Daniel Cates: A Journey From High-Stakes Gaming to Philanthropy

Daniel Cates is most notably known as being one of the best poker players in the world. His unique style and fearless approach allowed him to dominate online poker during the 2003-2006 poker boom prior to the passing of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) which severely impacted the market. With the changes in online poker in place, top players were forced to look at more live events and cash games around the world. 

Cates continued to play poker over the next few years, raking in over $7 million in live tournament winnings and over $11 million in online cash games. While poker has never stopped being a priority for Cates, he is now exploring what to do next in life. Poker is notorious for being a very isolated and mentally challenging sport so it only makes sense that top players diversify their activities. 

Recently, Cates has announced his plan to expand both into Hollywood’s creative scene, first as a producer and then later as an actor. A quick look at his IMDB reveals multiple projects, both poker and non-poker related. Cates has also recently announced his first philanthropic project which will be building schools in Zanzibar with a few friends. To learn more about Cates and his new passions, we sat down with him to discuss everything from poker to philanthropy:

1) Do you think poker has helped you expand into new industries?

Cates: Without a doubt. Poker has been an incredible door opener for me and other pros in the sense that poker draws in successful entrepreneurs, artists, and even academics. This overlap allows us access to people that most people typically wouldn’t have access to. Naturally, we are playing a competitive game so it can be tense but in general most people are very receptive to discussing business, hobbies, and life. This helps build friendships and create new opportunities.

2) Having a nickname like Jungleman12 probably helps in that, right? 

Cates: Definitely. It’s a memorable nickname and one I used throughout my online poker career. 

3) What initially attracted you to Philanthropy?

Cates: Life moves fast and even though I have always wanted to start a charitable initiative, ten years have flown by and I have now found myself in a position to reflect and really put these plans into action. This is one of the few benefits that Covid19 brought to us. Casinos, businesses, travel, and life as we knew it stopped and people had to become introspective. 

The opportunity in Zanzibar was presented by a friend who has experience working in the region. This connection helped me realize the plan as well as avoid some of the common barriers to entry that most people might face when trying to do something charitable halfway across the world without connections or on the ground experience. I am beyond excited to become an active participant in this project and gain valuable experience that will allow me to do similar projects in the future. 

Long-term, I want all of my business dealings and platform to be solely focused on charitable projects such as this one. 

4) Will you continue to play poker as you diversify your time?

Cates: Absolutely. Poker is my passion and something I have dedicated half of my life to. I will likely always be involved in poker in some capacity for the rest of my life. 

5) What is important to Daniel Cates as a person, not a poker player?

Cates: As discussed, right now I am really challenging myself creatively and with more meaningful projects. Both offer different levels of fulfilment and satisfaction, while being rooted in the act of creating. Speaking more generally, integrity is something that I hold dearly. I have written about this in depth on my Medium, but the gist of it is that since i was a child, I have always taken pride in matching my words with my actions.  

Growing up, this led me to be judgemental and now is something that I am more conscious about. I no longer hold people to as high of standards as that was becoming unproductive and doing more harm than good. I have learned to accept people and decisions. I also learned about myself more through this journey and helped fix some character flaws (for lack of a better word) that I might have been blind to before. 

This journey of self awareness is something I encourage everyone to actively explore in their lives in order to grow and learn more about yourself and what is important to you. 

Saad Ullah: An engineer with a passion for innovative technology, blockchain has been a natural attraction. More than a decade of experience in handling HR, HSE and IT management systems for FMCG companies. Currently pursuing Masters in Business Administration.
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