Seidel is arguably the best tournament poker player
in the world. With seven World Series of Poker
(WSOP) bracelets to his name and major tournament
winnings of approximately $5 million, you would
think Erik would have a big ego. You couldn't
be more wrong. Erik sat down with PokerLizard
to discuss this year's WSOP, the importance of
bankroll management, and the need for poker pros
to come together for the betterment of the game.
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PokerLizard: How did you first get interested
in poker? How long have you been playing serious
Erik: I was a professional backgammon player
and played BG with Chip Reese, Stu Unger and Puggy
Pearson. I was very impressed with them and thought
I would try to play some poker while in Vegas
for a backgammon tournament. I played 1 + $2 at
the Dunes. I won my 1st time out and was totally
clueless but got very excited about the game.
I didn't have any thoughts back then of making
a career out of it or anything, I would have been
thrilled to just win at 15/30. I've been playing
since 85'. I moved to Vegas in 95' and so the
last 10 years I've been playing full time.
PokerLizard: You finished in 2nd place in the
WSOP final event back in 1988 in your first major
tournament, were you stunned by your success back
Erik: Stunned is the right word for it. I felt
like I was watching it happen to someone else.
PokerLizard: Speaking of the '88 WSOP,
it seems as though every time you play on TV,
they show the final hand from that tournament.
Do you ever get tired of seeing that famous WSOP
hand scene in the movie Rounders?
Erik: I have mixed feelings about that whole
Rounders thing. I think overall it was not a bad
thing to be in the movie, seems kind of funny
to me that people still bring it up.
PokerLizard: Which do you enjoy more, cash games
or tournaments? Why?
Erik: I like tournaments much more. It really
thrills me to make a final table of a major and
try to play well and think well with so much at
PokerLizard: How did you get involved with Full
Erik: It's a long story, but the short version
is Howard asked Juanda and me if we would be interested
in investing in Tiltware, the co. that is responsible
for developing the software and involved with
marketing FullTiltPoker. The opportunity to be
a part of something like that with your friends
is just very cool. It has been so exciting for
me to watch the software develop and the site
progress. I am just amazed at the job these guys
have done. I have played the other sites and in
all honesty I think FullTiltPoker
has the best software out there, I'm on there
all the time playing. I get so much positive feedback
about the site.
PokerLizard: How often do you play online with
How do you vary your strategy to fit the online
Erik: I try to play about 10 hours a week. Online
is a lot looser so I play a bit tighter than normally.
PokerLizard: From your dealings with Full-Tilt,
how serious is the issue of online cheating (collusion
etc.) to Full-Tilt, what does FTP do to put player's
minds at ease?
Erik: It’s very important to the online
sites to keep the games honest. The online sites
have tremendous advantages over brick and mortar
casinos in their ability to monitor the games.
Support can go back and look at a player's history,
see how often he plays with the same people. They
can also look back at the hands players have played
and see if there is a suspicious pattern. I think
all the top sites take this stuff very seriously
and if anyone has concerns about certain players
they can email support and support will look into
PokerLizard: It's often said that, "to be
a true poker pro, you must have gone broke at
least once". I've read that you and some
other pros have excellent money management skills,
while others seem to win a big tourney one day
and need backers the next. What do you believe
are the keys to keep from going "bust"?
How do you manage your bankroll - do you invest
a certain % of your winnings and consider that
Erik: I am a little extreme on the investment
side and recently have been trying to keep a little
bit more money around because the volatility for
all of us has gone up. It’s so easy these
days to go through hundreds of thousands just
playing tournaments. The fields have grown so
much that your wins are bigger these days but
sometimes you can go a long while between wins.
I also back some players so I can go through money
very quickly without anything unusual happening.
I've been very fortunate and personally have
not gone too long without cashing a big ticket,
but have certainly gone through enough dry spells
to know that they will occur and it’s best
to have some kind of cushion so that you are prepared.
I think people should just try to play at a limit
that fits their bankroll and try to be realistic
about expectations. Ego has busted many more players
than bad beats have.
PokerLizard: Which players do you like to play
against? Who are some of your toughest opponents
Erik: I like to play against the live ones. I
think Juanda is very tough to play against, he
just thinks so well at the table. Ivey of course,
and Carlos has always given me trouble. There's
no shortage of great players these days to make
my days more difficult.
PokerLizard: In the past, you seem to have had
some disdain for the hole card cameras utilized
by the WPT and WSOP
broadcasts (sometimes even hiding your hand altogether),
basically saying, "why should I teach someone
how to beat me?" Has your opinion of the
cameras changed due to them being one of the main
catalysts for the current poker boom? Do those
shows REQUIRE you to show your hole cards?
Erik: I believe it's in the contract now that
you are required to show your cards. I do have
problems with showing. We are providing entertainment
and information and we are being asked to pay
the venues for that privilege. The venues and
the TV channels are making huge money by showing
us playing and it seems only fair that the players
should get some compensation. I think this is
a huge issue for all players going forward and
hopefully we can find a way to get compensated
in the future.
Right now the shows are taking for granted the
fact that they don't have to pay the players.
When you compare poker to other sports that are
televised it's an embarrassment that we have not
only don't receive anything for our value but
we are in fact paying out of pocket, it's a shameful
situation right now.
PokerLizard: You appeared as yourself on the
show Tilt, how did you like being an actor? What
did you think of the show?
Erik: I had a great time doing that little cameo.
My parents were filmmakers and I have always loved
the atmosphere on film sets. I have a lot of respect
for Brian Koppelman and David Levien, they wrote
Rounders and also wrote and produced Tilt. They
are both real poker players and fans of the game,
and certainly played a big part in popularizing
the game. All that said, I would have liked to
have seen Tilt present a more realistic view of
the poker world. It was a great looking production
and they had some gifted actors in the cast and
it would have been fun to see more character-driven
stories and plots. All that cheating and violence
just doesn't accurately reflect the poker world
these days. I believe those guys have more to
contribute to poker and before they are through,
we will see some other great things from them.
PokerLizard: What characteristics do you believe
are important for a person to become a great player?
Erik: I think all the best players have a certain
innate intelligence and are just good decision
makers. They are also risk takers. Barry Greenstein's
book (Ace on the River) covers this beautifully,
and I recommend players read it if they are interested
in finding out some of the intangible things that
go into making a player successful.
PokerLizard: If you had any advice for an aspiring
poker pro, what would it be?
Erik: I would say take things slow. I see many
young players getting ahead of themselves and
these games take time to learn. Poker has a way
of deceiving people into believing they are better
than they are. Try to be objective about your
relative skills as you progress and develop.
PokerLizard: Which is your favorite poker game?
Erik: I enjoy the pot-limit and no-limit games.
Limit is dull compared to NL.
PokerLizard: How do you maintain focus and discipline
for extended lengths of time at the poker table?
Erik: I just try to stay engaged and interested
in what's going on at the table. When I am paying
attention I don't get bored, these games and the
players are really fascinating. I also bring an
Ipod, which helps a lot especially when you are
playing limit poker.
PokerLizard: Does the current popularity of poker
amaze you? Do you think poker can continue this
phenomenal growth in the future?
Erik: I think it still has a lot of room for
growth. I do find it amazing, and it’s really
incredible what has happened the last few years.
I feel very privileged to be a witness to it and
PokerLizard: What do you believe has helped your
game get to its current level (books, mentors
Erik: I think playing was the most important
thing. I was also very lucky to have spent a lot
of time at the Mayfair in NY watching and playing
with so many great players with so many different
styles. Howard Lederer has always been a very
generous friend, very helpful as I was trying
to transition to the games outside of the Mayfair.
Dan Harrington, Noli Francisco and Billy Horan
were also great people to talk to about poker
and very helpful to my learning process. I could
go on and on as I have really learned from so
many players over the years.
PokerLizard: What do you enjoy most about being
a professional poker player? What do you like
Erik: I like the fact that I don't have to answer
to anyone. I have worked for people before and
the freedom of working for yourself can't be beat.
The travel can be grueling at times. I love the
luxury of being at home.
PokerLizard: What is the strangest thing you
have ever seen happen at the poker table?
Erik: Probably a guy flopping a set after someone
else had thrown away the same pair. That was described
in one of TJ's books. I was at the table. I've
seen some pretty bizarre rulings as well.
PokerLizard: What do you like to do when you
are not playing poker? What do you do when you
get burned out on playing?
Erik: Nothing like friends and family to detox
away from poker. I also like to work out, see
movies, and listen to music.
PokerLizard: A lot of discussion lately revolves
around the need for some kind of professional
poker players' organization, to further build
poker's popularity, gain better sponsorships,
and create better self-regulation. Thoughts?
Erik: I think it is very important that the players
organize and start to act in our collective self
interests. Without any organization we are pretty
powerless. Poker players are an independent group
and it's difficult to get them all to agree on
doing something for themselves or especially for
others within their community. Their personal
need for attention in the immediate gets in the
way of working towards making things better for
everyone in the future. There are some positive
things happening though and it's great to see
some outside income coming to poker players for
speaking gigs and endorsements.
It's very expensive to be on the tour and although
many of the people at the top of the food chain
are doing well for themselves, they are still
shorting themselves of their true value in the
marketplace. I would like to see the next couple
of tiers of players benefit more. Tournament poker
provides some wonderful highs, but it would be
nice to provide more financial stability for players
so that the lows are not so low.
Obligatory PokerLizard Question: If you were
Matt Damon in "Rounders" how long would
it have taken you to kick your girlfriend to the
curb and get with Famke Janssen?
Erik: It has been so long since I've seen it
I don't even remember the characters. You may
think this is a "Rounders" dodge, but
I honestly don't remember.
PokerLizard: You and many "name" pros
had much more success at this year's WSOP, to
what do you attribute this success?
Erik: I think it was due to the excellent structure
that Ken Lambert and Johnny
Grooms used. This year was very similar to 03'
when Matt Savage ran the tournament and gave us
all an incredible structure to play. When you
think of how big all the fields were this year
the results were really amazing.
When you look at all the old school poker players
that came through and did well or added to their
bracelet count, you've got to give credit to the
structure which gave the players plenty of play
for their money. Almost every top tournament player
did well over the course of the series. What was
interesting is that many of the young super aggressive
players didn't do all that well and possibly they
weren't as successful adjusting to the slower
structure as the older players. The reason why
the World Series is what it is is that the people
who run it understand that if they give the pros
8-10 hours at the final table vs. the 4 hours
the WPT gives you are going to have skill win
out more often and that in turn makes the tournaments
more prestigious and more interesting to watch.
People want a chance to watch good poker and tough
decisions being made, rather than players moving
in anytime they have 2 big cards or a pair.
PokerLizard: Erik, congratulations on your success
and here's to seeing you at many more final tables
in the future.
You can play and learn from Erik at Full
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