Danny Laming Interview

Danny Laming Interview

Monday, 4 August 2014

We meet one of poker's rising stars.

Danny Laming has been one of the UK poker scene's biggest secrets for a few years now, but this summer saw him burst into the spotlight. Not only did he make a WSOP final table, but he also managed some huge scores at the Venetian, proving that there is much more to the Vegas summer than just grinding at the Rio.

Now back in Blighty, Danny shared a pint and his thoughts with Dan Gallagher.

Heading off to Vegas is obviously very exciting – but there must be a real fear that you’re going to drop thousands of dollars?
Yeah, of course. The tournaments themselves are such high variance, you’re playing $1,500 buy-ins every day. It’s always in the back of your mind that if Vegas goes wrong, you’ll be in for a lot of money. But you have to be positive and feel confident that you are going to do well.

Is the WSOP always a must play? Do you think there are any circumstances where as a pro player you can say “I’ll skip Vegas this year?”

I think it’s a must play to be honest. It’s really soft out there, and the size of the fields and the prize pools – you just don’t get them anywhere else. They’re absolutely massive. If you feel up to it, you should be going out there every year.

Did you plan your schedule before you got there? Did you have a stop-loss to move down to smaller buy-ins?

Yeah, it’s all planned out a month of two before hand. If I was to brick the first two weeks or so, I’d probably play a few Venetian $600 or $400 tournies, maybe some $1k’s. In those tournaments you start with a lot more chips. The WSOP is so hit and miss because you don’t start off with as many chips.

Do you think the other casinos have more value in their lower buy-in range because the smaller WSOP tournaments are typically crapshoots from the start? Or is the prestige of the WSOP still an overriding factor to get people to play those?

People are always going to turn up for the World Series. The fact is, although you start with shallow starting stack... once you get deep, they are the best structured tournaments. So, if you make Day 2 of a $1,500 tournament with three or four tables left, it has a really decent structure. That’s why I think people turn up.

When you're playing live tournaments all summer, how do you deal with the relentless busting, busting, busting?!

That’s a very good question. Me and the boys who went out together to Vegas [the Team Duffy crew of Danny’s brother Joe, Steve Watts and Sunny & Chaz Chattha]... We said that we knew we couldn't win every tournament. We wanted to focus on other things – we said we’d get in the gym, lose some weight and just try to keep morale high amongst the group. You’re going to get knocked out, people are going to get pissed off with what's happened. But it’s good to have a group of people who can pick each other up and help each other get through it.

I can imagine it would be tough if you were out there on your own. Between missing home and getting tilted with no deep runs. But when you’ve got a nice group of friends who you respect, it’s good to have them around.

How were you running prior to Vegas?

I was mainly playing Zoom cash games on PokerStars. I’ve felt that after playing tournaments straight for three or four years, I was kind of burnt out. I enjoyed the freedom of playing cash for three months leading up to Vegas, I was just focusing on improving parts of my game. I always feel so confident with my game in live tournaments. I love playing live.

Let’s take it back two or three years ago – you were a confident, hyper-aggressive kid. How has getting older affected your game?
To be honest, with poker – you don’t know it’s happened, but you end up maturing. You forget about five-bet jamming J-T suited when there are 20 left with $100k up top. You realise, “I’ve got an edge here, there’s no need to do something stupid.”

Your first score of the summer was the Venetian $600. [Danny took 2nd for $53,000].

I’d probably been in Vegas for about 10 days and I had bricked everything so far. I knew that I was playing well. I hadn’t even won an all in yet in the time I’d been there. But me and the boys spoke about it – I just had to keep playing well and keep my head up. If I kept getting it in good, the results would come.

I was pretty short with three tables out, but I built my stack up well. The final table was tough, but I think I played it quite well and was fortunate enough to get second.

At what stage of the tournament do you think, “I’ve got a good shot at this?”

You always feel that you can go deep in any tournament you play in, but when I look down and there is 18 left, and then 14 left, I get excited. I start to feel really confident when I make a final table. I’ve got so much experience at final tables, I know when to avoid ICM disasters. I look around and see so many people making mistakes and missing out on so much money. I guess it comes with experience and maturing as a player.

Do you think that ICM awareness is a big edge that the pro still hold over amateur players?

Yeah massively. Online players play every day and get into these situations all the time. No disrespect to amateur players – they play really well to get to the final tables, but once they get there, they make so many mistakes. They decide to put pressure on – but it’s the wrong type of pressure. Good players know who they can exploit, they know which stack sizes to attack, and when it’s the right time to pull the trigger. It’s not about running some random, weird bluff.

You got to heads up - was there any talk of a chop considering that there was a huge $36,000 pay jump?

No, there wasn’t any talk of deals. He had a 3-1 chip lead over me. He was a good player and I felt I was freerolling. I didn’t check how much we were playing for to be honest, I was just focusing on playing. I had a rail of 5-10 mates and it really helped on breaks to be able to chat to them.

Do you ever get worried about emptying the clip light in front of your mates?

Not really, not if you feel that it’s the right thing to do. I’m not just going to randomly blow up. Sometimes you feel that you’re going to do something that is going to work – you get to a river and you just know they can’t call. When you think of hands like that, if you get called, you get called. As long as you’re happy with your play, that’s the main thing.

How did you feel after?

Buzzing! I felt that I was really due a big score. I’ve been knocking on the door for so long. I’ve put a lot of work in, especially with live poker. It was nice; there were 850 runners, and to come second felt great. I knew that later on in the summer I could party... at that time, though, I just wanted to get back in the gym, keep focused and play more poker.

Then came the WSOP $2,500…

That was probably about a week later. I’d played maybe two or three more tournaments. It wasn’t originally on my schedule, but I decided to play after my Venetian result. I doubled up really early. My opening day table was probably the hardest table I’ve ever played at. Loads of young kids, who were just very, very good. I had position on Shawn Buchanan and he told me after that I played really well, which meant a lot. I got through with a nice stack, I think I had 70,000 chips at 600/1,200.

Day 2 was really tough too. But obviously these tournies are going to be really hard – you’re not going to get an easy ride to the bracelet! I managed to get through, coming back 5th in chips. But Day 3 didn’t go well. I couldn’t really make a hand. But we played down and I ended up making the final table.

Was that the highlight of your career?

Yeah, of course. You dream about making a WSOP final table. They’re so prestigious. But when you’re there, you don’t really have time to think, “Wow, I’m at a World Series final table! ” You’re just so focused on playing.

How was it playing at the ESPN mothership?
That was really good. It was my third year in Vegas. The last two years I’ve seen Craig McCorkell and Matt Perrins win bracelets there. So I went from being a spectator, to being there and sitting down playing for a bracelet. You just think, “Wow.”

You went deep with so many big names, did you have any run-ins?

I avoided Will Reynolds. I played a bit with Isaac Baron on Day 2, who played really well, obviously. I played with David Benefield briefly before he busted. They played well, but they didn’t have many chips, so it was hard for them to do anything.

When you see them coming over to your table, does it unleash your inner fanboy? Or are you more worried that they’re going to potentially hurt your equity?

I obviously know that they are fantastic poker players. They’ve been everywhere and seen everything. But I had to sit down and say to myself, “Right, I’ve got to beat these people. If I’m going to get this bracelet, I’ve got to prove my skill and show I can play!” At the final table, Benefield had position on me, but didn’t have a lot of chips. So I was rooting for him not to double up. If he gets chips, he’s going to make life really hard for me. But although these players are really good, you need to realise you have to overcome them to win these tournaments.

How did you bust out?

Justin Oliver opened under the gun and I had K-K with about 14BB, so I shoved all in. I don’t think I’m ever light here, so when Matt Salsberg instantly re-shoved, I was thinking, “Have I really run into Aces here?” But he had A-Q. Apparently Justin folded J-J.

I ran over to my rail and my mind went blank – it was the biggest all in my life. The flop came Qc-Tc-5c (Matt had the Ac). The turn was 6h for a brick, but the river was Qd. I felt that if I could have held there, I would have had momentum on my side, so who knows what could have happened.

You tweeted that you felt that PokerNews ignored you.
Yeah, it was annoying. They made me look like I wasn’t playing a hand. They didn’t report on me for two days, and then only reported that I got one double up and then when I busted. I understand that there are some really big name players, but to ignore everyone else – it’s not good for poker.

You capped off a great summer with another score at the Venetian. [Danny came 5th in the $1,100 for $47k].
It was weird. It was scheduled as a two day event, but with like 20 left it was getting really late, so I thought they’d bag and tag us. We ended up playing through, and we were still seven handed at 6am. People wanted to play through so they could register for the Monster Stack the next day, it was pretty annoying – but great to have another score.

So now that you’re back, what now? Will it be hard to go back to grinding?

I’m enjoying the freedom of playing cash. I think I’ll stick with that and sell some action to Sunday tournaments. It’s true that I’m not going to be playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars everyday, but I’ll try to keep motivated. I think my next live trip will be EPT Barcelona.

Tags: Danny Laming, interviews, WSOP 2014