EPT12 Malta: The remarkable rise of Darrell Goh

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Goh has had a great week in Malta

Whatever happens today it's been some week for Darrell Goh. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland won the IPT High Roller on Sunday night and is still in the Main Event with just 16 players left. Not bad for someone who was celebrating their first live cash in July of this year.

Whilst his forays onto the tournament circuit may have only just begun, he's been playing poker for a few years. "I started playing poker seriously towards the end of 2012, six-max cash games online. I finished my maths degree at university and at the time I was playing small stakes six-max cash and it was going quite well, so I thought I'd give it a shot."

As shot taking goes, it's all been pretty smooth for the softly spoken Goh, with 2014 being a key year in his development. "I moved through the stakes quite quickly. I'd played some tournaments previously but my main game was online cash. Last year I moved up from small stakes to taking shots at higher stakes, so from $1/$2 up to $5/$10 by the end of the year."

It was a satellite win to the PCA that would shape 2015, perhaps the reason here's here in Malta today.

"At the PCA I had a lot of fun. I'd never really played much live before and it made me want to play more live poker. Some of my friends also started playing some more live poker, so this year I've played the PCA and I also went to Vegas over the summer. After that I thought I'd play here, and I'm planning on doing Prague in December. So it's gone really well."


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As with many poker players his age Goh has used the freedom that his profession allows to travel the world. In the past year he's lived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and also Budapest. It's far removed from humble poker beginnings, which like many of his peers began at school.

"We'd play in lunch breaks for small amounts of money. In Northern Ireland they don't have casinos as they're banned there, but I went to university in Newcastle and there's a casino there. I was there with a couple of friends who I also played poker with at school and we went to the casino together a couple of times. From that I met a few people who were into poker, who played more seriously than me and they got me into it a bit more."

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Goh in action in the Main Event

A theme of Goh's rise in poker - and indeed many others - is having peers who are better than you, who you can talk poker with and improve. He acknowledges that there are many who have influenced him, but a period spent living with one player in Mexico helped his tournament game improve.

"Most people who I know in poker probably played higher than I did, before I did. I learned a lot from them, talking hands or whatever. I lived with Scott 'aggro santos' Margereson in Mexico, who's obviously up a lot of money playing tournaments. Whilst we were out there it was during SCOOP, I was getting involved with the tournaments then and we obviously talked a decent amount of MTT strategy. I think I have a good understanding of deeper play from cash, but he helped me out with the shorter stack stuff for sure."

Before this series of tournaments began Goh had planned on entering the IPT Main Event, the IPT High Roller and the EPT Main Event, with cash game sessions planned if things didn't go well. "This is going to be my seventh day straight playing tournaments now so I haven't had much chance to play cash," he tells the PokerStars Blog before play starts on Day 5.

His run all started with the IPT High Roller victory, in which he defeated a high class field of 403 to emerge victorious. "It feels surreal really. It's extremely nice. It's just a lot of fun to win a tournament. There's so many runners that you never expect that you'll be the one to win," he says with a smile. "Everything went my way at the final table. Early on I had a three way all-in where I had aces and held against ace-king and jacks. Ace-king flopped a flush draw as well. After that I had a massive chip lead and I was in a great position to go on and win the tournament."

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It was a dream final table for Goh

The winners' photo was packed with friends who had stayed late into the night to rail but support came from far and wide. "It was ridiculous after winning it, so many messages, so much support. So many people seemed to be happy for me who I wouldn't consider to be following poker that much. It was amazing how much support I had from people coming out of the blue and congratulating me. This win is one off the bucket list for sure and an experience I'll never forget."

The tournament success here has, he admits, persuaded him to make a small change in direction in terms of his poker career. "I was sort of planning on travelling the circuit as much as I could next year, I think that the win will definitely encourage me to hit more stops and play a good amount of tournaments. My main game will still remain as online six-max cash though."

Update: We spoke to Goh before play started on Day 5, unfortunately he was eliminated an hour into play in 14th place when he lost a flip with A♦K♦ against Alen Bilic's pocket jacks.

You can watch #EPTLive coverage here, whilst everything about EPT Malta is on the main EPT Malta page. More specifically, all the side event coverage can be found here and the High Roller coverage right here.

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Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour