Di Dang was canoeing up the elevator with added than a actor dollars in his backpack. He was in Macau, and the affluent Chinese guys capital to comedy poker. Obviously, he’d alone everything.
The bold was on the top attic of the Grand Lisboa, a ridiculous, bright accumulation of a coffer shaped like a lotus flower. (Seriously, Google it.) A host had to escort him up, and aegis guards had to accept his admission to the clandestine room. Di, a 27-year-old kid from Virginia suburbia, strode in with a haversack abounding of poker plaques and $100,000 artery of cash.
The whales were already playing, amidst by, uh, “masseuses” with connected beard and abbreviate dresses. Cigarette smoke abounding the air. Servers swirled with trays of dragon fruit. And angelic crap, that view. Di admired to dress bottomward aback he played, abnormally in hot, boiling Macau, area matches could go on for 24 hours or more. But tonight, in this allowance abounding of gajllionaires, he ashore out in his T-shirt and shorts.
“Part of you is nervous, but allotment of you is like, Oh, man, I am press money actuality in the connected term,” he says. “If I got my fair allotment of luck, afresh I anticipation I could win, like, $1 million, $2 million, $3 actor in one night absolutely easily.”
The year was 2010. Twentysomethings above America were active with their parents, bouncing amid internships and ancillary hustles as the country limped out of a recession. Di (pronounced “zee”) and his adolescent brother Hac were additionally active in their parents’ basement, alone they were authoritative brainless money arena online poker.
And they were legends. According to the tracking armpit Aerial Stakes Database, Di and Hac rank fifth and seventh, respectively, amid the bigger best winners online, with accumulated profits of about $14 million. They abounding basic stadiums and affronted up on ESPN. During summers in Vegas, they took over a accommodation at the Palms Abode Auberge and Spa—3,000 aboveboard feet, with a 58th-floor balustrade Jacuzzi. Poker junkies would stop them on the artery and ask for photos.
So yeah, Di—screen name “urindanger”—walked into the Grand Lisboa like a boss.
But sometimes he could be dark to . . . assertive details.
Until tonight, Di had been accepting into Macau amateur for up to $200,000. The buy-in for this Texas Hold ’Em table was added than bisected a million. “I was like, Oh, crap—this is absolutely big,” Di says. “That’s aback it hit me: I’m arena in the bigger bold anytime in the accomplished world, by far.”
They were amateurs, though, and he ample if he entertained them, they’d attraction him back—a abundance trove. So while anybody away was arena bound and cat-and-mouse for bigger hands, Di played advancing and loose, the hotshot: “It was backroom and attractive at the arena and aggravating to accomplish them like me.”
Nearly eight hours in, his haversack was empty. The bigger bold of his activity blown, added than a actor dollars gone.
Ten years on, the penthouses of Macau are clumsily distant. These days, Di serves build-your-own bounce rolls at a restaurant alleged Roll Comedy and abjure at one alleged Chasin’ Tails, two of the six midpriced burghal eateries he and Hac started. They calculation pennies, not bricks, anguish about chump account instead of allowance service, and accent over chock-full toilets rather than aristocratic flushes.
And yet the anamnesis of a activity aback he could lose a mil in an burning is not absolutely homesickness as the Dang brothers accomplish their way in the restaurant business. The adventure of all those aerial highs and low lows ability additionally explain why the duo is adverse the communicable and this moment of immense industry peril afterwards sweating. But aboriginal you accept to accept how they got here.
Poker is a bold of accomplishment masquerading as a bold of luck. You could comedy a duke adjoin the Dang brothers and win because, yeah, there’s some luck involved. Ultimately, though, they accept the game’s strategy, math, and attitude bigger than you do. Over hundreds of hands, they’re activity to annihilate you.
The brothers started arena online in the aboriginal 2000s, aback they were both belief automated engineering at the University of Virginia. The bold was a array of Wild West at the time, abounding of amateurs cerebration they were Matt Damon in Rounders. But Di, whom accompany alarm the Human Calculator, was a above middle-school mathlete who admired to booty SAT tests for fun. Hac, a year younger, was into whatever Di was into—especially if he could collection him at it. Aback they weren’t arena anniversary added in basketball or chess, the Dangs partnered in get-rich-quick schemes (hawking Pokémon cards on eBay, reselling hot Christmas toys). In elementary school, in what ability accept been their actual aboriginal hustle, they’d scrounge the debris bin at Shoppers Aliment Warehouse, hunting afield alone scratch-off winners while their mom bought groceries.
While added bodies advised online poker like aloof addition circuit through Grand Theft Auto, the brothers advised books and videos for address and strategy. They’d try to one-up anniversary added as they climbed the stakes, their affinity animosity fueling their rise. As No Limit Hold ’Em became added lucrative, they ditched their jobs at Ruby Tuesdays and Uno Pizzeria. Aback they denticulate $35,000 while holed up in their
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