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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Greg Raymer - Part II

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Continued from Part I

CC: You came out to the World Series of Poker in 2001, right?

Greg: It was the first year I came out, 2001. I played four preliminary events. I cashed in the Omaha H/L Limit tournament, got paid $5,000 and change, which wasn't quite enough to cover my entry fees for those four events, maybe $7,000. I actually lost a little money in the tournaments, but I think that was the year I made some money in the side games.

I think that was the year that I put a really bad beat on Billy Duarte playing PLO. I raise, he re-raises, I call, and we see a flop heads-up. I flop top two pair, second nut-flush draw, and a gutshot straight draw, which is a huge hand. Even if he has the top set, I've got everything else, I'm almost even money. Almost no matter what he has, I'm in good shape, and if he has dry aces, I'm a huge favorite.

We get all the money in on the flop, and it turns out he flopped top set and the nut flush draw, so I've got a gutshot straight draw and nothing else. I've got to hit a three-outer, and I can't have the other card pair the board or make the flush. Before we even turned the cards over, we agreed to run it twice. Each set of cards; we play for half the pot. We agree to do this, then we turn our hand over, and I think, we can deal it a hundred times and I'm still in trouble. But I beat him both times; I hit a king then a brick, then a brick and a king. He didn't even react; he's just such a pro. I thought, this is really unbelievable, but he just shrugged and was on to the next hand. He was one of the best pot limit players ever, and I think he passed away last year. Most people would have been going crazy getting beat like that, but for him it was another day at the office.

CC: Then you came back in 2002.

I played the Main Event for the first time in 2002. I played three of the preliminary events and the Main Event. I got backers after that, because I thought I played really well but I just kept getting close and not doing well. I finished maybe 80th in the Main Event.

CC: But you stayed til the end, right?

I stayed to the end because my friend, Russell Rosenblum, was at the Final Table. If you see the one hour TV show where Robert Varkonyi won, you'll see me in the background in the stadium seating that they put up around the table. I'm sitting next to Russell Rosenblum's wife because I was one of his guests for the Final Table.

They paid 45 spots, and I was about 80th when I got knocked out. I was in the big blind, Tony G raises. I'd been there less than an hour, but he was raising half the pots. So you know he doesn't have to have any kind of hand. I certainly had a little bit of a read on him, and I was sure he was bluffing. When it folds to me in the big blind, I had A-Ks, and I re-raise. I figure it's not a great hand, it's certainly better than his hand. Let's just re-raise and win the pot now. As soon as I re-raise, he immediately shoves in. I'm sitting there for five minutes, and I know he has nothing. Even if he has nothing, I might only be a 3:2 or 2:1 favorite, and it's not necessary that I'll be way ahead unless he has a worse ace, like an A-5.

It took five minutes, and I said, "I can't throw away the best hand, I call." He turns over 10-4o, the flop is 8-9-J, a queen on the turn, and I'm drawing to three cards, and then I'm out. I felt like I played great the whole tournament, and just got unlucky on that hand. I'd had a lot more chips at my last table but took a beat on a hand, so I felt very good about my game. I come home, and my bankroll had been cut in half. So I solicited investors after that. I was a longtime poster on RGP and 2+2, and instead of coming up to friends and asking if they wanted to back me, I posted.

I felt like if I asked friends and they said no, they might feel awkward. I know almost all my friends who would be interested in backing me would see the post. Of course, I caught a lot of grief from some people. They said, "Oh, you must suck if you're posting for backers."

I said, "You can say what you want, I don't care, I'm tough."

I immediately had tons of e-mails from friends and people I'd never heard of. I had some guy from Poland who bought two shares. He'd read my posts, thought I was a good player, and wanted to get a piece of me. These people bought shares at $500/share, I bought about a third of the shares myself. I lost a little bit of money the first session that year, so our shares went down to $488 a share. We renewed the deal; most of the people stayed in, a couple dropped out, and a couple of new people came in. We did it for six more months, and the shares went up to $550. Did it a third time and the shares went up to about $600 and change. The fourth one was the time I won the Main Event, and the share price went to $36,000.

CC: How important was RGP and 2+2 to you?

RGP is basically nonexistent today. If there is anyone involved in it, it's no one I know of anymore. 2+2 is still something I read almost every day. I don't do the strategy much anymore; I just don't have time for it. If I started to get involved, there would be a lot of people posting just to solicit my advice. I'd either have to blow a lot of them off or ignore them all.

CC: How important were these forums to you as you were developing?

RGP and 2+2 were huge when I was first involved in them because they had a lot to do with my improving as a poker player. You had some very good players and some very smart players involved in those forums, so when you had an interesting hand or a tricky hand or a hand where you questioned yourself, you post it on one or both of those groups, and you'd get feedback from some very good people where they would say, "Here's why I would have folded," or "Here's why I would have pushed all-in," or whatever. They don't just say, "Oh, that's an autoshove." They give you the reasons behind what they would do.

Then I would say, "Well, what about this logic that argue for folding," and they would say, "Well, that's true, but here's your equity for pushing in, here's you equity for folding. Pushing in is better." Of course, a lot of the discussion is mathematical in nature, but even then you can say, "Look, I was 50% sure the guy was bluffing." And they would say, "Well, let's do the math. If he's bluffing half the time, blah, blah, blah." All of a sudden, if you're 80% sure he's bluffing, the math may still say that you should still fold.

CC: So you would take the subjective, gut decisions and make the quantitative.

The hard part is that I have a feeling whether someone is bluffing or if they have a hand, but you're never 100% sure. Most people in life, when they have a feeling about something, it's like if there feeling is more than 50%, and they treat it like it's 100%. If it's less than 50%, they treat it like it is zero. Certainly, when people start feeling 80-90% confident, they absolutely treat it like 100%. Sometimes, even when you are that confident, the decision would still be fold even though I'm 80% sure he's bluffing. Maybe when he isn't bluffing, he has you absolutely crushed, and when he is bluffing, he has enough outs that you're not that big of a favorite anyway. Now the math would be that you have to be 94% sure he is bluffing, and then it is break even whether you call or fold.

CC: I follow Jason Strasser a good bit.

Yeah, we're golf buddies.

CC: I got to know him pretty well. It seems like the players who have been raised in the 2+2, self-analytical environment. I don't know if they differ from other poker players, but they seem to have more of a matter-of-fact candor about their game. My edge is this, I'm not the best thing ever, and I'm constantly working to improve. It seems the culture of poker used to be, I need to pretend I'm really, really good, I need to pretend my bankroll is really, really deep, etc. Is any of that fair?

Greg: I think it's very fair. I think a good, concrete example is I was there in the heads-up play between Jerrod Ankenman and I forget who won the bracelet last year (Ian Johns), they were heads-up at one of the Limit Hold-Em Final Tables. At one point, Jerrod had a pretty big chip lead, like 80% of the chips, and this kid comes back and ends up winning the bracelet. I said something to him later like, "Oh man, that sucks. You had all those chips and you still get beat." I forget how many big blinds it was exactly, but it was something like 50 big blinds, that 80% of the chips. And he was like, "Well, I have 50 big blind downswings all the time online. What's the difference here?"

For most people, it would be a huge, horrible event. For most people, it bothers the hell out of someone to get heads-up and lose. But to get heads-up with a big, big chip lead and still lose, that just rips a lot of players apart, almost destroys their game for a long period of time because they feel like they failed when they should have done it. But Jerrod thought no, you should have done it 80% of the time. That means 20% of the time, you're going to lose, and that's not that much of a long-shot. You go to a horse track, and 4:1 is the favorite horse. You were only 4:1 to win, and the favorite horse loses the horse race all the time, it's not that big of a deal. Even for me I admit, I would still be bothered emotionally if I were in that spot and lost. I'm not as good at it as some of these guys at really divorcing myself completely from the emotions, but I'm way better than the average poker player. I may be way better than them, but I'm still way behind the people who are best at it.

CC: I want to touch on a couple of other things. I've written a lot about Relationships and Poker. There are very few great poker players who have great, long-term marriages in their lives as well.

I don't know about that. Joe Hachem has a great relationship with his wife; my relationship is very good with my wife. Varkonyi as well, Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, Doyle Brunson as well. He's had the longest relationship of any of us.

CC: Is there anything unique in these relationships or in how your wife has adjusted to this?

It's not unique, but certainly when she married me, I'm a lawyer for the majority of our marriage. I'm working 9:00-5:00 give or take; obviously, when I was at a law firm, the hours were longer. Certainly, I was home every night with very few exceptions. I didn't travel a lot as a patent attorney. Now, I'm on the road 60-70% of the time. It is a huge difference, and she doesn't like it. I don't like it, but I like everything else about my new career better than my old. She tries not to let me know that she dislikes it, because she knows I'm happier with everything else, and she's aware of the fact that I wish I could do my job without traveling so much. So I'll have to win the Main Event again, bank the whole $8m without backers, then maybe I can afford to retire and quit traveling so much.

CC: No need to tell you this, but the level of graciousness you show other people seems almost unparalleled in public figures. At almost any time, you seem willing to drop everything and reach out to people. This victory that you had and its aftermath had to be a life-changing experience.

Greg: It changed my lifestyle, but it didn't really change me. Maybe it's because I'm very self-contained. I've had a big, big ego; I was born with it. I've always been self-confident. Anything I put any effort into, I feel I can be good at. Except something like high-jumping. When I won the Main Event, it never occurred to me that I was the greatest in the world. I always found that stuff amusing, a cover story about the World's Greatest Poker Player.

Playing good and running good for one week doesn't make you the best; you have to do more like the Doyle Brunson thing where you're on top for decades. Then you can say you're the best. Even someone like Phil Ivey has not been around long enough. Even though he has a long career; relatively speaking, he's an old-time compared to all these kids. Even he, as good as he is and as strong as his reputation is, he can't say he's the greatest until he's stayed on top for ten more years or so. Then maybe it would be appropriate to think he is the greatest.

I know a lot of these guys are better than me. I've played in $300/600 or $400/800 cash games, and I win. But I can easily see how some of the guys in the game are better than I am. I'm also able to take advantage of the weaker players, so I can make $500 an hour and they'll make $800 an hour in the game or whatever. We can both make money, and one or two really bad players are funding it. When I play against them, I immediately see I'm not the greatest.

CC: You also always take time when you sign autographs to ask who it is for.

Yeah, it's partly because the true fans appreciate it, and partly because the people who aren't fans who just want to autograph something and want to sell it on eBay can't sell it when it says ‘To Jim'. They don't get as much. If you're going to collect autographs for sale, that is one of the cardinal rules is you don't get it personalized. No one wants to buy the Babe Ruth baseball that says ‘To Jimmy'. They want the Babe Ruth baseball that just has his autograph on it, maybe something else, maybe home run number 550. I'm doing it because the true fans appreciate it, and the non-true fans get thwarted, that's a good word for it.

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