A chat with 2011 Ante Up POY Darryll Fish

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Our 2011 Ante Up Player of the Year is Darryll Fish of Hallandale Beach, Fla. Known as DFish online, Darryll had a late surge last year to capture the title, including a pair of top-10 finishes at two Florida WPT events. He has nearly $2 million in tournament winnings, including a WCOOP title, and is a Florida native. We recently chatted with him on our Ante Up PokerCast about his accomplishments.

You’ve always done well playing live, but it’s no secret you were an online beast. When Black Friday put a kink in online play, was there any part of you that looked forward to playing more live? It’s funny you ask that. Everybody always asks, “How did you react to Black Friday and how did it affect you?” And I had already began to make more of a transition back to live cash games a few months prior to Black Friday because I was getting a little burned out with the whole online tournament grind. I was actually more prepared for it than most. I was kinda already preparing myself for more of a live grind anyway, so it was an easy transition for me.

You’re a Florida resident and when we got true uncapped poker you said you were ecstatic. Has it lived up to your expectations and where do you play most? I was pretty pumped for the laws to change, having been born and raised in Florida and having played all over the place down here from the time it was $2 straight limit. (laughs) It was pretty exciting. I was living in Vegas at the time and had moved back in preparation for the laws to change. It hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations yet, because it’s still early in the process of everything. In the grand scheme of things we don’t even have a real casino yet, and I think that’s coming in the future. It’s really hard to look at the past year or so and judge based on such a small sample. The games have been good, mostly $5-$10 and $10-$25 is the biggest there is. I have no problem with the games. I play mostly at the Hard Rock (in Hollywood) and the Isle of Pompano.

How tough is life on tour these days, especially since the pool got so much harder after Black Friday? Live poker is not what it used to be. When I first started playing poker really seriously I played mostly live in cash games and casinos. It was just amazing how easy the money was, and even now the smaller-stakes games are toughening. The tournament circuit has gotten so difficult. I’ve had more success in the Florida tournaments than anything else and I would say those are much softer on average. I’m not going to toot my own horn saying I beat the best players in the world (laughs), but at the same time all the fields on average are getting tougher live because of Black Friday. It definitely makes you work harder and I feel like I have, and that’s why I’ve done so well.

Nearly all of your live cashes are NLHE with a few PLOs sprinkled in. Do you dabble in the mixed games? I really like all forms of poker to some extent. I really like Omaha Hi-Lo, that’s actually my favorite game. It’s just not spread as commonly in tournaments other than the World Series, so naturally the results are going to come more in the tournaments that are more common. But I also have trouble playing limit-format tournaments for a few reasons, like they’re boring as hell (laughs), the structures are shit most of the time, it’s kinda pointless I feel like, so I mostly stick to the ones I won’t get bored in and start playing any two. (laughs)

What does it mean to win an accolade such as Ante Up Player of the Year? It’s always rewarding. It gives you a sense of entitlement and gives you some motivation. It shows you actually accomplished something, which is something people always wonder what the difference between cash games and tournaments is. And that’s one of the differences, the feeling of competition, the fact that you’re winning something, there’s some notoriety to it. I mean, I don’t play poker for fame or notoriety, but it still feels good. It definitely motivates you and makes you want to do more of the same thing you’ve been doing.

What’s your feeling on these circuits and tours being piled on top of one another? Do you feel it will hurt the poker economy? It’s kinda crazy because this stuff just started happening this past year or so. It’s good and bad. It creates action but at the same time it makes everything smaller. People look at that and say, “The fields are small; poker is dying,” whereas they don’t realize there’s just the same field in four cities across the country. It’s give-and-take, but overall I think it’s a good thing because it shows poker is growing and the worst ones will die off. It’s survival of the fittest, and especially in Florida, things are really booming so I really feel like it’s a good sign for the future.

It’s obvious you’re an elite player, but do you still get your chops busted for having the last name Fish? (laughs) Well, first of all I don’t know about calling myself an elite player, but if you guys want to say that I’ll take it. (laughs) I definitely do. Even the regulars at the casinos I play at they always give me shit about it. I’ve obviously heard it my whole life, even before poker I had to deal with it in school for whatever reasons. It’s one of those things I’ve learned to live with, and I kinda feel like it’s a good thing overall for poker, but it’s definitely something you have to have thick skin for. (laughs)

Final 2011 Ante Up POY standings

1. Darryll Fish, Hallandale Beach, FL, 1,226
2. Anthony Ruberto, Hollywood, FL, 1,207
3. Samuel Barnhart, Little Rock, AR, 1,155
4. John Riordan, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, 1,121
5. Mike Morton, Mays Landing, NJ, 1,058
6. Taylor Von Kreigenbergh, Stoneham, MA, 1,040
7. Farhan Madhani, Edgewater, NJ, 978
8. Dan Clemente, Hernando, MS, 932
9 .Corey Burbick, Davie, FL, 931
10. Chris Conrad, Tampa, FL, 896
11. Christopher Tryba, Las Vegas, 889
12. Alexander Venovski, Clermont, FL, 884
13. Nick Schwarmann, Orlando, FL, 817
14. Scott Zakheim, Davie, FL, 803
15. Connor Drinan, Arlington Heights, IL, 794
16. Allen Bari, West Orange, NJ, 752
17. Steven Tait, Centerton, AK, 743
18. Doug Lang, Tampa, FL, 739
19. Curt Kohlberg, Western, MA, 735
20. Alexander Kuzmin, Moscow, 731
21. Mukul Pahuja, Hicksvile, NY, 717
22. David MacDonald, Jupiter, FL, 708
23. Rod Rodriguez, Longwood, FL, 703
24. Scott Hastings, Springfield, MO, 695
25. Dan Santoro, North Bellmore, NY, 685
26. Jared Hubbard, Farmington, MN, 684
27. Victor Coelho, Tampa, FL, 681
28. Harrison Gimbel, Jupiter, FL, 664
29. Brian Hawkins, Ft. Myers, FL, 662
30. Kevin Deng, Port St. Lucie, FL, 661
31. Jesse White, Summer Shade, KY, 651
32. Tom Aprea, East Marion, NY, 647
33. Tony Spinella, Plattsburgh, NY, 641
34. Sam Soverel, Tampa, FL, 636
35. Ray Leone Sr., St. Augustine, FL, 634
36. Matthew Ezrol, Coconut Creek, FL, 613
37. Matthew Waxman, Parkland, FL, 603
38. Justin Zaki, Tierra Verde, FL, 600
39. Ali Alawadhi, Longwood, FL, 594
40. McLean Karr, Ft. Wayne, IN, 578
41. Rebecca Koransky, Longwood, FL, 578
42. Ronald Lee, Long Beach, MS, 576
43. Jason Mullen, North Mankato, MN, 568
44. Ganesh Letchumanan, Falls Church, VA, 561
45. Austin Buchanan, Winter Park, FL, 560
46. Matthew Beisher, Reno, NV, 558
47. Fred Goldberg, Hollywood, FL, 554
48. David Diaz, Memphis, 548
49. Ly Do, San Antonio, TX, 540
50. Ronit Chamani, Johannesburg, SA, 531