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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Erik Seidel

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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 the world of Hollywood, Eric Seidel is known as being the man who lost to Johnny Chan at the World Series of Poker main event, as shown to us in the movie “Rounders.”  In the world of poker, Eric Seidel is an eight time WSOP champion and widely regarded as one the most rounded and best tournament players the game has to offer.  The 1988 WSOP heads-up loss to Chan may always be etched in silver screen history, but winning eight bracelets since then, and not to mention millions of dollars, has certainly taken the sting away from that loss.

Erik Seidel was born on November 6, 1959 in New York City.  Like many of the poker players we have chronicled in our “Where Are They Now” series, he took a liking to games very early in his life.  Early on, poker was just a passing interest, as chess and backgammon became the focal point of most of his childhood hours.  Contrary to popular belief, the movie “Rounders” wasn’t Seidel’s first appearance in front of a camera.  At 12 years old he was a guest on the popular show “To Tell the Truth.”  

While attending Brooklyn College, Seidel became more and more interested and proficient in the game of backgammon.  He began touring neighboring cities for games and tournaments and was doing so well he started to consider dropping out of school to pursue a career as a professional backgammon player.  In present day that doesn’t seem like a profession many people would have, but the 1970’s was at the height of backgammon popularity, and many players were playing it professionally.  Seidel’s tough decision of whether or not to continue going to college was all but made when he discovered the now defunct Mayfair Club in New York City.  The Mayfair Club was a card room in a basement, running illegally, but without problems from the law because both the owners and members of the club made it a strict priority to keep a low profile.  While the majority of the people in this card room chose to play poker, there was a pretty solid group of backgammon players there who would play in high stakes games, including Dan Harrington.

Seidel made his decision to quit school as he continued to climb up the ranks as one of the best professional backgammon players in the area.  However, sometimes when a game or tournament was over, Seidel would venture over to the poker table to try his luck, and with Mayfair club members like Harrington, Howard Lederer, and Steve Zolotow playing there, he was forced to learn pretty quickly.  He soon formed a bond with these players, known as the “Mayfair Club,” and soon started putting backgammon on the backburner for poker, particularly for a relatively new game at the time, Texas Hold’em.

In 1988, after spending between 1985 and 1988 being a semi-professional gambler and stock trader, Seidel thought he had made enough of an improvement in his game to be able to try his new found skill at that year’s WSOP.  With the help of a number of backers from the Mayfair Club, he decided he was going to play ten events that year.  In the first nine, he went 0-9 without really even making it close to the money.  In order to make an investment for his backers he was going to at least have to go a little deep in the Main Event, but he would end up doing that.  He would finish second to Johnny Chan (of “Rounders” fame) for a prize of $280,000.  Proving that the high finish was no fluke, he won first place and a prize of $144,000 later that summer by taking down the $1,000 buy-in no limit Hold’em event at the annual Diamond Jim Brady tournament.  

While confident in his poker game, Seidel has generally felt that the thought of a 9-5 job was always a smart one, so he returned to New York City for a job on Wall Street. However, it became harder and harder to justify a “normal” job, as he continuously found himself at the final table of many of the top tournaments.  He nearly got his first WSOP bracelet, again finishing second, in the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event in 1991, for $105,000.

Despite not winning his first bracelet quite yet, the end of 1991 and 1992 were good ones for Seidel, as he placed in four tournaments for a total of around $111,000.  

There is a saying in football that “sometimes getting the initial first down is the hardest, but once you do it flows from there.”  The same can be said about Seidel’s WSOP career.  He was runner-up twice now for a bracelet, including the famous (or infamous) scene with Chan, and had to be wondering when luck would change for him.  Well, it changed, to the tune of eight WSOP bracelets.  Seidel himself likes to say his best game is No Limit Hold’em, but his first bracelet came in the limit variety at the 1992 WSOP.  In fact, only two of his eight bracelets have come in No Limit Hold’em.  That is far from a knock on the guy.  He has proved that he is one of the best rounded poker players in the game.  

Seidel is also proving he has longevity in the poker world.  In a game where a lot of people win one major tournament and are rarely heard from again, Seidel’s eight bracelets range from 1992 to 2007, with his latest bracelet coming in the 2-7 draw lowball w/rebuys events with a buy-in of $5000 and a prize of $538,835.  His other bracelets have come in Omaha 8 or better (1993), Deuce to Seven Draw (1998), and Pot Limit Omaha (2003).  

Seidel is one of those poker players that falls into a select group of both being amazingly talented, and equally reserved both at and away from the poker table.  If you asked a random group of poker fans to name players that have won eight or more WSOP bracelets, it’s my guess you would be waiting a long time to hear any of them mention the name of Seidel.  This fact is most likely good for his game, in the sense that if you don’t know who he is when he’s taking all of your chips, then it makes his job that much easier.  

It just isn’t the WSOP Seidel has had success at.  He also has a World Poker Tour victory, Foxwoods Poker Classic 2008, and 15 other money finishes on the tour.  Most recently he finished 19th at the European WSOP main event for $52,670.

When he isn’t placing in live tournaments, Seidel is busy as part of the design team at Full Tilt Poker.  He can also be seen there on a regular basis playing high stakes cash games, as well as some of the bigger buy-in tournaments.  At just 49 years old, it is arguable that he will be right near the top of all-time WSOP bracelet winners when it’s all said and done.  The funny thing is he’ll probably do it so quietly and unassumingly that we may never notice it.

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