Since the 8th link is the playbutton, there will never be a working link there anyway.
I would use an
<a> tag without the
href attribute, as you have it shown.
As to whether or not it should be empty, the html5 specs say this...
If the a element has no href attribute, then the element represents a placeholder for where a link might otherwise have been placed, if it had been relevant.
And gives this example
<li> <a href="/">Home</a> </li>
<li> <a href="/news">News</a> </li>
<li> <a>Examples</a> </li>
<li> <a href="/legal">Legal</a> </li>
That looks like an example of how to handle the link of the current page the user is on.
So based on that I would think that text could very well represent the play button itself
Then with the z-index correction posted above the actual button will layer over the text