Dan Smith’s Poker Journey: Chess Prodigy, Philanthropist, and a Poker Tournament Demigod
Some poker players love being seen as public figures and being praised for their accomplishments, while others are simply in it for the love of the game.
In the past 14 years, Dan Smith has made quite the impression on the felt, with just over $37 million in earnings, which puts him in fifth place on the Hendon Mob US All-Time Money List.
Dan Smith has been one of the most successful poker players of recent decades, and his success is likely to just keep on growing as he hones his skills even further and continues entering the biggest tournaments in the world on a daily basis.
Dan Smith's Poker Career Highlights
- Began his professional career in 2007 after dropping out of college at 18 years old.
- Got his first 7 figure win of his career in 2012 when he won the A$100,000 + 500 No-Limit Hold'em Event at the 2012 Aussie Millions Poker Championship for $1,041,828.
- Placed first at the €50,000 No-Limit Hold'em – Super High Roller Event of the 2012 European Poker Tour in Barcelona for $1,183,100.
- Won the 2012 GPI Player of the Year
- Placed first at the $10,000 + 300 No-Limit Hold'em – Main Event of the 2013 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $1,161,135.
- In June of 2014, he placed first at a $100,000 + 2,000 No-Limit Hold'em Super High Roller event at the Bellagio for $2,044,766
- In July of 2016, he placed second at the $111,111 No-Limit Hold'em High Roller for One Drop event at the WSOP, winning $3,078,974
- Placed 3rd at the $ 1,000,000 No-Limit Hold'em – The Big One for One Drop event in 2018 WSOP for $4,000,000
- Won the largest live cash of his career at the £1,050,000 buy-in Triton Million charity invitational event in London for $8,765,628.
Dan Smith’s Early Life and Transition to Poker
Dan Smith was born on February 23rd, 1989, in Manalapan Township, New Jersey. He started playing chess at the age of six, showing interest in intellectually stimulating games from an early age.
He took chess very seriously and was even playing ranked matches. As a young boy, his dream was to go to college on a chess scholarship.
Image from paulphuapoker.com
This dream was put on hold when Smith turned 16 and started to feel burnt out by the game. He realized he didn’t enjoy chess as much as he once did and was in search of a new hobby.
This was when he discovered poker, as many of the chess players he was playing against were playing poker in their spare time as well.
Although below the legal gambling age, Smith found a way to play online and picked up the basic rules of the game quickly.
From the get-go, Smith won here and there while also learning about the game and was able to make a small side income from poker as a teenager.
There was a time in his junior year of high school, where he won $30k two months in a row playing 3/6 No Limit games, but during his last year of high school, his bankroll was dwindling.
He went through a losing streak, and his parents forced him to cash out his earnings to go towards his college tuition.
By the age of 16, Smith realized that he dedicated his entire childhood to chess, and giving up on it certainly meant giving up on a great college opportunity, as schools love to see a student who is involved in activities outside of class.
Dan continued to compete in chess and successfully received a chess scholarship from the University of Maryland.
The excitement and preparations for college were short-lived, however. Halfway through his freshman year, his father passed away in January of 2008.
On top of this, he wasn’t really enjoying his classes and was paying a lot of money to stay at UMaryland, even with a scholarship.
Smith took a break from school to focus on online poker in 2007 and qualified for the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas.
Image from seminolehardrockpokeropen.com
His family wasn’t keen on him focusing on poker instead of school, but he decided to take his dad on the trip with him.
Smith's father had a sudden but minor heart attack at a craps table only a few days into their trip and passed away in what should have been a salvageable situation, according to Dan.
They attempted to sue the Atlantis hotel where this happened, but that turned out to be extremely costly and didn't bring his father any of the justice he deserved.
Smith transferred to a small college in NJ because he couldn't afford the tuition anymore. After living with some poker friends at a beach house in New Jersey for some time, they convinced him to keep playing poker instead of bothering with the school.
Some of these friends included Steve “Zugwat” Silverman and Andrew “LuckyChewy” Lichtenberger, who remained lifelong friends of Smith's and have traveled with him very frequently through the years.
In 2014 at an interview with igaming.org, Smith addressed his switch from chess to poker and explained what drew him to poker more.
He explained that when he played chess for hours and still lost at the end of the day, he had no one to blame but himself, and he would really beat himself up.
In poker, however, if he has a bad day, there are many factors that can contribute to that, and that's also just how the game works sometimes. So, he found more joy in going back to poker again and again.
From the moment he finally decided to dedicate his life and career to poker in 2007 up until today, Dan Smith has grown to be one of the most successful poker players the world has ever seen.
Dan Smith’s Professional Poker Career
It didn’t take long after dedicating himself to poker in 2007 that Dan started to build his success and his bankroll.
His first live tournament cash was a victory at the $1,500 NLHE Main Event at the Heartland Poker Tour in 2008. He won $101,960 there while having already been an active online player for some time.
Between this Heartland Poker Tour cash in 2008 to just recently at the 2021 WSOP, Smith’s tournament record has been off the charts, with countless big wins and scores.
In 2009 there were no recorded tournament winnings for him on his Hendon Mob profile, and in 2010 and 2011, he entered some live tournaments here and there, having moderate success.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Smith truly broke out into the world of poker. He got his first 7 figure win of his career, along with many other successes all in the same year.
In January, he placed 1st at the A$100,000 + 500 No-Limit Hold'em event at the 2012 Aussie Millions Poker Championship for a whopping $1,041,828.
Then in April of 2012, he won three different events at the European Poker Tour in Monte Carlo, all of which won him a total of $688,485 throughout the course of the festival.
He had five cashes at the WSOP, placing 17th, 10th, 84th, 70th, and 3rd at five separate events, earning him $425,400 in cashes for the series.
Only two months after the WSOP, Smith placed first at the € 50,000 No-Limit Hold'em – Super High Roller Event of the European Poker Tour in Barcelona and won big yet again for another $1,183,100.
He ended the year with one more huge win at the Partouche Poker Tour in Cannes at the €8,500 No-Limit Hold'em – Main Event for $224,430.
By the end of 2012, everyone was talking about Dan Smith and his skills at the table.
He even won the 2012 GPI Player of the Year and finished runner up in the Card Player Magazine Player of the Year chase to Greg Merson, and runner up in the Bluff Magazine Player of the Year to Marvin Rettenmaier.
Going from Strength to Strength
Smith played a few tournaments in 2013 as well, but he finished the year out with a bang in December by placing first at the $ 10,000 + 300 No-Limit Hold'em – Main Event of the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $1,161,135.
In February of 2014, Smith placed 2nd at the A$25,000 No-Limit Hold'em Challenge of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship in Melbourne, taking home $243,567.
In June of 2014, he won the $100,000 + 2,000 No-Limit Hold'em Super High Roller event at the Bellagio, winning an incredible $2,044,766 – the largest win of his career at that point.
He also placed 20th, 9th, and 6th at three events of the WSOP later that year, winning a total of $411,401 from the three events. In September of 2014, Smith was ranked first in the world by the Global Poker Index.
2015 was also a pretty successful year for him, but by this point in time, his standards were set quite high.
It wasn't until July of 2016 that he hit another 7-figure win when he placed second at the $111,111 No-Limit Hold'em High Roller for One Drop Event at the WSOP, winning $3,078,974, breaking his personal record.
Only a few days earlier, he had also placed 3rd at a $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller Event, taking home $487,361, an amount he certainly could not look down on despite his $3 million score.
In 2017 Smith booked a win in a $24,000 + 1,000 No-Limit Hold'em – High Roller Event at the Aria High Roller 61 in Vegas, winning $413,280.
In November of 2017, he placed 1st at a $100,000 No-Limit Hold'em – Super High Roller #1 Event at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic, walking away with another $1,404,000.
At the 2018 WSOP, Smith continued to break his personal records of most money won in one event when he placed 3rd at the $1,000,000 No-Limit Hold'em – The Big One for One Drop Event for an incredible $4,000,000 prize.
A mere two months later, he placed second at the $100,000 + 3,000 No-Limit Hold'em Event at a Poker Masters Event, winning another $700,000 and getting heavily involved with the Poker Masters Series.
Smith had proven himself to the world and shown that he is one of the best players in the game and that he had no intention of backing down.
In 2019 he reiterated that fact when he finished third at a HK$2,000,000 No-Limit Hold'em Event at the Triton Super High Roller Series in Jeju, South Korea, winning an equivalent of $1,732,572.
In August of 2019, Smith entered the biggest tournament of his life, the £1,050,00 buy-in Triton Million charity invitational NLH event that took place in London.
This was the biggest buy-in poker tournament ever, and millions of the proceeds were donated to charity. Smith placed 3rd and took home $8,765,628, more than doubling his previous biggest tournament score.
Due to the pandemic, Smith played a lot of online tournaments in 2020, especially at the Poker Masters Online Series.
He a win in a $25k Event and cashed for $1,594,379 in total, which made him one of the most successful players of the series and the year.
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) May 18, 2020
Dan Smith’s Net Worth
Dan Smith’s primary source of income comes from his outstanding winnings at live poker tournaments. Even when in-person tournaments were postponed in 2020, Dan made a serious income from participating in them virtually, showing the world he could beat online poker at the highest levels as well.
Although there has been little sponsorship or ambassador work from Smith, he has made up for it by being one of the greatest money makers in poker in the United States and the world.
His best live cash win came from the £1,050,00 buy-in Triton Million charity invitational that took place in London, where he won $8,765,628.
Knowing all he has accomplished at the felt and knowing that he is ranked 7th on the Hendon Mob All Time Money List, Dan Smith's net worth is estimated to be around $30 million.
This, of course, could be a gross understatement, as I am well aware that many of the high stakes pros out there have made tens of millions investing in cryptos in recent years. Dan Smith could well be one of these players.
What’s Dan Smith Up to Today?
Smith likes to keep his personal life quite private, and not much is known besides what little the 32-year-old shares on his social media.
Sprinkled into his plethora of posts on Instagram about poker, he shares pictures of himself being an uncle to a little boy and being a proud pet owner.
Smith does use his Twitter much more frequently, however, where he is constantly tweeting about chess, poker, and things that make him happy – including his charity which he often promotes on Twitter as well.
2021's Drive just came to a close. ~1400 donations, over $3 Million, which of course we will match!
Happy New Year!
— Dan Smith (@DanSmithHolla) December 29, 2021
In recent years Smith has proven to be quite the philanthropist, focusing a lot of his energy on raising and donating funds for charity.
He, along with other members of the poker community, began the Double Up Drive in 2014, when he recognized the power of public giving to influence more generous and more effective donations.
The Double Up Drive selects a few effective charities to be part of a “Drive” campaign every year. During each Drive, the amount of money that is donated by the public is matched by those within the campaign (Smith and others).
Smith also began a blog called Dansmithholla.com back in 2015, where he discussed some heavy topics that have occurred throughout his poker career, such as the passing of his father.
As of 2018, he posts more frequently on the “dan’s blog” page attached to the Double Up Drive website. So far, the charity has had seven successful drives, with the 8th one beginning as I write this post in December of 2021.
With a huge heart for others and an incredible mind for the game, Smith is loved and envied by many – and is likely to continue to dominate the tables for many years to come!