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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Greg Raymer

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event and 2.5 million dollars.  This was his very first live event.  Because of this “anyone can do it” fever, the main event saw a jump from 839 entrants to 2,576, the biggest percentage jump in the history of the event.  With the jump in participants came a jump in prize money.  The five million dollar prize doubled the 2003 events grand prize, and at the time was the biggest amount of money ever awarded to a winner of a poker tournament.  The beneficiary of this all?  Greg “Fossilman” Raymer.

Raymer was born in Minot, North Dakota in 1964.  As a result of his parents changing their jobs often during his childhood, Raymer would live in nearly every corner of America before he reached high school.  Finally, in high school, the family settled down in St. Louis, Missouri.  During these years Raymer, unlike many other poker champions, had yet to be introduced to gambling.  Neither of his parents had much interest in it, and as a result of moving so much he didn’t really have a chance to find it with friends.  This would soon change.

A solid student, Raymer attended the University of Missouri-Rolla.  At Missouri-Rolla he finally got his poker career off the ground playing fellow students and members of his fraternity (Kappa Sigma) in nickel and dime poker games.  It was also during this time that he began playing Blackjack, becoming so proficient in it he started counting cards at local Indian casinos.  Although he wasn’t playing for huge stakes, the casinos started to catch on, thus ending Raymer’s career as a card counter.  Instead, he began to make the transition to poker.  He first started playing 3-6 Limit Hold’em with very little knowledge of the game.  After early success, he began reading everything he could about the game, eventually working his way up in limits. 

Despite finding the game in college, there isn’t much talk of him as a poker player.  For the first ten years after college, he took a job as a patent lawyer.  Eventually that job took him to Stonington, Connecticut, where he started working for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.  Stonington also happened to be just a short drive away from Foxwoods Casino, the place where it would all start to change for Raymer.

Raymer may hold an interesting place in poker history, as he became perhaps the first major player to be a “product of this generation.”  Raymer started using the internet as a major tool to make his game better.  While other players have credited online poker to helping their game before Raymer (Chris Ferguson said he used to make extensive charts following his play of free money games back when online poker first hit the web) none of them had used the great tool of message boards.  If you are proficient on Google at all, you are able to follow the career progression of Raymer from small limit player to World Series winner and perhaps the most recognizable poker face in the world.  Also, because of the gaining popularity of poker in the mainstream more books were available than ever before, every one of which Raymer got his hands on.

Raymer eventually worked his way up to the 150-300 Limit Hold’em games, and soon became interested in all the other forms of poker and of course, tournaments.  Between 1996 and 2000 Raymer placed in 6 mid-level buy in tournaments, including winning just over $25,000 in a $100 buy in Seven Card Stud Event at the 2001 New England Poker Classic.  Not huge money, but enough to pad his bankroll enough to try other events, including his first WSOP shot.

It didn’t take long for Raymer to get a taste of WSOP success, placing 12th in the $1000 buy-in Omaha Hi-Lo Split Eight or Better event in 2001.  While the prize money wasn’t nothing to write home about ($5,345) it was enough for Raymer to know that he could play with the big boys.  After that, Raymer began playing yearly in a select few WSOP events, but not the Main Event yet.  He also continued to find success in local New England tournaments, while continuing to flourish in cash games.

In 2004 Raymer decided he was going to play in the Main Event, and was ready to fork over the $10,000 entrance fee.  However, just like Moneymaker the year before, Raymer was able to satellite through PokerStars, winning a 160 dollar event.  Instead of forking over a somewhat significant amount of his bankroll, Raymer only need a fraction of a percentage for his chance at the biggest prize pool in history.
Shortly before the 2004 WSOP Main Event Greg Raymer's bankroll was in the middle of a decline.  After winning his seat from the previously mentioned satellite, he decided to sell shares of himself for the Main Event.  He ended up selling one share of himself for $500 apiece, and was able to raise over $30,000, including one investor who bought 10 shares.  Raymer's overall winnings would come out to about 60 percent, while the investors shared the other 40 percent.  Needless to say, Raymer's bankroll is more than fine now.

Although Raymer had kept his job as a patent attorney, he was beginning to make a name for himself in the poker world, especially on the east coast.  While he wasn’t the most experienced of players, he showed no visible nerves the first day of the event.  Because of that, he was able to finish near the top of the leader board in day one.
Throughout the event Raymer showed no signs of being intimidated, sitting his chair without as much as a glitch in his posture.  Also, because of his now famous holographic shades, it was impossible to get a read looking into his eyes.  After suffering anything resembling a bad beat, it’s been said Raymer gets better, not worse, and he certainly showcased that impressive skill at this event.  He was also the beneficiary of some bad beats, when his pair of tens flopped a set against pocket aces and when his A-10 hit a straight against his opponents A-K.  Ask anyone who has ever won a major event like this, and they will tell you it’s nearly impossible to win without having a little bit of this luck on your side.
Fossilman entered the final table with a significant chip lead.  One by one players began to dwindle, and finally Raymer found himself up against poker pro David Williams.  After a pretty good back and forth, Raymer finally defeated Williams when his pair of eights held up against A-4, winning him five million dollars and the Main Event Bracelet.

Raymer celebrated the historic victory by quitting his job.  Perhaps as a result of all the moving he did as a youngster, he loves to travel, and quit his job mainly so he could do this and spend time with his wife and children.  Like a handful of players who have won the Main Event, Raymer started to play in fewer and fewer tournaments.  However, when he does play, he usually makes an impact.
The following year he placed 6th in the $1,500 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event, winning nearly $120,000.  But, in what is perhaps one of the best feats in tournament poker history, Raymer was also able to finish 25th in that year’s Main Event winning an additional $304,000.  What made that feat so special is that the field now jumped to 5,619 competitors, more than double a jump of the 2,576 Raymer battled through just a year before.  Raymer seemed a shoo in for the final table, holding a chip lead with just a few dozen more to go, when his pair of kings was defeated by Q-J suited when a flush hit on the river.

Raymer’s view on big field tournaments differs a bit than others.  Most people think that small tournaments featuring only the best players of 100 or less are harder because every hand you are up against a great player.  But Raymer says that in big fields you not only have to beat the 100 or so best players, but you also have to beat the thousands of others.  He also thinks that the term “dead money,” is used way too freely, and that most people who play in these tournaments aren’t as bad as some would like to think.  Each theory has its points, but it’s safe to say Raymer can hold his own in either one of these tournament formats.

Raymer earned the nickname of “Fossilman” because he uses fossils he has collected as his hole card protector.  While first taking up the game he would often sell one of his fossils to fellow players which helped pad his bankroll.
Despite playing a minimal schedule, Raymer seems to always make the money, especially in the WSOP.  He has made the money 13 times, which isn’t exactly many more tournaments than he has played in.  

As mentioned, Raymer likes to spend his free time with his family and traveling the world.  He also likes to play online.  To prove he is more than just a PokerStars sponsor enjoying handouts, Raymer showed he has a knack for online play in the $320 buy-in World Championship Of Online Poker Pot Limit Omaha with rebuys event for $168,362.  The internet has been very kind to Raymer over the years.  While Raymer continues to use internet forums he is now not seeking advice, but is the one giving it, something he does happily.

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