Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau has enjoyed a meteoric rise in poker over the last few years. He won the $25,200 High Roller during the WPT World Championship festival at Wynn Las Vegas in December for $894,240, and between live and online poker, Yau has claimed a World Series of Poker bracelet and four WSOP Circuit rings.
Rampage also features prominently in some of the biggest live-streamed cash games in the world, as he did Wednesday night on Hustler Casino Live – playing $25/$50/$100 No Limit Hold’em.
He’s done all of that, and more, while building up one of the most popular poker vlogs in the world. Rampage’s YouTube channel just passed the five-year mark, boasts 224,000 subscribers, and carried Rampage to two Global Poker Awards a few weeks ago – Best Vlogger and Best Poker Personality.
But even amidst all these successes, the volatility of poker – especially at its highest levels – can rear its ugly head. Rampage lost about $16,000 while the Hustler Casino Live stream was running, but as the game continued post-stream he lost a six-figure pot towards the end of the night. According to a Substack post he wrote shortly after the game wrapped, it’s part of a $400,000 downswing Rampage is in the midst of over the last few months.
A few years ago, such a sum would’ve been beyond dizzying for Rampage, and he’s had some nice wins during his Hustler Casino Live sessions as well. In the immediate aftermath, he was still able to contextualize his appreciation for the opportunity to travel from Las Vegas, where he lives, to play in such a big game.
“Tonight, I lost piles. I can’t win or lose that much if I’m playing any regular Vegas game, whether it’s $25/%50, unless it’s a private $100/$200 game,” Yau said. “It’s nice to be able to come to L.A. and play Hustler whenever I want,” said Yau. “The cash games here don’t really compare to any other.”
That’s just half of the equation for Rampage right now, though. Since his big win in December, he’s been playing a fair volume of tournaments, with a pair of final tables inside of the PokerGO studio and cashes at both the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and EPT Paris to show for it. He’s showed a strong aptitude for tournaments over the last three years, especially considering that outside a pair of small pre-pandemic cashes in Boston, everything exploded with Rampage’s first significant tournament result – $164,494 for winning his aforementioned WSOP online bracelet.
It’s not hard to follow why the tournament bug quickly bit Rampage.
“Right now, I just feel like playing a lot of tournaments,” said Yau. “For one reason or another, I keep going back to it. It’s just the ability to win a trophy, it feels competitive and definitive. But I’m trying to figure out what I want to do [long-term].”
As he mentioned in his Substack post on Wednesday night, though, a downswing of this magnitude is an opportunity to evaluate and reassess where he’s at in his career.
“It seems silly that four years ago when I started playing poker, I remember losing $500 one night, and I felt so beaten and distraught that I had to scream at the top of my lungs when I got into my car,” Yau wrote. “Kicking, screaming hysterically – I thought it was rock bottom. That $500 was such a high percentage of my net worth at the time. And each subsequent year, I’ve had outrageous highs and lows.”
The stakes Rampage plays in 2023 are a far cry from where he was in 2018, just starting his vlog and bouncing ideas off of his community as he tried to improve his game.
“In the beginning, it was great. Because I’d be accountable with hands, going over them and learning and getting feedback from the YouTube comments,” said Yau. “Having the hand histories helps as step one of getting better. My first year of vlogging, I made videos because I wanted to get better and I didn’t know how to improve at poker. So I figured getting random advice from strangers on the internet was a good way to do it.
“Nowadays, I have a good circle of friends that can berate me on hands, which I’m sure I mess up all the time,” said Yau. “I’m sure I messed up today, because I lost a good amount today. Everything’s a learning process.”
So how will Rampage pull himself out of this latest downswing? With the WSOP’s summer schedule looming a little over two months away, it’s hard to escape thoughts of the opportunities that lie ahead for poker players. For the moment Rampage’s attention is split between two worlds.
“For now, I guess my eyes are set on WSOP for this summer,” said Yau. “I’d love to just play more cash sometimes. I don’t know – I always go back and forth. When tournaments aren’t going well, then I want to play cash, and when cash isn’t going well I want to play tournaments.”
There will be cash games and tournaments along the way for Rampage as well, including a return to the Hustler Casino Live stream on Friday night. And whether it’s in one of these games, or a tournament, he’s confident that even in this moment of losing and reflection, he’ll climb his way out of the hole.
“One way or another, I’ll find a way to bounce back.”