By Matt Clark
The Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions is around the corner. On Thursday, May 24, 2018, World Poker Tour title holders will embark on fabulous Las Vegas to compete in the prestigious event at ARIA Resort & Casino. The final table will play out at Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor Hotel & Casino on Saturday, May 26. In lead up to the event, WPT.com is featuring all of the winners from Season XVI, who, along with the hefty first-place prize, earned a $15,000 seat into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions. Next up is Darryll Fish, who topped a field of 911 entries in the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open to win $511,604.
Broke a few summers ago with no idea of where to go next, Darryll Fish’s journey to becoming a WPT Champion started with him in tears at the Rio. A summer filled with disappointing results led Fish to be distraught over what his next day or next hour would look like.
Tears of joy replaced his somber weeps following Fish’s win in the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open. Years of close calls came to an end at the casino Fish knows best.
The Floridian turned his second WPT final table at the Hard Rock into a win and over $500,000 in prize money. In a season filled with lesser-known players winning final tables, Fish’s victory stands out against a field of 911.
Fish’s comfort at Seminole played a role in his long-awaited triumph. Familiarity with a venue and city equals better poker played by Fish. A few months later, a similar feeling crept up for Fish at Montreal.
The partypoker MILLIONS North American Main Event attracted 1,954 entrants and Fish took second among them for $937,221.
After Seminole, Fish took time off from poker to pursue his passion for travel. Trips to South America and Europe cleared the brain of poker and assisted Fish in re-assimilating when he played again.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” Fish said. “Some tournaments, you feel a little bit more about it. Barcelona, I didn’t have any special idea thinking I was going to win or anything special. Montreal and Lucky Hearts, I felt that way about both of them. It just comes up randomly sometimes. Certain tournaments I’ll always go play because the city is so great.”
The Playground Poker Club in Montreal is a place of success. Fish owns three Main Tour cashes at the property with a second-place finish result from Season XIV preceding his recent silver medal.
The player types in Florida are against whom Fish says he feels the most confident versus. After beating the opponent in the Rio mirror a few years ago, Fish feels like he can beat anyone.
“You have to hit rock bottom to know how bad you don’t want to be at rock bottom and how bad you want to succeed. Everyone needs to learn that lesson if they really want to succeed in life and that was a blessing in disguise. I can call back to that day specifically and the feelings of being so defeated. ”
Fish managed to reel his bankroll back to life thanks to a backing deal made with a friend of his. The thousands won by Fish at $1/$3 cash games gave him the confidence he needed to try his wits out in tournaments. Fish almost jumped into a life outside of poker but decided to stick with what spoke to him.
“It was four or five years ago where I was the most busto that anybody could be,” Fish told WPT.com. “I had situations where I could do other things but none of them really spoke to me that much or felt like the right thing to do. I already invested so much energy into poker that it would feel stupid to give up on it.”
In the aftermath of his win at the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, Fish noted that he was able to visualize his win happening from the midway point from the tournament all the way through heads up. Close calls in previous WPT events and Seminole Main Events allowed Fish to have the confidence levels he says he needs to go deep.
The work ethic required to do well in poker is invested by Fish but with the time comes an understanding of being Sisyphus.
“Most things in life, if you work hard in over years, you’re at least going to be doing okay,” Fish said. “Poker is not like that at all. Variance doesn’t care about that a lot of the time. Poker is great in a lot of ways. It toughens you and teaches you valuable lessons.”
The payback for Fish’s expenditure of rebuilding his career is the freedom to be unchained from a full-time tournament schedule. Fish traveled to Yosemite National Park between Montreal and the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic. Although Fish stone-bubbled, he once again proved himself capable of competing at a high level.
“Balance helps, always. Coming into a tournament with a high level of excitement makes it way easier to play your game. When I don’t play poker for a while, it reminds of why I do play poker which is enjoying my lifestyle. I’m more motivated because I have a plan of action for my winnings.”
There’s another step for Fish to climb in the WPT Tournament of Champions. His permanent seat in the event marks a fun challenge before the start of the summer grind.
“It’s cool from a prestige perspective. I don’t really care that much about titles and trophies but that’s a pretty unique tournament to win. It’s a good value tournament. Most people who have won WPTs, I feel confident that I have an edge against them.”
The $100,000 added to the prize pool in the WPT Tournament of Champions along with a $50,000 bonus for first-place provides the value that Fish speaks of.
Fish’s success in 2018 makes him a mystery for what his future WPT prospects hold. Expect to see more photos of beaches than chip stacks in the coming months.
A comeback from despair from years ago crescendoed in a span of months. Maybe there’s one more WPT title waiting for Fish to push him firmly into the sunset.
For the full list of features on Season XVI WPT champions, see below.
– “Paul Petraglia Enters WPT Tournament of Champions with a Plan”
– “Road Warrior Pete Chen is Wheels Up for the WPT Tournament of Champions”
– “Dennis Blieden is the WPT Tournament of Champions’ Million Dollar Man”
– “Jay Lee Turns WPT Choctaw Win Into Business Venture”
– “Rens Feenstra Plays for the WPT Amsterdam Double Dutch”
– “Maxime Heroux Carries the Canadian Flag into the WPT Tournament of Champions”
– “Eric Afriat’s Passion Goes to ARIA for WPT Tournament of Champions”
– “Scott Margereson’s Game Matches His Online Fame”
– “Ryan Tosoc Reflects on His “Ultimate Success” Prior to WPT Tournament of Champions”
– “David Larson’s Freeroll Continues at WPT Tournament of Champions”
– “Guo Liang Chen is the WPT Tournament of Champions Wildcard”
– “Larry Greenberg’s Retirement Starts with a WPT Title”
– “Darryll Fish Adds to His Adventure at the WPT Tournament of Champions“
The Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions runs May 24-26, 2018 in Las Vegas. If you’re interested in becoming a WPT champion and competing in this event, you can play for your chance on ClubWPT.com. ClubWPT is where eligible VIP members can play for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes each month, including seats to WPT events. No purchase is necessary for the ClubWPT sweepstakes and the service is void in states where prohibited. See terms and conditions at ClubWPT.com.