sat down with the 2004 World Series of Poker Main-Event
Champion, Greg Raymer, to find out how his life
has changed since his big win, what he loves about
poker, and how a mild-mannered patent attorney
by day, turned into "Fossilman" by night!
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PokerLizard: So it’s been awhile since your
win. How is life as a professional poker player
and do you miss the 9-5 (or maybe 6-8) workdays
as an attorney?
Raymer: Well, I’m not really a professional
poker player in the strictest sense of the word.
Because of my unique status, I’m spending
a lot more time making appearances, working on
advertisements and endorsements, and writing my
book than I am on playing poker. However, I am
playing in many of the major events out there,
and enjoying it. It will be even more fun once
I win another one (fingers crossed). I absolutely
do NOT miss my old job, at least not in the sense
that I would wish I hadn’t won the WSOP
so things would be as they were. I love my new
situation, and while being a patent attorney is
a pretty good life, this new life is even better.
PokerLizard: In the 2002 WSOP, you put all your
money in with AQs, and subsequently got busted
by Tony D’s T4o. Do you treat AQ like the
rotten meat that Brunson does, or do you simply
see it as another decent starting had that must
be played cautiously?
Raymer: It’s a very good starting hand,
but it’s not aces. In fact, once you drop
down from aces, everything is a big step down.
However, I still would make that call, as long
as I’m still confident that I’m ahead.
I don’t care if I had held J3o, if I was
somehow sure I was the significant favorite, then
calling was correct.
PokerLizard: How was your experience in ESPN’s
TOC? A lot of internet geniuses have second-guessed
some of your plays (the 8,9 hands mostly); can
you explain the rationale behind the plays? Did
you ever get Daniel Negreanu’s autograph?
Raymer: It was a great experience, and certainly
a new experience. I’ve played with many
great players over the years, but never before
have I been at a table where everyone plays great.
It certainly changes things. As for my calls with
89, I was quite sure I had the pot odds to call
with the worst hand on both occasions. I was getting
well over 4:1 the first time, and about 2.5:1
the second time. Unfortunately, ESPN didn’t
do a very good job of indicating what odds I was
getting either time. And yes, I did get Daniel’s
autograph. A friend of my wife’s wanted
it, as she is a big fan of his. I’ve told
him if he’s ever single again I know a lady
who wants to meet him. ;-)
PokerLizard: Of all those top players, which
ones would you consider the most formidable?
Raymer: All of them, really. In my interview
with ESPN I picked Daniel as the player most likely
to win, but truly everyone played more than well
enough to win. Oddly enough, kind of like a bunch
of amateurs, luck was going to be the determining
factor that day, and skill was going to have very
little to do with it, simply because there wasn’t
that big of a difference in skill level amongst
PokerLizard: ESPN’s Jay Lovinger compared
you to Bob Woodward of the Watergate investigation,
noting your similar Zen-like calmness and low-key
confidence. Does this comparison surprise you?
Raymer: Yes, since I really know nothing about
Bob Woodward. And, of course, he got where he
is almost entirely as a result of skill, while
my victory owes itself to both luck and skill
to a large degree. However, I certainly am happy
to be compared to somebody who is so well thought
PokerLizard: Have you taken your normal ring
games to a new level, or do you still frequent
the mid-level cash games?
Raymer: I was already playing in the biggest
cash games available at Foxwoods, as high as 150-300.
So, I’m not sure if you would still consider
me a mid-level cash game player or not. I certainly
look for somewhat bigger games now when I’m
out of town, but not much bigger.
PokerLizard: Which do you prefer and why –
tournaments or limit cash games?
Raymer: I prefer tourneys, because they are simply
more fun. Also, I enjoy the extra layer of strategy
that comes with tournament play. The only reason
tourneys aren’t much more complex than cash
games is because you so often have such a short
stack in tourneys. The simplifying factor of a
short stack makes tourneys simpler than cash games
in many ways. Still, there is a lot more to consider
in many ways as well.
PokerLizard: You’ve obviously taught yourself
well. Which poker books would you put at the top
of your list?
Raymer: Theory of Poker by David Sklansky is
easily number one, and number two isn’t
PokerLizard: Now that you are a PokerStars fixture,
do you enjoy playing online, and are you on there
Raymer: I enjoy playing online, so I do it a
lot. At least, I do it a lot when I can.
PokerLizard: For those that don’t know
(all 4 of them), your nickname is “Fossilman”
because you collect fossils. How did you get interested
in fossils? What is your favorite piece? I once
read an article about you that said you collected
“antique” fossils. Aren’t they
Raymer: I never said “antique fossils”.
Somebody else made up that oxymoron. About 8 years
ago when I lived in San Diego, my wife took me
to a rock and mineral show, and I found an orthoceras
fossil (the black teardrop-shaped fossil you see
me use to protect my cards). I wasn’t really
a collector, I just thought it was neat, and would
make a good card protector. However, everybody
else at the Oceanside Card Club also thought it
was neat, so I came up with the idea of buying
more fossils and selling them at the table. It
was a great success when I lived out west, but
sales died down dramatically when I moved here
to Connecticut. My best and favorite piece is
the large ammonite that you can sometimes catch
a glimpse of in the ESPN coverage when I’m
at the final table. It is a large, round, nautiloid
fossil with lots of great crystals that have grown
within the fossil.
PokerLizard: How did you first get interested
in poker? How long have you been playing serious
Raymer: I played nickel-dime-quarter poker in
my college fraternity. It was a very occasional
game, and we were all terrible. In grad school
and law school I made extra money playing blackjack
and counting cards in the Indian casinos in Minnesota.
When I got my first job and moved to Chicago,
there were no good BJ games. While checking out
the BJ game at a charity Las Vegas night, I found
they offered poker. I played for fun, but decided
that if I was going to keep playing, I had better
learn how to play well. I went to a used bookstore,
and found a copy of Theory of Poker, and the rest
PokerLizard: Back in 2002, you solicited backers
on some of the online forums. A lot of people
who didn’t know you gave you a LOT of negative
feedback about your request. How does it feel
to get the last laugh on these nay Sayers?
Raymer: I don’t feel like I have the last
laugh. Some of the comments were appropriate.
If you didn’t know me personally so as to
trust me and have a good sense of my skill level,
it was foolish to back me. My posts on these public
forums were not made with the intent of soliciting
money from strangers, but as a convenient way
to get the word out to my many long-time friends
who were also members of these forums. It surprised
me that a few strangers also bought in. I did
not want to send private emails to my friends,
because it might have made them uncomfortable
saying no. By posting on the forums, it was perfectly
comfortable for them to say no, as all they had
to do was ignore the posts.
PokerLizard: Rumor has it that you have a tournament
book coming out. Does the publisher have a name
picked out? When is it being released? How will
the book differ from the other tourney books?
Raymer: Yes, I am writing a book and have already
signed a contract with Two Plus Two Publishing.
The book will come out as soon as it’s ready,
which won’t be until at least next year
sometime. It is largely based upon my thousands
of posts on their poker forum, and it will definitely
include some concepts that are not yet out there
PokerLizard: Which is your favorite poker game
to play and what do like most about it?
Raymer: I actually prefer hi-lo split games over
one-way games, probably because they are more
mathematical. I really don’t enjoy limit
hold’em or limit stud at all. I do like
pot-limit and no-limit hold’em, but not
as much as pot-limit Omaha. There is more room
to play more hands more creatively in the big
bet games, which is the best thing about them.
Limit games tend to be a lot more cut-and-dried.
And, if I’m going to play less creatively,
I’d rather play hi-lo games, because the
typical opponent plays worse in these games, in
PokerLizard: What were the most memorable hands
you played at the WSOP?
Raymer: I think you saw almost all of them. The
final hand is my favorite, of course, but the
hand where I doubled through Mike Matusow was
a close second.
PokerLizard: When you were first starting out,
what advice or information (books/software etc.)
helped you the most?
Raymer: All of the books I read helped a lot.
Even though Theory of Poker is a clear number
one for me, most of the books out there will be
of some help, at least. Other than that, I would
recommend taking part in a good poker discussion
forum, such as those at twoplustwo.com, or the
PokerLizard: When is your new website, FossilmanPoker.com,
going to be unveiled, and what types of things
will be on the site?
Raymer: At first this site will include a calendar
of upcoming events and appearances, as well as
trip reports. There will also be retail items
available, including the sunglasses, autographed
fossils and photos, t-shirts, hats, and other
poker-related merchandise. I may start a discussion
forum there some day, but I’m not yet sure
of that, as there are already so many good ones
out there. Of course, if anybody has advice about
the content, they should feel free to let me know.
PokerLizard: What is the strangest thing you’ve
been asked to endorse since your big win?
Raymer: Well, there is a FossilMan bobblehead
doll coming out. That is certainly the weirdest
thing yet for me.
PokerLizard: 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? (Since you’re
a married man, I’ll understand if you don’t
Raymer: I’ll answer, with the assumption
that the answer only applies in a hypothetical
world where I am single. I never liked the girlfriend
character at all anyway, so she would’ve
been long-gone even before Famke was making herself
available. And, being unattached at that point,
it would have been a no-brainer to get together
Learn from Greg at FossilmanPoker.com
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