should be looking.

You want to look more at how they move the chips into the middle, you want to look at their overall psychology in the situation, things that they're not really aware of. Like, they're sweating really hard, because the money really means something to them.

If someone's looking hard enough, similar to in real life, the truth will eventually be revealed. Because if you look hard enough at someone's story, if they lack integrity, then it's going to show somewhere."



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74 comments on "Dan "Jungleman" Cates on Reading People and how to stay Mentally Tough"

Displaying only the 25 latest comments. To view all comments, please visit the forum thread:
» Dan "Jungleman" Cates on Reading People and how to stay Mentally Tough

 CALICUL24/09/2022 15:08:31 GMT
let's see what future he will have
 geseco1224/09/2022 21:06:42 GMT
Most high level players have already secured their future, they have worked from a very young age to achieve their goals, this player has a beautiful story of overcoming, where we all have the opportunity to achieve many things with poker, but always with hard work and discipline.
 dule-vu24/09/2022 21:07:14 GMT
He will play for many years more!
 geseco1226/09/2022 00:27:22 GMT
With the money he accumulates from long years of playing, he will have enough money to play all his life. It is not easy to keep at the highest level for many years, but this player has shown that with hard work you can achieve your goals.
 CALICUL26/09/2022 00:29:59 GMT
he knows how to play much better than other professional players who have ruined themselves many times and then always recovered from the bottom. Others players have ruined themselves and disappeared from professional poker for longer periods or permanently.
 geseco1227/09/2022 00:51:25 GMT
I think the players who have been ruined playing poker after being at a high level is because they have not had discipline, I have seen cases of players who have not known how to take care of their bankroll and ended up in ruin, it is very important to have a lot of discipline and play at levels that you always feel better and winning of course.
 CALICUL27/09/2022 01:02:20 GMT
Gus Hansen is one of these players, but he had the discipline, also had a lot of bad luck. He once lost over 20 million dollars. He was ruined few times, but now he is trying to come back and maybe he will succeed. I don't know his results from the last two years.
 geseco1228/09/2022 01:20:34 GMT
Discipline in poker is very important, Gus Hansen in his time was competing with the greats of the moment in omaha online, and so far accumulated losses of more than 20 million dollars in the Full Tilt Poker room, his mistake was to play in levels and with better opponents in the field, we must know what level we are and play the level that best dominate and not skip.
 CALICUL28/09/2022 01:25:22 GMT
I suppose that he has a lot of experience and will be able to keep money from his earnings for his personal life as well. Dan Cates is also an excellent player, much more serious. with his head on his shoulders and he knows how to play, so as not to ruin.
 antonis32128/09/2022 12:00:54 GMT
I do not know or understand stand why Gus Hansen kept on playing online poker , despite the great losses that he had , I wonder was all his money or maybe much of this was money from his sponsors ?? I do not get it , if you cannot win somewhere , you have to stop , play sth different, these pros are serious players , going for max value and profit , not like some loose whales who play fun or friendly poker
 CALICUL28/09/2022 12:28:46 GMT
last time he was sponsored and played in Las Vegas. I think he is tired of playing online because he loses many millions of dollars
 geseco1229/09/2022 03:04:14 GMT
what happened with gus hansen is that he was a previous winner in his level until the online players arrived and put up a battle which he lost session after session, I think he was convinced that he could defeat them but the opposite happened, these online players were more prepared.
 CALICUL29/09/2022 03:09:05 GMT
these online players are very good, but some of them cheat without being caught. The bots are sometimes hunted and eliminated, but the cheaters can be caught with complaints or they can escape and if the cheater is a professional one... he can win against a professional player like Dan Cates or Gus Hansen.
 antonis32130/09/2022 00:46:16 GMT
I see some high stake poker players who are good on live sessions , but not good online , some others quite the opposite . Some have some winnings live , but their on-line winnings are very very high , that's why they prefer playing online mostly. This shows that live is different from online poker on some things . Jungleman has successes in both . He has been accused sometimes , but I think the accusations were of no importance . He has no reason to cheat , he is a winning player .
 CALICUL30/09/2022 00:48:54 GMT
there, in this industry, are also professional players who cheat
 geseco1230/09/2022 03:40:01 GMT
some players can be good online and bad live and the opposite also happens, the most important thing is to adapt to any circumstance and give your best, learn every day to play poker is a requirement for life.
 dule-vu30/09/2022 05:28:33 GMT
We are still on jungleman?nice to see that player is so popular when we have 4 pages in this thread...
 geseco1202/10/2022 04:34:32 GMT
We will talk much more in this thread about this player, we know he is a great player and with his success story he can help us to continue and never give up, this poker game is for persevering people.
 dule-vu02/10/2022 06:59:27 GMT
I will see what interesting informations you will have about him and that you didnt already write it!
 Rogerio1002/10/2022 09:49:12 GMT
Haha that's my Dule straight up always. That's why you have my respect bro. Dan is entertaining that's it and good player. But today shows just don't get me. The shows in golden era are still the best for me when from no where came youn Tom Dwan, table full of legends, start playing new aggresive style and so on.
 dule-vu02/10/2022 10:00:10 GMT
Thanks Blink ! My respect for you also Thumbs Up
 geseco1203/10/2022 15:44:20 GMT
Besides being one of the legends of poker worldwide, he is also a great human being, one of the stories he told in an interview was that he changed an exclusive party for a great charity. Seeing the situation in Zanzibar, Cates changed the focus of his initial mission and decided to help by building a school and supporting people financially.
 CALICUL03/10/2022 15:47:39 GMT
I have heard something about his private life, but this is not important to me if he is a normal person and does not harm other people. I hope he is as good a man in real life as he is as a poker player.
 geseco1204/10/2022 16:29:41 GMT
He is a great person, and very generous, he likes to help the most needy people, that is why he is always doing social works for his neighbor, that is good, and I think that helping should be a task for everyone to end that percentage of people who die of hunger in the world.
 CALICUL04/10/2022 16:31:35 GMT
if he does works of charity, it is a very good thing, because many people can be helped through different methods. Daniel Negreanu also makes various donations, and these two professional players can be imitated by others. Good job for them Smile

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