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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Howard Lederer

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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.

Imagine sitting down to a game of cards at your next family reunion.  It will probably be a fairly mellow affair, with lots of laughing and good spirited ribbing.  Some of you may win or lose a few dollars against members of your family who may be playing poker for the first time just to get in on the game.  Now imagine you are Howard Lederer and sitting down to a game of cards at your next family reunion.  Sitting across the table from you see your sister, Annie Duke, who has won more money in tournament poker than any other woman in history.  Then you look next to Duke and see your other sister, Katy Lederer, an accomplished writer (in and out of poker), who knows you better than anyone.  I would imagine these games would be played over big stacks of cash, and not the nickels and dimes the rest of us would probably be playing with.  

Lederer has earned his reputation as being one of the better poker players in the world over many years of studying the game, hence the nickname “The Professor,” and not to mention he has the results to show for it.  Despite growing up in a family of gamblers, Lederer’s original game of choice was chess, a game that would eventually lead him to poker.

Howard Lederer was born in Concord, New Hampshire on October 30, 1964.  While we’ve chronicled other players that were introduced to gambling at a young age, Lederer might hold the record, as upon birth he was thrust into that world.  Howard’s father, Richard, was a writer and teacher at St. Paul’s School, one of the most famous college-preparatory schools in America.  Howard also had a keen interest for gambling, and also the theory of gambling.  As a youngster Howard would play a variety of games with his father or any other family member that would stop by, including blackjack, gin, and even poker.  Not only would they play it, they would analyze it, with his father asking him why he choose the move he did, and then figuring out if it was the correct play.  

Despite the little bit of poker Lederer was playing, his real first love was chess, and also a game he initially played with his father.  During high school Lederer won many tournaments, and as his game improved the thought of being a professional started to seem like a justifiable career choice.  Lederer, also an exceptional student, earned his way into Columbia University in New York City, but the real reason he wanted to go to New York City was because it was the hot bed of professional chess at the time.

In 1982 Lederer began to frequent the plethora of underground game clubs that were available in New York City.  He started playing chess, but he always had his eye on the game on the other side of the room, poker.  Before too long Lederer found himself running errands for poker players to both earn a little bit of money to play with, and to gain a seat to the game.  Lederer almost overnight shoved the chessboard aside, and began to concentrate solely on poker.  However, it wasn’t a winning experience at first.  Lederer would often play too long, up to 80 hours a week, and has said he would leave broke nine out of every ten times he played.  He would obviously need to change some things if he were to become a winning player.

One of the first things he did was to cut his number of hours playing in half, and spent the time he was not playing on reading and talking about the games to other players.  Also he began to play poker at one of the most famous underground game rooms of all, the Mayfair Club.  Members of this club included Erik Seidel and Dan Harrington.  After a session, some of the players would go to a bar and talk about particularly interesting hands, almost always among that group was Lederer.  After five years of honing his skills at the Mayfair Club, he began to travel to Las Vegas with some of the gang, particularly to play in the World Series of Poker.

In his very first year of WSOP competition, Lederer finished 5th in the $10,000 championship for a prize of $56,250.  The following year he had two more final table appearances, finishing 7th in both the $1,000 Omaha Limit event and the $1,500 Limit Hold’em event.  After finishing in the money at the WSOP a total of five more times, Lederer decided that he would move to Las Vegas to be closer to the action.

Despite his success at tournament poker, Lederer began to concentrate on cash games most of the time, while only occasionally playing in the bigger poker tournaments, of which he continued to find success.  In 1994 he won his first big tournament, winning the Hall of Fame Poker Classic $2,500 No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event for $52,875.  He would go on to defend that title the following year, winning an additional prize of over $72,000.  That year he also had his biggest cash, finishing second in the $5,000 buy in event of the Hall of Fame Poker Classic for $135,700.  In 2000 Lederer won his first WSOP bracelet, taking down the $5,000 buy-in Limit Omaha Hi-Lo event for $198,000.

Perhaps Lederer’s most famous year of his poker career was 2001.  This year he won his second WSOP bracelet, winning the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw, gaining an additional $168,000 boost to his bankroll. However, this would seem like small peanuts compared to the money he was getting ready to gamble against billionaire banker Andy Beal.  

Lederer, as a member of “The Corporation,” along with other noticeable professionals such as Todd and Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Ted Forrest, Jennifer Harman, and Barry Greenstein, was challenged by Beal to a series of heads-up games, with stakes reaching as high as $100,000/$200,000.  

Lederer had great success against Beal in 2004, winning $9.3 million dollars from him over a series of a few games.  Although details of all the sessions are sketchy, Michael Craig’s book, The Professor, the Banker, and The Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time, chronicles all the parts the players were willing to talk about.  Although Beal ended up losing around 40 million dollars from these games, over a two year time period, he holds the record of the most money won at a poker game in a single day, taking 11.7 million from “The Corporation.”

Lederer once again became interested in tournament poker upon the arrival of the World Poker Tour.  He won his first of two WPT titles in November of 2002, winning over $320,000.  His second win on the WPT tour came in March 2003, winning $289,000.  All said, Lederer has finished in the money at the WPT seven times.

Lederer’s tournament schedule has once again begun to take a backseat to other poker pursuits.  He has hosted a number of instructional DVD’s, including his very first one, titled “Secrets of No Limit Hold’em,” which features one of our very own, founder Linda Geenen, as the dealer.  And Linda is also one of the two people noted in the credits of Michael Craig’s book to whom he gives credit for making his book possible – the other person is his wife.  Lederer also hosts a poker fantasy camp that travels around the country, usually coinciding with the various WSOP circuit events.  Howard plays online poker exclusively at Full Tilt Poker and is a Team Full Tilt member.

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