Lee Davy sits down with James Dempsey to talk about his life outside of poker, his need for humor and banter at the poker table, the business like style of the EPT’s his views on re-entry, and much more.
James Dempsey is fast becoming one of my favorite interviewees. There is a growing maturity about him, and a confidence in his answers that comes from a decade of poker experience that has seen him learn from the lows, the highs and all that space in between.
The last time I spoke to him was at the World Series of Poker. He was a bit down, missing his friends and wondering where all the sparkle had gone?
So what has Dempsey been up to in the meantime?
“Since the WSOP I have been pretty much exclusively in Brighton where I have been playing golf and enjoying the weather. Not that I have anything against poker, but just relaxing after the slog of the WSOP. Especially for someone like me, who doesn’t play every day online, the slog is pretty tough.”
Not much poker then?
I didn’t go to EPT Barcelona this year. I went last year and I knew a lot of people were going, but there is something about those tournaments now that loses its appeal for me. For my own personal enjoyment, I much prefer coming to the smaller tournaments, where there are fewer young online players and the tables are lot more relaxed and fun.”
So you haven’t had a great experience at EPTs?
“My experience of the last few EPTs I have played – which is only a few – is everyone is so serious. Nobody wants to smile. It’s as if they are too cool to get involved in the banter, and I don’t like that.
“I played the warm up event, here, a few days ago, and it was so much fun. I played the Main Event yesterday and everyone was having fun. That’s what poker should be about.
“It’s very similar – albeit on a completely different scale – to the WSOP, where I feel people are enjoying themselves. I don’t feel this at EPT’s It seems too businesslike. But I guess I am in the minority, because if I wasn’t these fields would be bigger.”
But aren’t you losing money if you are playing golf?
“I have long since distanced myself from that fear. When I first started playing poker, over 10 years ago, I would track everything. I knew what my hourly rate was and I read people saying that if you do something that isn’t poker related you are costing yourself money. I subscribed to that theory for years.
“For me, personally, in the last few years, I have gone through a period of change where I don’t need as much money to live. I used to spend insane amounts of money, but now I’m happier with a lower income and a much more balanced life.”
Does that come with age?
“For sure, it’s part of growing up. I’m sure I will go through many changes in my life, and this is just one of them. You see it in anything. Young people get successful too early and not know what they want. At 31, I am starting to realize what’s more important to me in terms of my lifestyle. That’s enough money to live, play golf and go skiing once a year. Spending thousands in nightclubs doesn’t do it for me anymore.”
Do younger players get caught in a dilemma, whereby they rely on the poker circuit, because it’s where all their friends are, but they don’t have the money to travel and play?
“I am sure there is an element of that, where people don’t want to miss out. People who have had success, and think they can keep playing forever – and one day win again – they could fall into the trap. You’ll know many poker players who have done well in a short period of time, given it all back and are scrapping around to try and get back in the game.”
Is this one of the points you think Dan Colman was trying to make?
“I can agree on parts of Dan Colman’s position. The rest of the gaming industry has an onus not to attract problem gambling, and they do a lot to prevent that, but there is no such thing – that I am aware of – in poker. I think people can ban themselves from PokerStars, for example, but in terms of the tours? I’m not sure there are ways people can ban themselves from the tours, and you aren’t going to see people doing that unilaterally.”
What does Dempsey think about re-entries?
“Re-entries are really bad for poker. They have run their course, but no company is going to stop doing them. I enjoy the fact that the field here is small, but if there wasn’t re-entries, the field would be too small and the companies wouldn’t run them.
“They had this tournament in LA a few weeks ago. The Quantum Reload thing. You could buy in numerous times during Day 1, and then 3x the buy-in on Day 2. It’s going to kill the community. I feel like a WPT Main Event should be a level playing field. Use the re-entries in the side events, if you want, but keep the Main Events clean. It’s not fair that a rich fish, or a pro, has a better chance than the guy who qualifies into the tournament through a satellite.
“You come to somewhere like Cyprus and have to knock Toby Lewis and Sam Trickett out twice! Toby bought in twice yesterday, which he is entitled to do, and you are sat there thinking, “Really? I have to knock this top quality player out again!”