Top Five Online Players Who Quit While They Were Ahead

As Kenny Rogers sang, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run". Wise words indeed, and words which often go unheeded at the highest level of poker. When the top dog is usurped their pride often makes them hang around that little bit too long  - either that or they just love the action. It's a tough decision for most top players to bail out while they're still at the top of their game. In this article we're going to take a look at five top pros who managed to leave with their reputations AND their bankrolls in tact. In no particular order...

Niklas "ragen70" Heinecker

Born in Hamburg in 1984 German pro Sven Nicklas "ragen70" Heinecker came up through the ranks in the late noughties as a top NLHE player and was sponsored by Full Tilt under his real name "NiklasHeinecker" from 2010 until Black Friday, reverting back to "ragen70" when Full Tilt reopened in late 2012. His PokerStars screen name was also ragen70.

A good heads-up NLHE player, ragen70 was at his strongest in six-max games, and between February 2011 and January 2014 he won $2.12m at PokerStars NLHE tables between $50/$100 and $200/$400 limits (it is likely he won considerably more but at the time HSDB didn't track $25/$50). When the big $400/$800 NL "MalACEsia" games started on Full Tilt in 2013 (named after Paul "MalACEsia" Phua, the Malaysian businessman who decided to jump into the highest stakes online and challenge the best in the world at Full Tilt) ragen70 was one of the biggest winners, earning $2.16m between June and October 2013.

kik Above: Niklas "ragen70" Heinecker during a rare appearance at a live tournament.

After this Heinecker turned his attention to the huge $2k/$4k 2-7 triple draw games which had started to flourish at Full Tilt. The games had been popularised by Viktor "Isildur1" Blom who started a novice and ended up winning millions at Draw. Heinecker obviously fancied a little bit of the action and ended up slaughtering the games between August 2013 and November 2014 - winning $5.4m at the Draw tables.

Heinecker was not really one for live tournaments and rarely participated in them, but he did venture to Macau for the GuangDong Asia Millions in June 2013 to play the HKD $1m ($129k US) Main Event which he ended up winning for $4,456,885.

Having won $10m online between 2012 and 2014 as well as $4.5m from a single live tournament, Niklas "ragen70" Heinecker decided he'd earned enough from Poker and stepped away from the game at his peak.

rager

Above: Check out ragen70's PokerStars (left) and Full Tilt (right) high stakes graphs. Click on the image to visit his Full Tilt profile for more stats on ragen70, including his biggest hands and most frequent opponents.

According to his profile on AngelList, Niklas refers to himself as a "Private Investor", continuing,  "I used to be a professional poker player for many years and manage and invest my money in different ventures these days."

The Dang Brothers

Di  Dang and his younger brother Hac started poker together, climbed the ranks together, and even shared a bankrolll at the highest stakes online together playing on their individual accounts, winning over $13.5m between them in the four years up to Black Friday before quitting the game together. In total, however, they won close to $17m as Hac Dang made a return to poker after six months in late 2011 before quitting again in July 2014 having earned another $3m between his Full Tilt and PokerStars accounts.

di_dang_hac

Above: Hac (left) and Di Dang shared both a bankroll and incredible poker skills as they racked up a fortune playing online poker in the late noughties and early 2010's.

Di Dang won over $6m playing PLO at Full Tilt under his screen name "Urindanger", winning another $2m at NLHE (he lost a little in the high stakes PLO/NL mix games which ran), resulting in a total high stakes profit of over $7.4m. He also won another $685k in the first few months of 2011 playing as "ilvdnfl" at PokerStars, while Hac, playing as "trex313" at Full Tilt won $4.4m playing the PLO/NL mix, $2.43m playing NLHE, and $1.46m playing PLO. He lost close to $2m playing Triple Draw and 8-Game but still won a huge $6.58m at Full Tilt. On top of this he won over $2m at PokerStars during his comeback where he played as "1Il|1Il|1il|" (better known as Barcode) where he played PLO almost exclusively.

The brothers won the majority of their money during the golden era of high stakes online poker from 2007-2011 where they frequented the $500/$1000 NLHE and PLO games playing alongside the likes of Tom "durrrr" Dwan, Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen, Patrick Antonius, Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond, Guy Laliberte, and Viktor "Isildur1" Blom. In fact, one of the only really bad moves the Dang brothers ever made was to partially stake Tom "durrrr" Dwan during his epic battles against Viktor "Isildur1" Blom at the $500/$1000 NL:HE tables when Dwan ended up losing $5m to Blom in a just a couple of weeks.

During his Urindanger days Di Dang was the bigger winner of the two brothers, he also won one of the biggest online pots of all time:

It's never nice when you lose a bit pot with KK vs AA, but when both you and your opponent are over 360bb deep at $500/$1000 stakes it's even worse - $724k pot!

urin

Neither brother ever took to the tournament scene with very few appearances on the live felt between them. Ironically the only big score between them came from Di when he took a "recreational" trip to Macau in 2015 to play a little poker and entered the HKD $2m ($250k US) Super High Roller and finished 11th for $587,754.

tury Above: Di "Urindanger" Dang (left) and his brother Hac's Full Tilt profit graphs make for awe inspiring viewing

Since leaving poker in 2011 the brothers (particularly Di) have been working on their Cajun restaurant business, "Chasin' tails". The restaurant business is a tough nut to crack but seven years on and the brothers are still going with two successful restaurants in Virginia, USA.

Mark Vos

South African turned Aussie pro Mark Vos is probably the epitome of the successful "hit 'n' run" artist, and while many might view this as a somewhat dubious honour, Vos would probably take pride in this assessment as it meant he was doing his job well!

Vos specialised in short-stacking at the highest stakes, a practice derided by many players who view short-stackers as hit'n'run opportunists. However, if the business of playing poker is to make money (and of course it most certainly is), and you happen to make the most money using a short-stack strategy then fair play to you. Mark Vos managed this with great success, racking up $2,970,233 in profits at Full Tilt's high stakes tables from when we started tracking in 2007 until Black Friday in April 2011.

vois Above: Mark Vos's short-stacking antics may have got under the skin of his opponents at the table which only served to increase his chances of winning, something he regularly managed to do on his way to winning millions of dollars at the virtual felt.

Even before HSDB started tracking, however, Vos had already accumulated life-changing money at poker playing his short-stack. In 2006 he netted over $800k at the WSOP after winning a $2k NLHE title in which he was playing the short-stack for much of the tournament. In fact, he even wrote a piece about it for the Hendon Mob website entitled, "Managing the Short Stack"

As a "ratholer" Vos was often the focus of chat-box bile from his opponents, although the former Full Tilt pro appeared to relish the haters and often provoked them for his own amusement. Among his detractors was Ilari "Ziiigmund" Sahamies, never one to mince his words when he said;

Ziigmund: trailpark trash
Ziigmund: call to dr phil f moron
Ziigmund: hope osama put bomb to your house
Ziigmund: f moron

And...

Ziigmund: fu vos
Ziigmund: u f gay
Ziigmund: u r the biggest joke in pokerbusiness
Mark Vos: possibly
Mark Vos: but it pays the bills
Ziigmund: small bills for you

Vos effectively quit poker in 2011, although he played a little at Full Tilt and PokerStars for a few months in 2013, recounting in a subsequent interview;

"A year or two later I gave poker another run for about 6 months on Stars in midstakes PLO, overall it was profitable but without question my opponents were adjusting more swiftly and better than I was. I didn't enjoy winning, and losing frustrated me. Yet I had no motivation, and no desire to improve.  That was pretty much the end of it, I knew wasn't going to put in the work anymore, and thus I was never going to be ahead of the curve again. So, I packed up, and moved on,"

vos Above: Mark Vos didn't make many friends as he ratholed his way to a fortune, but he can reasonably claim that the ends justified the means as he was able to retire while still in his 20's

Vos did attract some attention last year when he decided to briefly come out of retirement to plat a little poker at the 2017 Aussie Millions for, in his own words, "a bit of nostalgia". For the record, he didn't do too badly, finishing 18th in the $10k Main Event for $70k and cashing in a $1,650 event for $6.1k.

Taylor Caby

While we only have 241 hands tracked for Taylor Caby, in which he lost over $141k - a pretty staggering loss to hand ratio - to ignore his presence in this list would be foolish. Taylor Caby was one of the original end-bosses of online poker. He came to prominence in the mid-2000's as one of the biggest heads-up no limit winners of his time. Between 2004-2006 he crushed allcomers, including effectvely taking the crown as the ultimate NLHE heads-up end-boss after usurping the (at the time) unstoppable Prahlad "mahatma" Friedman at the $50/$100 (the highest stakes available at the time) HUNL tables - winning $600,000 from Friedman in just one week at Ultimate Bet.

taylor_caby

Above: Taylor Caby quit poker in his early 20's to become a successful business owner with the launch of Cardrunners, the preeminent poker training site of the noughties.

A poker millionaire before he graduated from college, Caby understood from a young age the concept of using leverage to build wealth and he put his precocious poker talents to good use by founding poker training site Cardrunners.com in 2005 with his college room mate Andrew Wiggins, and later, Holdem Manager. Cardrunners went on to dominate the poker training scene for almost a decade before the likes of Run It Once and Upswing Poker raised the bar. Over the years Cardrunners employed the likes of Cole South, Brian Hastings, Brian Townsend, Phil Galfond, Doug Polk, Daniel Cates, and untold other world class poker pros to submit poker training videos.

Taylor Caby was able to parlay his poker winnings into a successful business, and apart from his very brief (and unsuccessful) foray into the highstakes scene of 2008 when Cardrunners became sponsored by Full Tilt and Caby felt the need to take another stab at the nosebleeds to satisfy his sponsors, he was able to leave the life of a poker grinder behind, millionaire status in tact!

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