Daniel Lowery chasing WSOPC Ring record as second-best player from Arkansas

Paul Oresteen
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Posted on: January 26, 2024 10:04 am EST

Daniel Lowery is in the thick of the fight for the all-time lead of World Series of Poker Circuit rings. He has 14 golden, bejeweled rings, leader Ari Engel has 16, but the rings are woefully undersized for Lowery’s calloused and gnarled hands.

Hands that started cutting lumber at 16-years-old in the Ozarks, hands that started his own sawmill at 20 and hands that are out of place among the soft, keyboard warrior hands that fill seats around him.

“I’d rather have a bad day at the sawmill over a good day of cards, always,” Lowery said. “I’ve been around logging since I was 16 and I’ve never changed occupations for a reason. I see myself doing that until I die.”

Sawmill owner first

Lowery, 50, hails from Peter Pender, Arkansas and runs a successful sawmill. The stout, barrel-chested father of four carries himself with intimidating confidence, capped with a military-approved crew cut. But Lowery’s goofy smile and friendly disposition ease first impressions after a few minutes.

Lowery doesn’t think of himself as a pro player, despite having $3.2 million in Hendon earnings, $1.75 million from the WSOP, and taking poker trips to Egypt, Cypress, and the Caribbean – you know, typical Arkansas sawmill owner things.

“I really never considered myself a professional – I still don’t,” he added. “I didn’t have as much sports and stuff to attend last year. I was always at home for that stuff. I probably played 2.5 times as much as I’ve ever played, and the results showed.”

When he returns to the sawmill between tournaments, he gets asked how his vacation was. “I’m like, ‘Man, this is my vacation,” he said.

When Lowery’s three older children were in high school, he made it a point to attend games and attend functions. It’s family first for him, then business, then poker. But even then, there’s a massive amount of crossover between family and poker.

Running good with his poker family

Lowery surrounds himself with friends and family while on the road. In fact, he met his wife Krista while she traveled the circuit as a dealer. “I feel fortunate that I have a network of friends that are positive. I try to keep friends that are the most upbeat guys around,” he said.

Daniel with Tana Karn.

The Lowerys play lots of WSOP Circuit and RunGood Tour events as a familial unit. They often travel with their youngest son Gus, whose passport at seven years old is more impressive than most. “I like to travel to destination spots now and support Tana (Karn of RunGood),” said Lowery. “I’ve been to Graton three times now and loved it. Those kinds of things mean more to me.”

“People (at the table) say I should go play WPTs and bigger events. But I see those guys and they just seem miserable to me,” Lowery said. “I’m not doing this for fame – the closest thing I’d say I’d be doing for any kind of notoriety is that I’d like to get on top of the WSOPC ring list.”

Lowery understands that with his limited schedule with a family and business, his opportunities to catch the grinders in front of him are limited. He had an opportunity to expand his travel schedule for the 2022/2023 season when his youngest daughter graduated from high school and took full advantage.

One year to win five

He set out with one goal in mind that year – to win five rings in a single season. A feat that no one has done. He came close, real close.

“I wound up winning five in an eight-month period, but not in the same season. So, nothing special I guess,” Lowery said with Southern ease.

“I consider myself a sawmill owner and I enjoy that more than being out on the road,” he added. “It’s great to have a sense of family in poker. I notice a lot of negativity in poker,” Lowery said.

“I’m very fortunate to win at a high rate,” he said. “I win more than the average person, I assume; I’m a closer – people call me closer.”

The Closer

Lowery’s support has had very real tangible results. Lowery has 158 WSOP cashes with 63 final tables – a mind-numbing 40% final table rate – which would draw suspicious eyes of any curious investigators if these numbers happened online.

When reading these numbers back to Lowery, he shrugged and said, “Yeah…”

“I can’t imagine how negative or down I’d be if I was cashing at a 20% rate, and that’s pretty average for a grinder,” Lowery said. “My ROI is really high, a lot of people argue that it can’t be that high, but it really is. I might fire a few shells here and there, but in the last year and a half I’ve tried to limit it to two, or sometimes three, shells in a tournament.”

“My wife kept up with my ROI last year and it was kind of nuts,” he said. “I can’t imagine traveling and cashing at 30% and being away from my family. That’s what I’m getting at, I’m not trying to say that as a brag.”

Krista joins him on the road when she can. She spends a good amount of time running the business. She knows how to run every piece of equipment they have, she runs the books and handles the logistics – all while raising a family, tracking Daniel’s wins and losses and playing poker herself from time to time.

The Hendon Mob will tell you that Daniel is the #1 ranked player from Arkansas. But Krista is the first to say, “He’s the second-best player from Arkansas.”

“Yeah, I’m definitely second behind her,” he nodded matter-of-factly.

Hanging with the new kids

Lowery plays with a grit and toughness you’d expect from a logger and isn’t afraid to stare down GTO-obsessed players. “Some of these guys think they’re playing GTO but when you’re playing a $400 tournament on the Circuit, you can throw GTO out the window,” he said. “I understand enough to where I can exploit it. My experience is going to keep me ahead of the game against some of those younger guys.”

“I don’t study, and that’s a dig at myself,” Lowery said as he fidgeted his knotted fingers. “I’m around really good players and we discuss hands; that’s the closest thing to studying I do. I’ve been playing for 12 years now and never had a losing year.”

Iron sharpens iron

Lowery traces back his desire to succeed at poker a little over 20 years ago in Tunica. He won a limit hold’em tournament and eliminated a salty local after Lowery called a three-bet with ace-nine. “This guy had ace-king and stands over the table losing it on me. He berated me to the point where I wanted to get better.”

Some 20+ years, a couple thousand nights in hotels and countless cardrooms later, Lowery understands the game earned by hard knocks and tough beats. Around ten years ago, Lowery had a good night at the expense of some pissed off locals that wanted to escalate things in parking deck.

Three guys tried to jump him while he and Krista were walking to their car. It was a bad idea on their part because Lowery could easily tattoo “H-O-R-M-E-L” across the back of his hands. It’s best not to threaten a family man when his family is around.

The family guy

Lowery is a proud father and is happy that his three older children have all picked their own paths in life, away from the felt. “I tried to steer my older kids clear of it,” he said. “My oldest daughter is really good at games and I wouldn’t have minded teaching her, but I don’t to go out of my way to do that.”

“But Gus has been around poker since he was born,” said Lowery. “I have a picture of me with a laptop sweating action in Vegas, a final table on another screen, with Gus on my belly and me feeding him a bottle.”

Gus is a rambunctious second grader that’s seen the Great Pyramids of Giza, swam in the Caribbean and can calculate pot odds – something not too common in rural Arkansas elementary schools.

“He’s just picked it up from traveling with us. He’s a real smart kid; I wouldn’t try to keep him away from it as much as I did with my other kids,” he said. “As long as he can stay away from all the other vices that come with the territory.”

It almost seems inevitable that Gus will find his way into poker one way or another. But with Daniel’s dedication to his family and his protective nature, Gus should have all the tools he needs.

“With playing on the road all the time – I’ve struggled with those vices the same way as everyone – it’s tough,” said Lowery. “I don’t want to see any of my kids fall into those traps. It’s not the life I want for my kids.”

All images courtesy of 8131 Media.