EPT11 London: On the tournament trail with Simon Deadman

The number crunchers would have you believe that in this day and age it's impossible to make a living from playing live poker tournaments alone. The numbers don't lie they insist, no one's ROI% is high enough to offset the expenses and travel costs associated with travelling the circuit. You must play online too, they say, the days of live tournament grinders, rounders as they were called, are gone.

You try telling that to Simon Deadman. The 26-year-old poker pro lives in Leeds, but unlike many poker pros who live in that city he almost never plays online. In fact, he's hardly ever there as he goes wherever the tournament trail takes him.

"I travel all the time to where the festivals are on so it doesn't really matter where I live," Deadman told PokerStars Blog. "During the week I don't play a lot of cash games or anything anyway. I just travel to where the festivals are so where I live is kind of irrelevant."


For Deadman its live poker only

As everyone knows, the tournament schedule is kind of packed meaning Deadman has plenty of choices of where to lay his hat from week to week. "I play whatever I think is the best tournament that week. I always look for the best value tournaments, now I'd say they're the bigger sort of ones, up to 5K, the ones with the big cash prizes. But I'm not going to travel abroad to play a 1K tournament if there's a £500 tournament in the UK. You have to take into account expenses as well."

One thing that Deadman doesn't have to worry about, to some extent, is the buy-in. He's one of a number of players who are backed but he likes it that way. "I like the feeling of not spending my own money and it gives me more freedom. I've always been backed, it suits me fine."

And it's worked out pretty well for his backer too as 2014 has been Deadman's best year to date. He has racked up cash after cash totalling almost $800,000. He'd had no fewer than four second places in major tournaments by March 6th of this year, good for $346,617, and despite winning the most money in one of those tournaments, falling at the final hurdle was becoming a bit of a millstone.

"They all stung pretty bad," he said. "Definitely one towards the end was the worst because it felt like the run just wasn't going to break. I felt that I played fine in every tournament, but that it just that it didn't go my way."

Then came the Hollywood Poker Open, a $2,500 tournament in Las Vegas that attracted almost 700 runners. Deadman triumphed winning $351,097, novelty cheque and a trophy. "The rail was really good. There were probably 20 to 30 of my friends there and it was away from the Strip too so they'd all made the trip out which was really nice. It felt really good, not just winning but getting the second place thing off my back as well. Finally getting the win felt really good."

We put it to Deadman that as a live pro you don't get to practice heads-up play a lot. "This year I've had a lot of practice and it's not gone that well!" he said, before pouring water on the theory. "Most pots that you play in tournaments go heads-up so you should know what you're doing when you actually play heads-up. Obviously ranges are a lot different, I think I know roughly what I'm doing."

His results speak for themselves but Deadman is constantly trying to improve. "I'll talk to anyone I respect in the game, usually it's at the tables but on breaks I'm always picking peoples brains. It's great to get different perspectives as well because people do play completely differently and I just try to merge it all into one and mix it up a bit."


Deadman - live on #EPTLive now!

And if you spend a bit of time observing Deadman at the poker table (which you can do right now on EPTLive) you notice that he never looks at his phone or tablet and is always engaging others in conversation.

"I never listen to music or anything at the table. I like the social side as well, I like talking to people. As well as having fun it helps me get to know what level they're thinking, just from talking to them, so it helps me when I play against them. I think I pick up on game flow really well, just naturally. I see spots and I see things that people do and pick my spots from there. Practice and experience over the years has made me able to see a lot of things. I'm always very focused, I don't miss much."

Part of what Deadman picks up on is his own image at the table. "I think I have varied images. I think the regs would probably think I'm on the tighter side and the recreational players would probably think I'm really loose but that's not coincidence. I deliberately tend to play a lot more pots with recreational players and I'll play a lot tighter ranges against the good players."

And it's not just at the table that Deadman has an edge. He feels preparation off the table is just as important. "I don't know how everyone prepares, but I'm pretty sure I prepare better than most. I'm in bed early, I never play hungover or drink the night before. I'm always here on time, I never late-reg, I prepare very well, it's a big part of poker for me."

His meticulous preparation and results been recognised this year with three nominations in the British Poker Awards for: Best Live Tournament Player, Performance of the Year and Breakout Player of the Year. It's the last category which has caused a bit of ribbing from his mates, given that Deadman has been racking up cashes since 2009. "Quite a lot of people have said I shouldn't be in the category, but this year's been a lot better than previous ones I guess, even though they were fine too."

Poker awards are always a bit contentious, but Deadman is just taking it in his stride. "The main thing is to work hard and make money for me and Shola (his girlfriend, who's also pretty handy at poker). That's the main goal. But it's nice to be recognised. Every category I'm nominated in has got six people in it who deserve to win it. My family are fine with me playing, they know I do ok but it's nice to show people that I'm actually doing quite well."

He's doing more than well in this tournament as he's currently chip leader with 768,000 and the PokerStarsBlog got a little insight into Deadman's poker ability in a hand he played just before the first break. He opened to 6,000 from the cut-off, Ramey Shaio three-bet to 17,000 from the button off a stack of just over 100,000, only for Ognyan Dimov to cold four-bet to 38,000 from the small blind. Both Deadman (pocket jacks) and Shaio (ace-queen) folded and Dimov showed pocket nines. "I felt like he (Dimov) could definitely have a worse hand than me there. But to be honest I didn't want to invest any more chips because Ramey is most likely going to go all-in here with a better hand than me. I was waiting there to the end to see if he'd show. I'm surprised that the guy showed, I would never show that."

It looks like Deadman's going to be kept busy here in London for a while but if he busts out before the final table he says he'll go to Luton to play a £1k tournament this weekend. Beyond that though it's anyone's guess to how long he'll keep playing."To be honest I don't know At the moment each year I've just progressed in stages, playing higher and higher. So I'm just going to see where it takes me for now."


Deadman - will keep on trucking on the tournament trail

i>Follow the action from the EPT London Main Event this week on the PokerStars. You can also watch live coverage on the EPT Live webcast between October 14-18 on PokerStars.tv.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour