Remember “Urindanger” and “Trex313” from the Full Tilt Poker days? The brothers — Di and Hac Dang — moved on from playing poker for millions of dollars to the life of restaurateurs. They shared details about their new lifestyle with the Washingtonian in a recent interview.
The Dang’s have gone from check-raising Patrik Antonius and Tom “durrrr” Dwan to satisfying hungry customers with delicious Cajun grub. They aren’t the only wealthy poker players to invest in the restaurant industry.
After winning the WSOP Main Event in 2007, Jerry Yang moved on from poker to open an Asian eatery in Las Vegas. Todd Brunson, Poker Hall of Famer and son of the legendary Doyle Brunson, also opened a restaurant in Las Vegas a few years back, Roma Deli, which serves up fresh Italian cuisine.
But the Dang’s have a wild and entertaining story about how they got into the business. For them, it wasn’t initially just about showing off their mad cooking skills or an investment. Di (aka “Urindanger”) thought it might help him pick up women.
“I thought it would be very easy money,” he says. “We’d be the owners, so we’d get, like, some status. You get a lot of girls if you’re a restaurant owner,” Di Dang told the Washingtonian.
Black Friday forces brothers to make tough decisions
Prior to April 15, 2011, the brothers were absolute beasts on the virtual felt. They made a combined $14 million on Full Tilt Poker, and millions more playing in high stakes games in Macau. But then Black Friday struck, and the top poker sites were forced out of the US, where they lived.
That forced the brothers, and many other poker pros, to make a difficult decision — move to another country to continue playing online, or find another career path. Hac initially felt moving to Canada was the right play. After all, he knew just how easy it was for him to make money playing cards online. But his brother had a different idea — open a restaurant.
Hac thought he was insane. They had no experience in the industry and barely even knew how to cook. “Trex313” assumed the business would be easy, much like poker was to him. He’d open a few seafood restaurants, a cuisine he felt would be simple to master, and then sell them quickly for a large profit. The restaurant industry, however, isn’t quite that simple.
“For us, poker was safe. Like, we knew the numbers. We knew if we were playing the game, we were winning. For us, it was another day at the office,” Hac says. “But restaurants were something that we had zero experience in. So that was the risky option for us.”
Even their father, who originally opposed them choosing poker as an occupation, told them to stick with poker instead of entering the restaurant business. They didn’t listen. In April 2012, a year following Black Friday, the poker brothers opened Chasin’ Tails, a crawfish joint, in their home state of Virginia.
The restaurant business, like their poker careers, quickly became a success. Di and Hac went on to open five additional restaurants, these ones serving up Asian cuisine, all in Virginia. All was going well for the brothers for years. Their restaurants had become widely popular in their home state and the money was rolling in.
But then a global health pandemic struck earlier this year. On March 17, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a statewide shutdown. The Dang’s six restaurants were temporarily closed. Ten days later, they reopened as a takeout business called Operation Delivering Happiness, which featured a mixed cuisine of their six restaurants.
Not long after reopening, Di caught a case of the coronavirus and became sick for a week or so. He fully recovered and was never hospitalized. Business declined due to COVID-19. But these brothers know what it’s like to suffer financial losses — they’ve lost up to $1 million in a day playing poker. So, they’re confident the business will bounce back.
You don’t quit after suffering a bad beat in a tournament. Good players regroup, forget about the hand, and rebuild their chip stack. That’s what they have planned for their restaurant business.
“Some restaurants are going to survive,” Di told the Washingtonian. “The best ones.”