Competitive poker may only be around 50 years old, but it’s had more than a few memorable moments and stories. It also had numerous outstanding players, as the best of the best become part of poker history. One such notable poker player is Dan Smith. 

Player Overview

Dan Smith is an American professional poker player, philanthropist, and former chess wizard. With over $40 million in total tournament earnings, Smith is eighth on The Hendon Mob’s all-time money list. He has one WSOP bracelet, one World Poker Tour (WPT) title, and eight European Poker Tour (EPT) titles. 

Smith is a regular at High Roller tournaments, with notable finishes in series like the Triton Poker Super High Roller and the Super High Roller Bowl. In September 2014, he held the number one ranking on the Global Poker Index. This independent ranking service rates poker pros worldwide based on their tournament performances.

With everything he has won, what he does with his winnings may be the most surprising thing about Smith. He’s an altruist, collaborating with non-profits like The Life You Can Save to give millions to those in need. He frequently donates to charities and organizes humanitarian drives annually.

Early Life

Dan Smith was born on February 23, 1989, in New Jersey. Chess was his first passion, which he took up seriously at age six. He practiced frequently, dreaming of attending college on a chess scholarship.

Unfortunately, he began experiencing burnout around 15 years old. As his passion for chess diminished, he searched for a new hobby. Eventually, he found poker as many chess players played poker on the side. 

Smith was only 16, still a couple years below the legal gambling age in the US. He still found a way to play online poker. He began learning the game, slowly honing his skills and earning small amounts, even as a teenager.

In Smith’s junior year playing poker, he made $30,000 in two months. However, the end of high school coincided with a significant downswing, and he lost so much that his parents made him cash out and focus on college. 

He got back into chess and achieved his childhood dream, obtaining a chess scholarship from the University of Maryland. Sadly, a string of tragic events, including his father’s passing, led to Smith dropping out of university in 2008.

After transferring to a different college in New Jersey, Smith got back into poker at the insistence of a few poker-playing friends. He decided to make it his career, quitting school to focus on poker full-time.

Poker Career

In a 2014 interview, Smith revealed why he chose to focus on poker instead of chess. Playing chess for hours and still losing was incredibly demoralizing, and because of his competitive personality, as he knew there was nobody to blame except himself. 

In poker, a few external factors can affect your gameplay. Losing is sometimes inevitable, and every day will be different. While some people may view this as bad, Smith loved it because it meant there was always a chance he’d do better the next poker session. In the end, Smith’s passion speaks for itself with his impressive career. 

Smith collected his first live cash in 2008, winning the Heartland Poker Tour Main Event for $101,960. After this explosive start, his career went through a bit of a lull, earning a few four- and five-figure scores here and there.

At the end of 2011, Smith had third- and fourth-place finishes at the EPT for a combined $200,000. The following year was when his career really took off. 

It started with a win at the No Limit Hold’em $100,000 Challenge event of the January 2012 Aussie Millions Poker Championship, netting Smith his first seven-figure score of $1,041,828.

In April, he had three six-figure wins at the Berlin and Monte Carlo EPT. Smith earned $201,971, $330,724, and $155,790 in three No Limit Hold’em events.

That August, Smith placed third at the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em of the 2012 WSOP for $368,943. He followed that up by taking down the No Limit Hold’em – Super High Roller of the EPT in Barcelona for $1,183,100.

Smith topped the year off with a $224,430 finish at the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event. His exploits earned him the Global Poker Index Player of the Year award and second place in Card Player and Bluff Magazine‘s respective Player of the Year awards. Since then, Smith has consistently proven himself as one of the best players in the world. 

His numerous accomplishments include a WPT Main Event win for $1,161,135 in 2013 and earning $2,044,766 at the 2014 Las Vegas Super High Roller. Smith also won a WSOP bracelet at the 2022 $25,000 No Limit Hold’em – Heads-Up Championship

His biggest tournament cash to date was a staggering $8,765,628 finish at the 2019 Triton Poker Million for Charity Event #2.

Charity Work

To feel more connected to the world, Smith organized his first charity drive in 2013. He contributed $25,000 to the Humane League, which eventually grew to $125,000 thanks to the matching drive event. 

In 2014, he founded the Double Up Drive. The organization aims to contribute to charity while inspiring others to do the same. It selects a few charities annually, then matches the amount others donate to them, doubling the donation amount. It’s become incredibly successful in recent years, once raising $4,500,000 in 2017 thanks to 717 donors. 

In 2021, Smith also collaborated with Run It Once Poker to help families affected by the pandemic.