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Generation Next - Scot Starts Off on Top

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Mar 01, 2011


Twenty-three-year-old Scot David Vamplew’s name hit the poker headlines when he took down the European Poker Tour London main event in late 2010 for a massive payday of just over $1.4 million. The event was the largest poker tournament ever held in England, and Vamplew’s achievement rocketed him to the top of the Scottish all-time money list. However, Vamplew does not see this as a time to rest on his laurels, but rather to prove that he has the skills to extend his results sheet much further. He spoke to Card Player about where his interest in poker came from and what he has been doing since his big win.
Rebecca McAdam: How did poker come into your life?
David Vamplew: A few weeks after I started university (in Edinburgh) one of my friends asked me if I wanted to play a game of poker. I didn’t really have any clue what it even was at that point, just some sort of card game. So I learned the rules round a kitchen table in a student flat, became more interested, found the university poker society and eventually online poker, and things went from there.
RM: What interested you about it?
DV: Initially I just treated it like any other card game, not expecting there to be a great amount of strategy involved. Most games you might play with friends are pretty simple and it doesn’t take long to figure out what the best strategy is. Poker was different because although the rules are easy to learn, you can spend countless hours playing and developing your game without knowing how to play perfectly — easy to learn, hard to master, that is what makes a great game.
RM: What were you doing in college?
DV: B.Sc in maths.
RM: Ah, it makes sense now.
DV: That is what everyone says! But to be honest I’m not sure how much it actually helps. Certainly if you are good at maths you’re likely to have the same sort of skills that will help in poker, but actually having studied maths, being able to do partial differential equations or whatever isn’t about to come up in the middle of a hand!
RM: Did you have to develop other skills? If so what were they and what was the learning curve like?
DV: To begin with I was definitely just playing my own cards and not really taking into account who I was playing against and what they were doing, but that is probably the most important factor in what your strategy should be — who your opponent is and how you adjust to them. So that is something that over time I got better and better at, and I am still trying to perfect.
RM: With the skill of learning who your opponent is and how to adjust do you find it better to learn that online or live, or is there a difference?
DV: I think that playing online to begin with is a good idea to learn the basics more quickly, but with regards to adjusting to people I think that you can probably learn more about that in live games because in addition to the fact that there is more information available to you (you can see who you’re playing against), you tend to see a bigger range of playing styles in live games so you will be forced to adjust to beat these players.
RM: Are you largely an online player?
DV: Yes, the vast majority of my play is in online cash games but in the coming year I plan to spend a good amount of time traveling and playing live tournaments too.
RM: So you developed this skill when you hit more live tournaments. Do you think this is perhaps something solely online players lack when they hit the major live circuit?
DV: Well when I was still learning I played pretty often at the university poker society and sometimes at a local casino in Edinburgh, so that live experience helped me, as well as playing online a lot, to prepare for playing in bigger live tournaments. I think that some players who are successful online do a bad job of adjusting to live games. In some of the lower stakes games online you can be a winner by playing pretty much the same strategy versus everyone and grinding out a ton of hands playing a lot of tables at a time. I think that these are the sort of players who might find the transition to live poker quite difficult.
RM: Had you much experience of major live tournaments before EPT London?
DV: I first went to Vegas in 2009, and I played one tournament in the WSOP while I was there. That was my first big live tournament experience. Unfortunately it didn’t last nearly as long as I would have liked and I was out within a few hours. I had played big tourneys in Madrid, some at the WSOP last year, a hometown UKIPT tourney in Edinburgh, and my first EPT in Tallinn, before London.
RM: What went right for you in London then?
DV: It always takes a big chunk of luck to win a tournament and I can’t deny that I had luck on my side in London but on the whole I also am really pleased with how I played over the course of the tournament. Once I had built a big stack on day one I felt confident that it was going to take some sort of run of bad luck to stop me. I am really pleased with how I was able to stay focused and play my best even with the added distractions of it being my first deep run in a big tournament.
RM: Was there any time after you built your big stack that you didn’t feel confident?
DV: There was a point on the day before the final table where I was down to around 20 big blinds. At that point you are always in danger of going out in any hand you play, so I wasn’t too hopeful, but luck was on my side and I managed to build up a stack I was able to play with again.
RM: It must have felt like a surreal experience to be in that heads up with John Juanda for the title.
DV: I don’t think I realised at the time what a huge thing for me this was. I had spent five days focusing only on playing poker and my head was entirely in the game.
RM: And after?
DV: Immediately after I was just absolutley wiped out and needed a rest to be honest, especially after playing heads up for so long. I still kind of think to myself now — did that really happen? [Laughs]
RM: And then you went and won the UKIPT Champion of Champions event the very next day — that must have been the icing on the cake!
DV: At the start of the tourney I was playing pretty loose and was really relaxed about it, it was just some fun freeroll that a couple of my friends happened to be playing in too. Then I ended up getting down to shorthanded play and I realised actually we’re playing for about €12,000 here and that’s not to be sniffed at! And then I got cards when I needed them and managed to take that down too, which was obviously great.
RM: I can imagine. You have a winning circle of friends — are you friends through poker? Do you help each other/talk about poker?
DV: One of my firends in poker is Andrew Ferguson, who I met at university in the poker society. He is also playing professionally now and we travel to a lot of tournaments together. I am also friends with Max Silver and Nick Abou Risk who I met through poker near the start of last year. Since then they have both managed to win a UKIPT title (Nick just taking down his second one in December), so it is great to have some friends who are also successful in poker and who you can discuss hands/strategy with. It definitely helps your game if you have people to speak to about poker.
RM: What are your interests outside of poker — does it take up much of your time?
DV: Poker does admittedly take up a lot of my time but I try to fit other things in. I enjoy travel so that is one of the reasons I think live tournaments are so fun. I enjoy cooking, I try to make all my meals from scratch. I try to fit in some excercise (but perhaps not as often as I should!) Badminton is fun. I also think skiing is great and am going on a skiing holiday soon.
RM: What games and stakes do you play?
DV: For the most part I play six-max cash games online between 2-4 and 3-6 in the $, €, or £ games.
RM: Do you aim to make a certain amount a month or anything like that?
DV: I don’t set a monthly goal of money made. I don’t think that it is a good idea since if you aren’t on course for the goal it could affect the way you play and cause you to miss it by even more.
RM: What has your life been like since your big win? What have you been doing?
DV: It took a while for me to get back in to the way of playing online every day after winning, so I had a little while where I didn’t play too much, but I am back at it now. In between times I have been to a few live tourneys (in Lyon, Barcelona, and Galway), unfortunately without the same level of success as in London! And I had a quiet Christmas at home with my family, which was enjoyable.
RM: Poker, it seems, took your life on a detour — what did you want to be/do before this? And do you think you will you go back to a career in something else?
DV: I think part of the reason for that detour was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated. I wasn’t especially inspired by any of the options that I looked in to at that point and decided to give poker a shot. I don’t know how long I will end up playing poker for, there is definitely a possibility I will end up doing something else, but at the moment I am just enjoying life and not planning too far ahead.
RM: What would you like from poker in the future realistically? (Since you have achieved something so big already!)
DV: I am desperate to have some more success in live tourneys. I feel that even though I have more success than I could have hoped for in them at the moment, my record looks a bit like I am just some idiot who got lucky one time! I really want to put that right.
RM: Dream goal then…?
DV: A WSOP bracelet is what everyone wants, that would be fantastic. ♠