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Daryn Firicano: On Foxwoods and Phil Hellmuth
Poker fans and historians will remember July 25, 2006, as the day that Phil Hellmuth Jr. clinched his tenth World Series of Poker bracelet. Daryn Firicano will remember it as the day he logged his best-ever cash in a live action poker tournament. Firicano finished third in the WSOP's fateful Event 34, behind only Hellmuth and runner-up Juha Helppi, and though the event would ultimately be seen as the Poker Brat's vindication, it did mark a coming out of sorts for the native of Woburn, Mass., who took home $187,219 for his efforts.
Flash forward five months and Firicano is right in the middle of the action at the World Poker Tour's first Foxwoods stop of Season 5, the World Poker Finals. Firicano entered Day 2 as substantial chip leader and maintained his advantage for most of the day despite spending much of it facing off with Full Tilt Poker pro Clonie Gowen. I talked to Daryn during a break in the action to get his opinion of the event, as well as his memories of that fateful final table.
How are you playing today?
I've come down in chips a bit, actually. There are two guys that have just kind of blown up recently - Eric Cajelais is at about $900,000, I figure - but I'm playing alright. I'm holding my own doing what I have to do.
How did you get all your chips today?
Today, actually, I won this big pot. I had two kings against two queens. I opened in the cutoff, he raised, I re-raised, and he pushed in. He had $220,000 to start the hand and I busted him that hand, so obviously that helped me out a lot.
What did you start the day with?
$343,000, I think. Something like that. $345,000, maybe, which is kind of a lot. I was ahead of second place by like $100k.
How did you get the chips on Day 1?
It was just a lot of good situations, you know what I mean? You play good but you get in spots where like I had two jacks and I opened, and the flop came Ace-Jack-8, and I'm up against Ace-8. That helps. Other situations, you know, pair against pair and I hold up. Holding up is key, too, because anyone can get in overpair against overpair, but sometimes you lose those. Everything just worked out yesterday, though.
How's the caliber of play at your tables?
I don't mean to put anyone down, but it's a pretty soft field.
You had Clonie Gowen at your table for a while and then it seemed like a number of amateur players.
I mean, I've been at some good tables, but in general the field is not that strong. But yeah, I've been at some strong tables with some really good tables.
But for the most part you feel like it's a pretty soft field?
Yeah. I feel like I can hold my own against the top players, and I can take advantage of the weaker players.
Is there any change in your strategy now that the bubble has burst?
Well, yeah, I mean, during the bubble I was trying to open a lot, trying to steal pots and take advantage of that bubble mentality, but now I've just been moved to a new table, so I don't really know anybody. I'm just going to play a little tighter and check out everyone's style.
Being from Massachusetts, do you mainly just play the East Coast tournaments or do you travel as well?
I travel all over. I've been to Europe a couple times; I go to the World Series. I'm not really a tournament player, specifically - I usually play cash games online mostly, but I've been playing tournaments lately.
What sites do you play at online?
PokerStars.com mainly - just like $30/$60 limit, $100/$200 limit.
Yeah, I went into the final table second in chips, and I was directly to the left of Phil and Juha, so I had the best seat at the table. You know, just played my game, we got down to four handed and I lasted a long time, and then finally John Spadavecchia busted out, and it was down to three of us and I felt great. At one point I had the chip lead three-handed, and I had Juha covered when we went all-in. I had Ace-King against his Ace-Jack; he hit his jack and that kind of took me down a notch. Other than that, I think I played great.
How did you get your start in poker?
Just playing in college. When I got to college I was playing mostly in home games and stuff like that. I started to actually host a game three or four times a week. Then I figured there has to be a way to actually beat these guys, mathematically or whatever, so I went online and did some research, got some good books, you know, (David Sklansky's) "Theory of Poker," and just kind of went up from there. Plus, experience is invaluable, so the more you play …
Where did you go to college?
I went to UMass - Amherst, for physics.
Great. Thank you very much, Daryn, and good luck finishing out the day.
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Shortly after we spoke, Daryn was moved to a table with Daniel Negreanu, Kathy Liebert, and Clonie Gowen. Liebert, especially, presented a formidable opponent - prior to Firicano's arrival she had been running the table, bullying those around her into adding to her substantial stack. Firicano wasn't able to make much progress against the PokerKat, but he did survive the day, winding up 11th in chip counts with $406,500 to his name. Tomorrow brings new seating assignments, and with them the chance for Firicano to build on his early success and make this tournament's final table date a day that will be remembered as his and his alone.