This time last year James Dempsey was celebrating his latest tournament win, a £200, 32 entry hold’em event, part of the January Sales tournaments at the Rendezvous casino in Brighton, England. Dempsey, who lives in Brighton, topped the lot to take home £2,560. It was the start of a good year, although Dempsey was not to know it…
“I hadn’t really played a lot. Not up to the World Series; and at the World Series I played the usual boat load of tournaments. Did no good.”
Dempsey’s definition of “did no good” was three cashes and a ninth place finish in a shootout event. It was perhaps the sign of a run of good form that would strike with perfect timing and make Dempsey a World Poker Tour winner by Christmas. That’s the official story. Dempsey states that he merely returned to Las Vegas where he “decided to run good for a couple of events”.
That meant playing the WPT Five Diamond event at Bellagio, where Dempsey topped a field of 413, including a final table featuring Vanessa Selbst and Antonio Esfandiari, to win the $821,612 first prize. A few days prior he’d bagged third and $56,782 in a side event.
Now into 2012 and Dempsey has already played events in Dublin, Melbourne and now Deauville.
“The plan is to play a boat load of tournaments before the World Series rather than doing nothing [like last year],” said Dempsey. “I just have the bug. I want to play. It can’t hurt, can it? The more tournaments you play the better you’ll do when you play tournaments. I think it’ll help. I have to win money wherever it comes.”
Was the bug something he got only when winning?
“It helps,” said Dempsey, laughing. “It helps. I was playing badly this time last year without realising it. I wasn’t taking advantage of enough situations in tournaments; playing too tight. I changed that after last years’ World Series. I realised I was playing too tight.
It obviously worked but there’s a streak of self-effacement in the Englishman’s’ account of his performances, a reserve he could be forgiven for ditching in favour of pride and a little shouting.
A look back through Dempsey’s tournament record shows the work of a player putting in the hours the hard way before reaching the international stage.
Since cashing in his first event in 2005 Dempsey recorded numerous cashes and victories in small events in Europe, mainly England; a few thousand here, a couple of hundred there. It was five years and a month before he scored a cash bigger than £20,000. That was in fine style and in the form of a World Series bracelet back in 2010.
Dempsey on course fro Triple Crown?
“I always try and win,” said Dempsey, pointing out that his approach to the game is the same whether it’s a £200 re-buy or a World Series event. “I can’t help it. I might mess around a little bit; go after a friend for the fun, for the banter, but I just want to win and I enjoy playing, especially in Brighton. I play the festivals there if I’m on town. There’s one on now which missed but I might get back in time for the main event, you never know. But I love playing there.”
A fondness for a home town casino is perhaps one route to humility although he no doubt stands out a little as a WPT and bracelet winner mixing it up in a local re-buy; two legs of the Triple Crown to the good and “just” an EPT title short of joining poker’s royalty. That though will depend on continued success and improvement.
“I’m having reasonable success in building stacks at least,” said Dempsey, looking at his near misses so far this year. “Not cashing thus far but I built a lot of stacks in Australia and was doing okay in Dublin. But I haven’t managed to convert them to cashes.”
Time will tell if Deauville is to be Dempsey’s coronation. His stack is among the sturdiest right now, although with only one EPT cash to his name Dempsey’s sights might be on a more modest first goal.
“I’d love to win one,” said Dempsey. “But I’ll ‘think cash’ for now”.