News / USA

    Dang Brothers Win Online Poker in Spades

    Urindanger, the screen name for Di Dang, is seen on the left during an online poker game. Di and his brother Hac are professional poker players and have won millions.Urindanger, the screen name for Di Dang, is seen on the left during an online poker game. Di and his brother Hac are professional poker players and have won millions.
    x
    Urindanger, the screen name for Di Dang, is seen on the left during an online poker game. Di and his brother Hac are professional poker players and have won millions.
    Urindanger, the screen name for Di Dang, is seen on the left during an online poker game. Di and his brother Hac are professional poker players and have won millions.
    The thought of betting one’s lifetime savings on one hand of cards would be terrifying to most, but for the Dang brothers, gambling hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars playing online poker is just another day on the job.

    Di (top) and Hac Dang have won millions of dollars playing online poker.Di (top) and Hac Dang have won millions of dollars playing online poker.
    x
    Di (top) and Hac Dang have won millions of dollars playing online poker.
    Di (top) and Hac Dang have won millions of dollars playing online poker.
    The “grind,” as they call it, has been very good to Di and Hac, with some estimating their total winnings at over $15 million since 2004.

    “It isn’t really gambling. It was more of a grind,” said Di, who is 28 and the older of the two by a year. “It was very strategic and numbers based. We’re gamblers like people who invest in real estate or the stock market. They buy a ton and win 55 to 60 percent of the time. In the long run, the wins make up for the losses and more. We win 55 to 60 percent of our sessions.”

    The two Vietnamese-Americans started playing online poker while engineering students at the University of Virginia (U.Va.). At first it was small bets, but they soon realized they could do pretty well.

    They say their timing could not have been better. When they started, online poker was fairly new, the economy was doing well, and there were a lot of “fish,” a poker term for someone who really doesn’t know how to play but is eager to risk money. 

    “We didn’t know what we were doing,” said Di, who goes by the handle “urindanger” online.  “We have a strong math background, we’re very competitive, and we like strategy. We just chose to play poker in our free time.”

    They initially started by opening an account with $200, which they soon lost. They decided to try another $200, and they “never looked back,” said Hac, whose handle is “trex313” in the online gambling world.

    Their competitiveness against each other helped spur them on.

    “We were making $10 an hour playing online poker. [Di] started making $15, so I decided I had to get better, and it just kind of snowballed from there,” said Hac.

    And while competitive, the brothers, who are celebrities in the online poker world, pool all their winnings, which they say allows them to play for bigger stakes.

    Working together, the two were making more than any of their classmates who were doing regular college jobs like waiting tables, and the winnings began to pile up. They found themselves with over $100,000 in the bank. During one spring break from school, they won $40,000, and their winnings soon hit $500,000.

    The two freely admit the poker interfered with their studies. It took Di five years instead of four to graduate, and Hac nearly failed a course he needed to graduate on time. 

    Buying in

    The brothers say Chinese New Year was a major contributor to their love of gambling.

    “If Chinese New Year didn’t exist, I don’t think Asians would be that much into gambling,” said Hac. “When we were kids, we’d learn blackjack, betting quarters and dollars, and if I won a couple of bucks, I’d be ridiculously happy. Without it, it’s 50 percent less likely that we’d become professional poker players.”

    Despite learning gambling in a family environment, the brothers’ parents, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1975, were not supportive of their decision to turn poker into a profession.

    “In most Asian families, you have that one uncle who lost all his money playing blackjack or lotto tickets,” said Hac. “When my parents heard we were at U.Va. playing poker with all our free time, my dad said, ‘I didn’t send you to U.Va. to play poker. I sent you to get a degree and get a job and do well. I don’t want you wasting my money to become a gambler. You can do that without a degree.’”

    Their dad went so far as to forbid them from playing in the house, so they’d go to Korean PC cafes in the area to play.

    The extended family was not thrilled either.

    Shortly before graduating college, the brothers went to a family gathering where they were peppered with questions about what they were going to do after graduation. When they said they were going to pursue gambling, some thought they weren’t making a good choice.

    But eventually their parents and family came around, probably helped by the fact that Hac and Di are pretty good at what they do. The brothers bought their parents a house in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and bought another one for their grandparents.

    The cashflow from poker also allowed their father to leave his government job years before he was due to retire.

    “It was good to give them a break because they worked so hard to get us where we are,” said Di.

    Folding?

    While the two have had a great run with online poker, there are signs they may be looking to walk away.

    A major factor is that gambling on the Internet is increasingly illegal in the U.S. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which placed severe restrictions on online gaming. In April 2011, the government shut down three of the top online poker sites in the world.

    This forced the brothers to establish residency in Vancouver, Canada, where Hac goes from time to time to play online. Di also makes trips to to the Asian gambling hub of Macau, and both regularly visit Las Vegas.

    The sluggish economy has also made the really big pots increasingly rare, the brothers said. Furthermore, as the game has matured, a lot of the “fish” have been weeded out, leaving only very skilled gamblers at the table and making it more difficult to win big.

    “Those million-dollar days aren’t around as much anymore,” said Di.

    This is an actual online poker game played by Di Dang with a pot worth over $588,000.

    Di added that over the long term, the grind is unhealthy.

    “It’s too stressful,” he said. “The losing days hurt too much and the winning days are like a high. It’s a rollercoaster.” 

    Di says he made $1.1 million on his best day playing poker, but lost $900,000 on his worst day. Hac says he’s lost “seven figures” in a day.

    “If you play big enough, you get a charge. As long as there are interesting games, I’ll still play, but I don’t know that I’ll be doing this for the next 50 years,” said Hac, adding that he’s scaled back to playing “about 80 hours” of online poker this year, partly because he's on a losing streak.

    The two currently are testing the waters as restaurateurs in Virginia, which Di says some consider a bigger gamble than poker.

    “In restaurants, you need to count the pennies,” said Di. “With poker, you click one button, and you’re $700,000 richer. It’s two totally different games.”

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: JR from: Brazil
    July 03, 2012 8:26 PM
    That's the only notice about happiness on glamber I've ever heard. Generally what you see is very regretable ones that means a lot of people to lose out all what they had and getting their life family in the real hell. A hint for the brothers: do not abuse of the luck.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora