Life of High-Stakes Poker Pro Danny Tang: The Rise to the Top
If it seems like Danny Tang came from nowhere to suddenly play the highest stakes in poker, it’s because he did. His family from Hong Kong, Tang mostly grew up in the U.K. where he attended primary school through university.
The young Tang enjoyed soccer, which he played through university, and he also found some other hobbies in his late teens. Among them, mixed martial arts, clubbing and after-hours drinks at casinos. Those drinks sometimes led to pit games, which Tang quickly found to be a losing proposition. He eventually wandered into the poker hall and found a game that he thought he might actually be able to beat, or at least not lose in as quickly.
Tang didn’t start out with big ambitions in poker, simply thinking he might just be able to eke out a modest living playing £1/£1 no-limit cash games. Then, he discovered tournament poker.
Tang went to a live event where a tournament had a £150,000 guarantee and he was intrigued. Later on, he found one with a £1 million prize pool, and he was hooked. In May 2016, Tang got his first big score, finishing second to Andrew Jankowski in the WPT National UK for a payday of $130,263 – more money than he could have imagined at the time. He made a decision at that point, telling himself, “OK, I’m going to take this seriously now.”
He asked Charlie Carrel, who was crushing at the time, if he was interested in coaching him and he was immediately on board.
“I think not enough amateurs or new professionals invest enough money into getting better and studying or even finding a coach," Tang said. "All they wanna do is just keep playing, playing and hopefully get better but it doesn’t work like that. If this is what you’re going to do, it’s like paying for add-on courses like you would for any industry to try to get better. It’s the same in the poker world.”
“I think not enough amateurs or new professionals invest enough money into getting better and studying or even finding a coach."
Carrel wasn’t the only high-stakes poker crusher that Tang sought out. After watching Hong Kong’s Winfred Yu, president and CEO of Poker King Club in Macau, Tang decided he needed to meet him. He set out to do some networking with the goal of marketing himself to eventually get a sponsorship deal.
“That’s the main reason why I went back to Asia and met a lot of different Asian friends and a lot of them actually play poker," Tang said. "I would never have guessed how big the poker market is in Asia. And that was probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life. Because honestly it changed my entire career.
"So all the sudden, now I have the European world and the Asian world, I’m in the middle where I get along with both sides."
At the recent EPT Barcelona stop, in fact, his two worlds came together during the finale of a €1K freezeout when the title came down to two of Tang's chums. Now one of Tang's best friends, Andy Chan from Hong Kong (eventual winner for €111,820/$123,793) squared off against Tang's old friend Terence Etim from the U.K. (eventual runner-up for €69,610/$77,064.)
"I was friends with like the whole rail, the Chinese side and the U.K. side and I loved it," Tang said.
Tang has been heating up on the tournament scene the past few years since his first six-figure WPT score. His Hendon Mob profile paints a picture of a player consistently cashing and going deep, and rapidly climbing the stakes. After cashing for $350K in 2016, he more than doubled that the next year, also banking his next two six-figure scores. Tang finished third in the ACOP Macau 10K High Roller for $131K in October 2017, and then finished the year by winning the PokerStars Championship Prague 10K High Roller for another $449K.
"Obviously I'm at the peak of my career and in terms of like, Player of the Year rankings, GPI rankings, I've never been higher."
In 2018, Tang added $945K over 31 cashes to his resume, including three six-figure scores. One of those came in a deep run he made in the WSOP Main Event in which he finished 31st for $230K. He continued his hot run from there, finishing 13th in the €5,300 EPT Barcelona Main Event for $103K and finished out the year taking fourth in the event he won the year before, the €10K EPT Prague High Roller, for another $224K.
In 2019, Tang has jumped up to playing super high rollers and he is consistently proving that he belongs. He's already notched his three biggest career cashes by far this year, including two seven-figure scores and his crowing career achievement: winning a WSOP bracelet in the $50,000 "Final Fifty" High Roller.
"Obviously I'm at the peak of my career and in terms of like, Player of the Year rankings, GPI rankings, I've never been higher. I'm super honored to be in the position I'm in but fortunately and unfortunately I feel like poker is not the only part of my life."
What the Future Holds
Tang has a long-time girlfriend and sees himself traveling less for poker in the future, as he contemplates starting a family.
"We're thinking about taking the next step of our relationship and I'm sure as a boyfriend and as a husband, if I get married, that I'll have to be responsible and probably end up traveling less for the circuit — which is a shame because I'm peaking as well but you gotta do what you gotta do," he said. "But I think I'll still be at a lot of the bigger stops like WSOP, Barcelona, the PSPC they just announced so I think I'll be here."
Tang hopes a few years down the road to be in a position where he can bring his family to stops and spend time with them, only playing the bigger events rather than grinding out every event like he's doing now.
" So all the sudden, now I have the European world and the Asian world, I’m in the middle where I get along with both sides."
As for his immediate family, Tang lost his father as a young boy but his mother supports him in as she always has.
"She's just like, 'Make sure you're drinking a lot of water.' 'Make sure you get enough sleep.' 'Make sure you hide your emotions, don't let your opponent read you.' I'm like, 'Mom, I'm a professional poker player, I'm gonna be having a poker face a lot of the time.' But she doesn't understand, she just cares for me you know, she just wants to make sure I'm okay."
Tang also has a brother who is always pulling for him, though he's busy now with a family of his own that includes a new baby.
"I'm a terrible uncle," Tang admitted. "The baby is like 17 or 18 months now and I've only seen the baby three times. It's awful but you gotta sacrifice to be successful in my opinion."
Now the latest ambassador for online poker site Natural8, Tang has marketed himself well and has carved out a clear place for himself in the high-stakes poker world, enjoying his time at the top.
You can follow Danny Tang on Twitter @DannyTang2 and watch Tang's interview on the PokerNews Podcast from July here. Listen to Tang share his life story in the following video with PokerNews' Sarah Herring.