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How to Take Charge of Your Poker Game by Practicing Persistence

The poker world is like a jungle. It looks beautiful – safe even – but there’s a whole lot of pain lurking in places you can’t even see. Things want to eat you up. Chew on your flesh; swallow your money, spit out your bones with the expensive leather wallet.

How do you get through a jungle and keep your balls in your belly – and not in the belly of something else? Perhaps a man called Jungleman may know?

In 2014, nobody won more money playing online cash games than Daniel ‘Jungleman12’ Cates. He ended the year with $2,805,751 in winnings on Full Tilt, and $631,288 on PokerStars, giving him a net profit of $3,437,039 on the two biggest sites in the world.

His total profit on the two sites over his lifetime exceeds $11m, and he was also the biggest winner in 2010 when he won over $5m. The man is a conundrum; of that there is no doubt. He has one of the sharpest minds in the history of the game; but he has other strengths, and one in particular stands out amidst the rest.


Welcome to the Jungle

“If you got the money, honey; we got your disease.”Axl Rose

In the Tony Robbins book Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom, the author gets the privilege to speak to one of the smartest minds in the world of finance: Ray Dalio. This is what he had to say.

The way I look at life, Tony, we all have something we want, something that represents a greater quality of life. But to get there, you have to go through a jungle filled with challenge. If you pass through it, you get to the life you desire. You could have a terrific job, a terrific life if you cross that jungle. But there are all these dangerous things and they can kill you. So do you stay on one side and have a safe life, or do you go into the jungle? How do you approach that problem?”

Dan Cates rips his tops off, grabs a thick length of ivy and gives it the old Tarzan yell. He lands in the thick of it and starts banging his chest. It’s a good job it’s so hairy or else the poundage may crack a rib.

The Jungleman spent more time on the jungle floor than most. He played 157,952 hands over 1,218 sessions. He was generating a profit of $31.15 per hand on Full Tilt, and $9.30 per hand on PokerStars. Only two other players managed to spend more time on the jungle floor than our man Dan: Gus Hansen (1,604 sessions) and Viktor Blom (2,803 sessions) and they were both eaten alive.


Stephen King once said that if you want to become a writer you must do two things: read a lot and write a lot. The same is true in poker. If you want to be a great poker player, you need to review a lot and play a lot.

One could argue that Cates played so many hands because he was on a heater. But if you know Cates you know that poker is his life. He loves the game more than anything. And it’s this love, work ethic and persistence that elevate him above his peers.

The former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said in his autobiography that the single most important trait that a person could have was ‘graft.’ He even went as far as to say that the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers: The Story of Success should have just been called ‘Graft.’

In that Gladwell book, the author postures that the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of 10,000 hours. Only then can you become a master. Cates passed that mark a long time ago.

Can we all be like Cates?

Of course you can.

Persistence is a state of mind, and the skills required to be a great poker player are all ‘learned.’ The math, the psychology, the interpersonal skills are all learned.

The reason Cates fights the lions and the tigers longer than most is because he has a definite purpose, desire, self-reliance, is endowed with outstanding knowledge, has tremendous willpower, and he has turned the winning of poker hands into an unconscious habit.

Do you have those traits?

If not, do you think you can develop them?

What’s missing from my game?

For some people it’s easier to notice flaws than it is to recognize skills and potential. If this is you then take stock of this inventory. Are you unclear why you play poker and what the future holds? Do you find yourself wandering around your bedroom without cause; lost and without a clue what to do next? Do you sometimes have a complete lack of interest when it’s time to play? Do you blame other factors for your losses? Do you quit at the first sign of defeat, or victory? Are you disorganized? Do you fear criticism?

If you are answering yes to any of these questions then you will find it difficult to find the persistence needed to keep you in the game long enough to make a difference. Ray Dalio calls it a jungle, and Stephen Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, calls it the arena. You can’t win the game from the sidelines: you have to get into the arena and ready yourself for war.

Don’t fret.

There are ways to arm yourself in readiness for your next trek into the deepest darkest parts of the jungle. You can be more prepared. You can be just like Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates.

Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill was fortunate to interview over 500 of the most successful people in America; a 20-year study that revealed four steps that will help you develop persistence. If you take note of these and make sure you take action, you can be a star. The only one holding you back is you.

1. You must find a definitive purpose backed by a burning desire to achieve it.

2. You must have a specific plan and make sure that you take constant action to achieve it.

3. You must banish negativity from your life. If your best friend is a bad beat jukebox then turn him off. Positivity is key here.

4. Find friends and mentors that will keep you accountable and make sure that you don’t deviate from your plan and purpose.

Remember this.

If you find that you are spending time on something that is not aligned with your life purpose, then you have somehow wandered off course. You are no longer on that trail that leads along the jungle floor. The one with flames burning either side. Instead, you are in the dark. All you can see are the eyes. Those bright, menacing eyes. Then you feel the teeth, the wetness and the darkness.

You are dead.




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Lee Davy

Life can be viewed as the sum of the parts or the parts themselves. I believe in the holistic view of life, or the sum. When dealing with individual parts you develop whack-a-mole syndrome; each time you clobber one problem with your hammer another one just pops up.