Daniel “djk123” Kelly had an amazing year online and managed to finish in sixth place in the Card Player 2008 Online Player of the Year race despite balancing poker and school at Villanova University. Kelly, who also plays online as imabigkidnow and mhrep, dominated from start to finish, pocketing nearly $700,000 in the process.
The 19-year-old is still unable to play in the United States, but he has taken some time out to travel to Europe and even the most recent PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
Card Player caught up with the youngster to talk about his year and what makes him so successful.
Julio Rodriguez: You finished sixth in Card Player’s 2008 OPOY standings. Do you consider that to be a major accomplishment, or are you disappointed with the results?
Daniel Kelly: I’m pretty proud of that. To best honest, I didn’t really know I was in contention until it was too late, but I doubt I would have done anything differently. Being in school makes it tougher to play certain tournaments and at certain times of the day.
JR: You played a few times last year in Europe and then at the PCA. Do you feel more pressure to win because college limits the amount of live tournaments you get to play in?
DK: I do want to make the most of it, since I don’t get to play as often as others. Not only that, but when I make time for a live tournament I have to separate out a week at a time, meaning if I bust I’ll be pretty bored waiting around for everyone else. Also, it’s always nice to be the last of your friends still in a tournament.
JR: The online community frequently jokes that you are one of the tightest players around, because you're actually one of the loosest. How would you describe your playing style?
DK: I don’t think I’m that loose of a player. I guess the running joke around the forums is that I am, but I think people tend to exaggerate a bit when it comes to my playing style. In fact, sometimes I play pretty tight. I’m not the maniac that everyone thinks I am. I don’t know, I don’t really want to give too much away right now.
JR: What was your biggest online accomplishment in 2008?
DK: I would have to say it was winning the FTOPS event for over $100,000.
JR: Can you talk about that tournament?
DK: I got pretty lucky, but I guess you have to with a turbo structure. I like to push a lot, so that tournament suited my game pretty nicely. I made three final tables during that FTOPS series, but it all came together in that event.
JR: According to our rankings, you were a part of the top 10 online players of the year. What do you think of your abilities?
DK: I think I’m up there. There are players who are better than me, and obviously I can always get better and improve my game, but I think I deserve to be mentioned alongside some of the great online players. I don’t know if that comes across as false modesty or not, but I’m just confident in my abilities as a player.