The lure of poker brought Ryu "THE FOX" Dang, from Europe to Asia, from Belgium to Thailand.
Seven years, seven countries and a seven-figure profit later, giving in to the (poker) temptation years ago appears to be the best decision he has ever made in satisfying his passion for the game. His new pet project-- 88Fox Poker, acting as South East Asia Manager for the rebooted online poker site, is just icing on the cake; a confirmation that the road he took was the right one.
Speaking with Pilipinas Poker recently, he not only wants to disclose his experiences in poker but also wants to share the success he had in this game. And hopefully, the same rubs off to his new found friends this part of the world.
Pilipinas Poker (PP): Hi Ryu, first tell us more about yourself; outside of a poker room-- online or otherwise-- what do you do?
Ryu Dang (RD): After I graduated from university in Belgium, I worked at a bank for about 6 months, until I made the same amount of money playing poker at home as with my daytime job, then I decided to just pack my bags and move to Thailand and become a full time online poker pro, which I did successfully for about 6 years, winning over 7 figures in total poker earnings during that period.
After that I became more involved in doing marketing, consulting and general managing inside the poker industry, which ended me here with 88Fox and my latest project APG666 for Chinese poker.
PP: How old are you? Do you have your own family? How do you balance poker with other personal things that you do?
RD: I’m 33 years old now, and I don’t have a family yet, although my parents are clamoring for it, I’ve always told myself to do what I wanted if I wouldn’t bother anyone else with it, but I do see myself settling down in 2-3 years time and raise some kids.
As for working hours, I have a steady 12 to 14 hours average work schedule, I have always been a very hard working person. And I believe good work ethics is one of the most important things to become a successful person in life, no matter what job you are pursuing.
PP: A Belgian living in Thailand; what’s the adventure like? Filipinos are deeply rooted at home; tell us how you came to this decision and how you handled being away from home.
RD: The masterplan was to give playing poker fulltime a try for a testing period, I didn’t want to do it back at home because that would mean I wouldn’t be doing it all alone. I made it a point towards myself that if I was going to try this, I would do it by myself without any safety net. So since I am Asian by heritage, it was pretty clear I wanted to live in an Asian country, but I wanted to be somewhere where I could save some money also.
The whole plan was to go and try out poker for about 3 months with a $1500 poker bankroll and $1500 life bankroll and to see if I would be able to do it… Well I’m still here now after 7 years or so… I also want to point out that I didn’t stay here for 7 full years, I lived in Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South-Korea, China, Macau and the USA, Boston and California, for a while also during my poker pro period.
As for being away from friends and family you kind of get used to it after a while, when it comes to friendship you can make them everywhere you live if you are a normal social person, but of course, I have my closest friends in Belgium whom I call brothers. I always enjoy meeting new people and hear their stories which make it easy for me to basically live anywhere I want. My parents visit me here in Thailand on a yearly base and I also fly back to Belgium to visit everyone on a yearly base as well.
PP: Aside from the game we all love, what other interests do you have?
RD: I’m a huge fan of UFC or Mixed Martial Arts fighting and I do follow Football as well, because I used to play it on a high level back when I still had a 6 pack and they called me triple lungs. (Laughs) Besides from sports, I love American series like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Blacklist among others…
PP: Tell us how you started the game? What did you play first, live or online…
RD: I started playing online poker with money that was given to me by a friend on Partypoker, and I was playing 1/2 cent tables, full ring and 6 max NLHE in 2006.
PP: Did you initially like the game? Why? Were you playing other variants of poker or card games that you were already familiar with poker by the time you started playing it?
RD: I honestly didn’t believe there was any strategy involved and thought it was just gambling, of course I realized how stupid I was after a few weeks… I also don’t know how to play any other poker game then NLHE, or any other casino or gambling related game for that matter, I really played poker just because it was a game of skill and I could make money out of it and I always have treated it as a job.
PP: What made you realize that this was a profitable venture and what prompted you to give up your previous day job.
RD: After I was making steadily the same amount as my day job playing after my working hours, I wanted to try playing poker full time, that’s when I decided to pack my bags.
PP: In a few words, describe to us what a Filipino player is in poker.
RD: Friendly but very competitive and in love with tournaments.
PP: You’ve played against Pinoys already in some live/online games recently; can you compare the type of player Filipinos are compared to other nationalities? Is there a marked difference when you play one player from a different nationality to another?
RD: I would have to say there are all kinds of players, no matter what nationality you are, there are good players, tight players, loose players everywhere spread around the world. So I can’t really say there is any difference much between any nationalities.
As a professional player you should be focusing on the player his style, rather than his nationality.. Although one consensus that I have noticed is that female poker players are generally always tight and rarely ever bluff.
PP: What prompted you to start your own online room, were there any similar ventures in the past before this?
RD: I have always wanted to start some kind of business in the poker industry because that has been such a great part of my life and I have accumulated so much experience in it now that it just seems to be a waste if I would do nothing with it.
Being a former player and coach, it kind of gives me a multi perspective on things, where I can relate on both sides and kind of know what players want from the management side and vice versa.
PP: Where did the 88Fox name come from?
RD: The name is actually not my choice, basically 88Fox has been around for 3 or 4 years already, but as a dead site, because nobody was promoting or running it, so I just took over a dead site and re-launched it.
PP: We’ve seen a lot of poker sites come and go; what’s with 88Fox that should entice us to stay and stay for a long-time with this site?
RD: I think what most people try to do is compete with big poker sites like PokerStars, and throw big money at huge events and advertising like them, but finally realize that it’s impossible to compete on such a level. Rather than following them in what they are doing, I try to do different things with 88Fox and try things that other poker sites never have done before.
One nice example is our Pilipinas Poker League, which is a league that consists of Live events and Online events for a very small buy-in, to basically just attract all sorts of players to play on our site and try to create a competitive sports event rather than just have people grinding for bonuses or playing 16 tables for rakeback. We try to create a fun but competitive event for every normal person, not just grinding computer nerds.
PP: Tell us more about 88Fox and its scope; from what countries are the players coming from.
RD: As you know 88Fox is part of the Enet Network, which is basically an Italian casino based player pool. So most Europeans that play on our network come from Italy; while we as a site on the network have Asia only as our target pool. All players that sign up on 88Fox are from Asian countries, primarily Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, China and the Philippines, of course.
PP: You already had the launch event—the Charity for Yolanda event—about two months back; what other similar tournaments can we expect from 88Fox that caters to the Philippine market?
RD: That’s what our Pilipinas Poker League is for Live events in Manila-- and Davao and Cebu coming soon-- and online events specifically for Pinoys only. The whole idea is to set up leagues in all our countries and one day, have an Asian showdown between all the league champions.
PP: Speaking of the Philippine market, it’s pretty obvious you want visibility in this region; why and what sort of potential do you see from this market?
RD: First of all I love the fact that you guys have a completely legalized system, where people can play poker online and live as long as they are licensed. I think with the upcoming new casinos the influx of poker players will grow and it will develop into a very strong market.
PP: Tell us more about the PP-FOX partnership; how did this start? Did Alan strong-arm you for this partnership to come into fruition? Seriously, what did you see in Pilipinas Poker that made you decide that a partnership with this community will be good for 88Fox and its programs?
RD: I actually know Alan from when I was coaching poker players on PilipinasPoker, and Alan was part of it also (although he didn’t listen much). After a while you get to know people better and I have always had a good relationship with PP guys so they were the first people I contacted when I was planning on launching 88Fox in the Philippines. I really have nothing bad to say about Pinoys in general, I always meet great and friendly people which just make me happy I’m working in this market.
PP: The PP-88FOX League has already started; for those who still do not know about this league, please do expound on it a little bit.
RD: The league consists of 6 live poker events and 12 online poker events, in each event you can collect points depending on what position you ended in that particular tournament. After the 18 events, the top 30 will compete in the Grand Finale Event to prove that they are the most cunning poker player in the Philippines.. Because they will have proven that they can beat not only live poker but also online poker. That’s a true testament of skill!
I also wanted to note that the total prizepool from our current league is 1 million pesos! Every live leg is a P100K guaranteed so that makes it P600K already with the final event and the online legs, the prizepool is truly 1 million pesos, in case people thought we were making false advertising!
The Fox giving the opening statement at the inaugural leg of the 88foxpoker Pilipinas Poker League.
PP: Also, you have the PP-88FOX PRO “Becoming the Fox” program already cooking; for those who are still interested what should they do to participate in this program.
RD: Just go to PilipinasPoker forum and apply! That’s all really.. We are just looking for people that not only wants to play poker, but are eager to learn poker. Don’t think that you know everything already.. Have an open mind about things and it will get you further in life.
PP: Aside from this, what other campaigns do you have in store in the near future? Can we expect satellite to big events like APT Philippines 2014 or other Macau/Asian tournaments?
RD: We are thinking about giving the winner of our league a seat to the APT or WPT event, but we haven’t finalized that yet… We just know that it will be a great final event where everyone will receive their own personalized jacket and a champion will be crowned.
Other projects are “the Foxhouse”, which is directly correlated to the Becoming The Fox Program where we will basically pay players to come and work (play poker) for us and receive a fixed amount of income/salary, so people can actually treat it as a real job.
A mobile app for 88Fox, which is coming in 2-3 months, upgrading our current play software, and getting more Asian time friendly online tournaments are the biggest working points right now for us.
PP: As a coach, advice to Filipino players?
RD: Try to always keep an open mind about things, and never become stuck in your situation, even if you are doing well; know that you can always do better. My parents always told me to aim for the sky, because if you aim any lower you will never use your whole potential.