The Dang brothers – poker’s most underrated duo? [Monday Editorial]

The Dang brothers – poker’s most underrated duo? [Monday Editorial]

Monday, 4 April 2011

“Well, kid, we’ll see if you’re even around in twenty years.” Thus spoke Phil Hellmuth to Tom “durrrr” Dwan in their now infamous encounter in the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship a couple of years back. As rarely as it happens, Hellmuth was somewhat right in that statement.

No, I’m not one of those people who are deriding Tom Dwan and the aggressive Internet style of play as being purely short-term luck (because durrrr hasn’t got 11 bracelets so he sucks at poker right?) but simply pointing out that long-term success; being able to stay in the limelight as a high stakes superstar; the grind over years – that’s what makes a poker player.

It’s a convenient segue into the topic of today’s editorial which is a pair of Asian-American men in their early twenties, namely Di and Hac Dang, known respectively online as Urindanger and trex313.

The pair have been regulars in the high stakes games on Full Tilt Poker for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been railing nosebleed stakes for years. Not literally, I have several breaks for food and sleep and a social life. When $100/$200 was the highest limit available online, they played there. When Guy LaLiberte injected eight figures into the online poker economy and the games spiralled to the now somewhat-standard heights of $500/$1,000 NL and PLO, they were there. When Isildur1 rampaged through the high stakes games in 2009 and took on all comers, they were there. Apparently they also backed durrrr, so they took a hit, but they were there.

Di and Hac have earned between them over $13m playing the high stakes games on Full Tilt Poker. Most impressively, though, they’ve done this consistently for years. Di made $1.32m in 2007; $3.7m in 2008; six figures (recovering from a $2m downswing) in 2009 and last year $2.2m. His brother has had similar results, booking a $2.7m 2008 and the same in 2009. Neither player can legally rent a car in the US, not being the age of 25.
If you haven’t already, watch the excellent BlueFirePoker documentary “A Kid’s Game: The Story of Online Poker” in which Di and Hac are heavily featured.

Hac mentions how Di’s competitiveness encouraged them both to ascend to higher stakes rapidly and both are aware of the Asian kid stereotype – in fact, they embraced it and took to the books, just Harrington on Hold ‘em and Super/System instead of advanced mathematics. The most amusing part, though, is when Di recalls his father’s disapproval – until Di and Hac bought him a BMW M3, then he started liking poker.

With Di and Hac having dominated online NL and PLO for years, why do we not hear their names instead of Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom? Probably because the quiet, reserved pair prefer to just Joey Knish it and grind out a living. A bloody good multi-million dollar living, admittedly, but a living. No sponsorship deals, few attempts at live tournaments, just pure +EV poker all the way for these two. But they should be on TV – why would I want to watch Mike Matusow fold A-J to a 3-bet from 8-6 and complain about how Internet kids just bet mindlessly and get lucky? I could be watching Di and Hac actually play some decent poker.

Think about it, if you don’t agree with my assessment in the title – who can you say has crushed online poker week in, week out for the past few years? Ivey. Antonius. Dwan. Dangs.

Tags: Di Dang, Hac Dang, Tom Dwan, Phil Hellmuth, Viktor Blom, Isildur1