Wednesday, 8th February 2023 16:42
Home / Interviews / David Docherty is done with flying under the radar

David Docherty turned 21 in the spring of 2008. He celebrated the way any young man would, although as an aspiring poker pro, his life was already rather different to his peers. 

Five days after the milestone birthday, he won a package to Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker Main Event. He’d never touched a poker chip before, let alone played live poker, so he hunted around his home town near Glasgow to find a local poker game he could play. He discovered one at his local snooker club and started going twice a week, every week, for three months straight, and got used to peeling cards and handling chips.

Then he was off. And he hasn’t stopped since.

Today, Docherty is one of the most respected and consistent players on the UK poker scene; a true grinder living out of a suitcase to pursue poker success. At 35, he already has a career spanning three decades. He’s seen it all, been through it all, and been on the verge of winning it all.

But by Docherty’s own admission, only the past few years have really seen him break through with some big results, including a six-figure win on the GUKPT in 2021 and an EPT London final table in October 2022. 

“I’ve got a lot of longevity in poker,” he tells us. “I started playing full-time in 2009. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been around as long as that, but then you look around and there are very few people still in the game from when I started.”

Having qualified online through a satellite on PokerStars, Docherty is currently hard at work here at the European Poker Tour (EPT) stop in Prague. He found time to sit down for a chat and told us how he came up in the game, why he stuck with poker through the hard times, and how good it feels to break through.

GETTING STARTED IN POKER

When I first started playing I played freerolls for a whole year and didn’t put a dime of my own money in until I was comfortable and knew what I was doing. Then I started firing small stuff. 

I was engrossed with TV poker when I first started. I remember watching a poker TV show and thinking, “I’m better than these guys, how are they playing for so much money?”

Docherty’s goal? Use poker to travel

“I had a vision early on that if I got good at poker I could use it to travel.”

Back then everyone said you should grind Sit & Go’s so that you get final table experience, but because the tournament fields were so huge, you might only make one final table every three months. So I bounced around the formats and didn’t find anything I was comfortable sticking with for a good while. 

I had a wee bit of success in hold’em tournaments early on, but I gravitated towards PLO and quickly ended up playing high-stakes cash games in PLO. That was my bread and butter for a few years. 

But I had a vision early on that if I got good at poker I could use it to travel. Travelling has always been my number one goal in life and I want to see as much of the world as I can.

FOCUSING ON LIVE POKER

I’ve definitely focused a lot more on live poker since the pandemic. 

One of the major reasons that live poker has become attractive is that there are re-entries in most tournaments. Here at EPT Prague, there are lots of great tournaments to play and you can always re-enter them. You’re never going to get heaps of volume in live poker but I think the edges are larger so you don’t need as much volume.

I played a lot of live poker at the beginning of my career, but looking back I would do it differently.

I was going to stops back then to play a £500 freezeout tournament, and you’re paying for flights and accommodation for six days. Looking back on that, if you bust you’d just be stuck there for days. There weren’t high rollers or anything to play back then. It seems crazy, looking back. You’d pay an extortionate amount in travel and accommodation, even if you were chopping with someone. 

FLYING UNDER THE RADAR

I always felt like I flew under the radar because I never had huge scores, but I knew a lot of very good players and I had their respect, despite my lack of results. I was making enough to get by but I kept bricking the majors over and over again. I had an unbelievable amount of final two tables finishes with huge prizes up top.

But I never felt at any point that I wasn’t putting the right amount of work in. There was a lot of recognition for me in the UK poker scene and everyone thought I’d break through eventually, but it took a lot longer than expected.

HIS BREAKTHROUGH

When I won the GUKPT Luton Main Event [in October 2021 for £138,000], it was a huge weight off my shoulders.

I remember I had a different feeling at that final table than I’d had at other final tables. It really felt like I was going to win it early on. Then it was plain sailing. I never had any difficult spots and I smashed every board. It was an easy ride compared with how it should have been. But that was the luck aspect. I feel like I’d played all of my deep runs just as well, but it was all building up to that and I finally ran good at the right time at the right stage of the tournament. I recognised that, too. 

“Finally, people can introduce me as something other than ‘tour regular David Docherty’!”

It definitely felt like a breakthrough and it didn’t hit me for a couple of days. I’ve known Jack Hardcastle for a long time and he was bubbling for me on the rail when I won it, over the moon to see me get over the line. But it didn’t hit me like that for a couple of days and then I actually did break down and the enormity of it hit me. 

Docherty dreams of an EPT Main Event victory

I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself over the years and it meant a lot to me in terms of everything I’ve put into poker.

Had I won the EPT London Main Event in October (Docherty finished in seventh for £103,700), I think that would have been the best night of my life, but I don’t think I’ll match the sheer relief of winning that title. Finally, I had the monkey off my back and I could look to the future.

Finally, people can introduce me as something other than “tour regular David Docherty”!

ON THE FUTURE

I’m happy at the level I’m at. It might change over the next few years but I don’t feel the urge to play the €10Ks at the EPT. I think I’d be winning in them very slightly, but I’m not bothered about chasing an edge that small. Lots of people want to play €25Ks and €100Ks. That’s not really me, I don’t think. 

“A lot of people want to win a WSOP bracelet, but for me, it’s all about the EPT. That would be the most prestigious.”

Poker is a weird path to take in life. There’s not a lot of motivation other than money for a lot of people. I’ve put half of my life into the game and it’s only been the past couple of years that I’ve started to get huge results. Now I feel like they’re coming one after the other. If I go through 2023 without a significant live score I’d be shocked. There’s a lot of short-term variance, but I feel like I’m far enough ahead of the fields and I’m playing enough volume that I can reasonably expect good results.

Reputationally, I want to keep chasing titles and the money will sort itself out if I manage that. A lot of people want to win a WSOP bracelet, but for me, it’s all about the EPT. It’s really hard to win an EPT Main Event, and I probably never will, but that would be the most prestigious for me.

Related Articles

Latest Articles

Study Poker with Pokerstars Learn, practice with the PokerStars app