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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs