The Quiet Man of Poker - How Cary Katz Went Under the Radar to Win Over $36m
There is likely only one player in poker who could go past $36 million in live tournament winnings and not grab every poker headline across multiple media outlets. This week, like many others in poker, one of the quietest men in the game of poker has barely said a word yet has added six figures of profit to his coffers by playing the game he loves.
Cary Katz cashed an incredible five times in the 2023 PokerGO Cup. That’s better than a cash every other tournament in an event series populated by some of the toughest players in the game. At the end of the final table, he had to finish in the top two. Frequently, each hand he played seemed to be under the most microscopic of scrutiny. On every occasion, Katz came up with the cream.
Taking the Cup, Dodging the Limelight
To say that Cary Katz is not a creature who enjoys the limelight would be both an understatement and a contradiction. On the one hand, he is modest to a fault, quiet at the felt, understated in both his actions and his words, and shies from the camera and microphone.
Flying in the face of that humble nature, however, is the game he can’t stop playing. Contravening his shyness, Katz simply loves poker more than he dislikes the glare of those hot lights that so consistently find him at final tables. Reaching the final table of a PokerGO Cup event is hard. In fact, for some of the best players in the world, it’s worth skipping for easier events. Not Katz. This is a man who has won much of his fortune at the felt in the toughest tournaments going and constantly mixes it up in order to stay in profit.
Even in overall victory, having topped the final leaderboard during the 2023 PokerGO Cup’s final event, Katz was happy to step aside for the final event winner. He wanted Ike Haxton to enjoy the camera flashes. Katz, just 52 years old, still has years of tournament to come, and has won an incredible 28 live ranking events. That’s six more than Jason Koon. But he seems not to pursue anything. It would be simplistic to say there is no ambition, but there is also an acceptance with luck going against him.
2022 Global Poker Award-winning Best Broadcaster Jeff Platt couldn’t help but pat ‘El Jefe’ on the back once victory was confirmed and the 2023 PokerGO Cup belonged to the man who built the room in which the drama played out.
El Jefe!!!!! Well-deserved series championship https://t.co/RmbBEfxpq2
— Jeff Platt (@jeffplatt) January 21, 2023
Where Does Cary Katz Sit in Poker’s Historic Winners?
Riding high on The Hendon Mob’s all-time money list, Katz is currently ranked as the 12th most successful live tournament poker player of all time. To put that in some context, Katz has won more money in live poker tournaments than the legendary Steve O’Dwyer, his conqueror in that final PokerGO Cup event Isaac Haxton, Canadian crusher Timothy Adams and the 16-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.
The Poker Brat himself was quick to congratulate his friend on his latest win after he became champion.
Cary Katz is a special guy! He is a great person, and a great man. Generous, kind, polite, world class sharp, and one of poker saviors (he invested over $20M of his own money in @PokerGO). Congrats Cary!
Cary Katz Crowned 2023 PokerGO Cup Champion https://t.co/JwRFw9k9ko
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) January 21, 2023
Katz is closing in a position amongst the top ten players of all-time and to date has barely been discussed in the subject of the greatest players ever. Even when he has been successful in previous events, Katz has quickly deflected the praise on himself and looked to throw others into the brightest spotlight.
Watch this interview from his runner-up result in May of 2022, when he defers to the talented players he faces, and is the first to lead the applause for event winner Dylan Weisman.
We wrap things up today on @PokerGO with a quick convo with the runner-up, Cary Katz, and the winner, @Dweisman13 pic.twitter.com/sAFV87QqI4
— Jeff Platt (@jeffplatt) March 27, 2022
With such an impressive resume, Katz is clearly threatening that top ten and has done so while launching a hugely successful career on the business side of the poker industry during an immensely challenging period including a pandemic and, more generally, a seismic shift in how people play – and consume – the game.
Katz, of course, founded Poker Central in 2015 and subsequently launched the subscription-based poker streaming service PokerGO, with unique formats such as the PokerGO Cup, Super High Roller Bowl, Poker Masters, and U.S. Poker Open aided by the brilliant reboots of shows such as High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. The fact that the archives have been opened up, with poker from the ages being on demand via his PokerGO service is a credit not only to the site but the man personally. It is Katz’ vision upon which PokerGO’s success has been built, make no mistake about it.
Cary Katz may not see himself as the significant contributor he undoubtedly is, but he adores poker history and his efforts to preserve it have only led to more success for him within its pages.
A Man of Principals
Katz, a family man with six children, has plenty of outside passions close to his heart. He raises money for charity, serves as President of his local school and having made billions in his College Loan Corporation company, has come a long way from the boy who learned poker at his grandmother’s knee. He has only been playing ranking events in the last 20 years and seems to have been giving as much as he has ever won during that time, most often to charity endeavours.
Poker came to Katz late, but it has evidently been a labor of love setting up PokerGO and ploughing his way through the various fields he has hoped to become a quiet member of. Flying under the radar is his aim, but that only works until you start taking out targets in your wake.
Katz in a poker tournament is the equivalent of a silent running bomber in an air raid during fog. He’s in there somewhere and he’s doing damage whether you can see it or not.
Katz has taken a stand, too. Both Ali Imsirovic and Jake Schindler were not permitted to take part in high roller events after being suspected of either collusion or cheating last year. Allegations are one thing, but Katz read the situation perfectly. There were no grand statements, no flags to be waved, but neither man was permitted to take part in events inside the PokerGO Studio at ARIA and they were both removed from the PokerGO Tour’s leaderboard with immediate effect.
Where Next for the ‘Quiet Man’ of Poker?
It would be an easy assumption to make that playing in the World Series of Poker is unimportant to a man so accustomed to comminating the high roller scene he has himself helped to grow. That presumption would be wrong, however, as despite never winning a bracelet, Katz’s 58 cashes across WSOP events suggest his inability to claim gold to date is not for the lack of trying.
Katz has reached the final nine players in a WSOP event a dozen times, but never won a bracelet. He came second for the first time in a WSOP event in 2013 in the $5,000-entry Pot Limit Omaha event, losing heads-up to Belgian multiple winner Davidi Kitai at a final table that included Dimitar Danchev, Eugene Katchalov and Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier.
Four years later, Katz came second again, this time to Mohsin Charania in the $1,500-entry No Limit Hold’em event. A total of 1,578 opponents were outlasted, but one was not. Katz was the first to congratulate Charania on fulfilling the desire he himself wanted to achieve.
It is not only having financial stability that leads to this level of humility; Katz seems genuinely pleased when others win. Again, this contradicts poker’s innately selfish ethic. You are competing against everyone else. Somehow, Katz seems unable to deliberately set out to do this, yet naturally success follows him. Perhaps it is his ability to see the cards simply as they are – tools with which to move money.
Just as he succeeded in business, Katz quietly raises the stakes at the poker table. Who can say how far he might yet climb in the rankings before he decides that one more night under the brightest of final table lights is not for him any more? Certainly not Katz himself.
He’s too busy playing at the top of his game to consider how bright his star really shines.