Jungleman was a wild animal
“When you’ve got destiny on your side, you kind of expect it,” said a playful and jubilant Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates moments after he won the prestigious Poker Player’s Championship (PPC). He also had some words for his heads-up opponent Ryan Leng: “He shouldn’t have laughed at me, he knew he was messing with a wild animal, and now he’s lost to a monkey!”
A relative newcomer to mixed games, Leng has gone heads-up three times at this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP), winning his third career bracelet in the $1500 Eight Game Mix Six-Handed event but having to settle for second in the PPC.
runner-up finishes are always bittersweet
Leng’s efforts across five grueling days versus the best players in the world were nothing short of epic. However, runner-up finishes are always bittersweet – perhaps even more so for Leng given his catastrophic error during 3-handed play that kept Cates in the game when he should have been eliminated.
The PPC attracted an elite field of 63 entries with the top ten finishers all earning a portion of the $3,016,125 prize pool. Cates got the lion’s share, of course, a $954,020 payday, plus his first bracelet and his name forever etched on The Chip Reese Memorial Trophy.
Cates completes a famous victory
The fifth and final day of this year’s PPC saw the return of just five players, all vying for their slice of poker history.
Nothing seemed to go right for the Israeli poker legend
Eli Elezra was the chip-leader when play began, in pursuit of his fourth WSOP bracelet. Nothing seemed to go right for the Israeli poker legend, however, as he lost pot after pot, mostly to Leng. After Chris Brewer bust in fifth, Elezra found himself on the short stack and ultimately succumbed to Paul Volpe in Razz, despite surviving numerous all-in showdowns.
3-handed play provided a humdinger with the lead changing back and forth. After Leng let Cates off the hook, it would be Volpe to bust next. In his post-match interview, he alluded to the Leng/Cates hand that would have resulted in his laddering into the top two spots, but mostly he was self-critical, feeling that he didn’t play his best.
Cates held a big lead when heads-up play commenced, but despite two double-ups for Leng, he closed it out for a famous victory.
Leng took ownership of his mistake
After the tournament, Leng did a lot of soul-searching, conscious that he had made a costly error on the biggest stage in the most important moment of his career.
He was quick to note the support he had received but also to acknowledge his error. In a Twitter thread par excellence, he made no excuses and gave a masterclass in how to respond to a mistake.
For his part, Cates, who predicted his own victory and showed up for the final table cosplaying as a streetfighter character, pledged to use the money for good. “I said I was gonna win, so I won,” Cates commented, adding “but it was pretty important because now I have more money to help the world and to continue a career outside of poker.”