Interview with James Dempsey

After a hectic fortnight in Vegas for blonde Poker’s own James "Royal Flush" Dempsey, WSOP bracelet winner, WSOP runner up in a second event and current leader in the WSOP Player of the Year Standings, I caught up with him to talk about his amazing WSOP so far and his future plans:

This year represents your first concerted run at Vegas tournaments doesn’t it?

Yes I first came to the WSOP the year Raymer won the main event. I just grinded the cash games. I next returned to the WSOP in 2009 but mostly came over for a holiday and played a $1500 NLHE and a $2500 FLO/8 event. I managed to come 14th in the O/8 event and it certainly whet my appetite to come back and have a serious attempt at the WSOP.

Looking at the Pot Limit event first, what happened in the first day that got you such a big lead?

I had an insanely tough stuff starting table and it was really tough going to get chips. I ended up going down to 1500 chips before managing to grind my way back to 10,000. Ii then made a "questionable" 4-bet shove versus an online regular with J-9 at 150-300 button versus small blind. I ‘held’ versus his A-K suited. Three hands later i had Kings against Queens and suddenly found myself on 40,000!

Then with that stack I managed to chip up to 70,000 just by exerting pressure on others. I moved table and the first hand at the new table i raised with Queens, got called by another big stack and flopped a set. I managed to get it all-in by the river and was on 130,000. The last two hours I had a very easy table and won a lot of pots. I somehow ended on over 200,000 which was a big chip-leader.

It appears that the Brits understand Pot-limit with bracelet wins and good results over the years…. was it a case of a lot of players making mistakes against you too?

Although the difference in Pot and No Limit events is very small a lot of the NLHE online guys are too regimented. They all play a set default and just carry that over to PLHE where instead of 2.5BB/round you are paying 1.5BB, effectively a 15bb stack is a 25bb stack yet they all go mad as soon as they hit 18bb for example, like its a NLHE tournament where you have to get busy at that stage.

Talk us through day 2, at the head of the chip counts all the way through. It’s not so easy to be a big stack bully at PLHE, and yet you seem to have sailed through without many setbacks?

Day 2 started strongly. I can’t really remember many hands however i remember it going wrong. I moved to a new table with about 350,000 then lost three big pots in a row. One was a bluff, a second was Queens against Fours and then I lost a flip and I found myself down to 170,000.

Only for two hands though! I managed to get Kings in a three way pot against Queens and Nines. Back to the chip lead with 450,000 at that point

Moving on to the final a)Its pretty well known I think that’s its been a tough time for you (your own results, staking etc)…did you find it tricky to keep focussed and b) your rail of mates. How much of a difference did that make?

I managed to remain completely focussed. I was very confident of winning the final, it was a very inexperienced line-up. I was pretty sure as long as I didn’t get cold decked or did anything stupid I should be able to chip away to a good stack by the time the game became short-handed.

This went to plan and then just before a break i was chip-leader with 750,000, the eventual runner-up was on about 730,000 and i flopped the nut straight and he managed to pay me off calling down T7 on a Q985T board so i found myself on 1,100,000.

I simply never thought I could lose from there.

The rail were amazing, when I got Heads-Up I took two quick setbacks and having the boys just cheer louder helped me keep my confidence. As hitthehole says "all it takes is confidence"!

So you’ve won a bracelet and after that comes some hype and some interest in you. That’s a bit of a contrast to your views on bracelets previously…where you are quoted as saying its less important than the money. Has it changed your views at all?

My view still remains that there is no reason why these events should hold more prestige than others. However obviously its good for any unsponsored poker player to try to increase their profile. For that reason chasing WSOP bracelets is definitely +EV!

So with the win and the confidence did it mean a change in schedule/more events? Was it always your plan to play the $10k hi-lo for example?

The $10k hi-lo was my "main event". It was the event I was most looking forward too during the series, I had planned on playing it for a long time.

You have a background and grounding in hi-lo from both online and live cash too?

I’ve played a fair bit of FLO/8 online and know it to be a pretty technical game. So its always going to be quite a soft game in a live setting.

And was this field soft? Only 200 runners, and looked a tough field from the outside, so what was your edge against them?

The field was ‘stacked’ but a lot of the live heros/high profile television players are just playing it because it is a small field and in reality they are pretty bad at hi-lo.

My first day was pretty bad and i snuck through with less than a starting stack, constantly being outdrawn. On day two I managed to run up a 100,000 stack and then my table broke.

On the new table i was out of position to Stuart Rutter and Phil Ivey. Probably not the best seat but I ran pretty good and hit some flops and made some draws especially against Ivey who i scooped about three times.

There is no secret to how to get a stack in hi-lo though, play good starting hands and get good flops, as long as you have the better starting hands you win. People play too loose pre flop and thus give up huge edges post flop.

Ivey is reported to have said you "looked lucky"?

(laughs) Yes he was getting bashed up pretty hard and in the hand in question he had 3-bet pre-flop. I peeled with A267ds. The flop wasn’t great something like 7TQ with 2 backdoor flush-draws, a pair and backdoor door nut low. I took one off. It came a 4 so i check called again. The river came a 6 giving me two pair and nut low. So i led into him and he smiled and just declared that I "looked lucky" before calling and mucking. It gave the table a good laugh.

You ended the second day on a low point, a bad last level and then went on a great run to hit the final with a big stack. Obviously Farha was a danger man, but you must have known it would be a long haul…

(laughs again) Yes limit tournaments are alway sgoing to take a long time. I lost a lot of pots at the end of day 2, so day 3 could of been short! However I went on a good run on a tough table with 18 left and found myself with a good lead going into the final. There were some good players still in the field but they made the final with short stacks so it was well seup for me.

So eventually you are 15-1 down in chips heads up against Farha. He’s confident, you are nearly gone…what happened next?

He played far too loose. I continued to be selective and he just played every hand out of position to a raise. He could of just rocked up when in the big blind and gone crazy from the button and my life would of been very difficult.

Did you consider yourself favourite at any point?

As soon as i got to 2-1 down i thought i would win. In fact when i got a big stack after 3-4 hours I thought it was going to go well but somehow in back to back hands we played a 4 bet and a 5 bet pre flop pot. I had A3KKss and AA85ds and got scooped in both. So when i got those chips back I thought "it can only go my way" especially when he got very riled by the rail

Five hours later you must have had mixed emotions. $300,000 of course, but you’ve just missed out. What was the overriding thought in your mind?

I’ve never been more crushed in all my life. During the Pot Limit Hold-Em final I just kept my head cool, never got emotionaly attached to the situation, never stood up in all ins. I just kept calm.

In the O/8 it meant to much more, the chance to be a double winner is such a huge thing, it can mean so much to your profile. The first prize was worth way more than $488,000.

I let myself get involved, it’s also a lot easier to do that in O/8 as it’s such a frustrating game.

He rivered me in a huge pot and left me with just over a big blind. I remember the next hand i called it off from the Big Blind got up and left the table.

I didn’t even see his hand or mine. I went and sat in the stands on the opposite side to my rail and just let it all out.

I was devastated. All the rail crowded round the table. I couldn’t even look. I heard the TD announce Sammy had won and I was just crushed.

Everyone came over to try and cheer me up but it wasn’t much use. I wanted it so bad nothing could make up for it.

I gave it a few minutes then went to congratulate Sammy. He was fun to play against and I did enjoy the experience.

So what are your plans for the rest of the series. Going for wsop Player of the year!?

(Pause) It’s such a weird feeling my plan was to try and make some money. Now I find myself 10 points clear in the Player of the Year table halfway through the series. Its nice that it’s my new goal and yes i will be trying to clinch that title. Sadly I missed the 10k limit holdem which would have been a great event to have a go in.

Your online rail on the blonde Poker forum for both events stretches to 53 pages, 800 posts and 8500 views. Were you aware of the massive support for you back home?

Yes thank you very much! Obviously at times I was posting on the thread while I was playing, it means a lot when you see people willing you on. People you know and respect sweating you is pretty awesome, it can be pretty hard to follow events online but knowing people are just makes it harder to blow-up!

Thanks very much for your time, and good luck for the rest of the series!