James Dempsey talks about bracelet wins, support from the rail & battling with Sammy Farha

Paul Cheung talks to James Dempsey, the man who very nearly became the first Brit to win two bracelets in one World Series

You’ve been having a brilliant run at the World Series. What’s the secret?

A lack of alcohol and a serious approach! Instead of a hotel I’ve got a house, and I’ve given up drinking for the Series.

Let’s talk about your bracelet win in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em. Can you tell us about your progression through that?

The starting table was really tough. I thought it was going to have quite a weak field. I think I’m right in saying that at one point I was the oldest person on my table – and I’m only 27! I managed to get lucky in a couple of spots on the table, getting it all-in with J-9 vs A-K, then having Kings when someone else had Queens. Suddenly I went from an average stack to four times the average, which was pretty handy.

On the final table, your stack just seemed to build and build…

Everyone seemed very inexperienced – it wasn’t like some of the no-limit Hold’em tournaments where you get a few young guys making it difficult. Everyone just seemed happy to play their hands and not get out of line and ladder up.

You had some pretty vocal support on the rail – did that help you?

It really did. I remember [runner-up] Steve Chanthabouasy’s fans were quiet and then started getting rowdy when he took the chip lead. The boys started singing ‘You only sing when you’re winning!’ It shut them up pretty quickly.

Did winning your first bracelet feel like you thought it would?

Yeah, but it wasn’t so much the bracelet – it was the fact that it was the first major tournament I’ve won. I’ve had a few situations before where I got a decent stack and hadn’t done anything. It felt You then went on to come second in the $10k Omaha Hi/Lo. That event had a relatively small field but was full of huge names.

What was that like?

Yeah, it’s a bit of a silly tournament game really. It’s hard to bust early and then stacks become very shallow near the end. It wasn’t as tough as it sounds because a lot of people can’t play the game. They’re playing it purely because there are 200 runners and they’re trying to get deep. The real danger spots are the players who look like they don’t have $10k to buy into the event! There were two guys on my starting table who looked like they didn’t fit at all, and they were the two best players on the table.

Going into the final table you were a big chip leader. Were you already thinking about the second bracelet at that point?

I just thought it was really well set up. The three big stacks were all on my right and they were definitely not the best players. I couldn’t have asked for a better seat draw.

You had a huge battle with Sammy Farha heads-up.

Yeah, I kinda got what I asked for but it didn’t work out. I thought if I could get heads-up with a 2-to-1 deficit I could win. Sammy plays too loose. He was just playing too many hands and I was confident I could beat him.

Is there anything you could have done differently in hindsight?

I guess I could have bluffed more on the turn. I tried check-raise bluffing once and he three-bet me straight away. I had a plan and I think it could have worked. I’m not going to say I ran bad because I got to the last two of the tournament. He just ran better heads-up.

Were you deflated at the end?

I’ve never felt so devastated. It would’ve been different if it had been over quickly but we played heads-up for six or seven hours. Everyone had stayed on the rail as well. It was really good to have them there – I just wish I’d given them something to cheer about.

The camaraderie among the Brits must be at an all-time high, though?

When you see your friends and people you know win, it gives you the belief and confidence that you can do it.

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