It’s not often that one of the top tournament players in the world could be easily overlooked when it comes to discussing some of the best players in poker. However, for Erik Seidel, this has been one of the characteristics that he’s used to exploit his competition for several years. He’s a silent assassin, but Seidel wouldn’t want things to be any different.
Seidel’s poker knowledge didn’t come overnight. Similar to several of the peers of his era, Seidel originally played Backgammon at a very high level for supplementary income. Growing up in New York City, as a young kid, the ambitious nature of the area had a big influence on Seidel’s attitude towards competition and recreation. Backgammon games were consistently available during any time of day, and since the opportunity was there, he quickly adjusted his interests to incorporate more of the popular board game variation.
Between his studies at Brooklyn College, Seidel spent his free time playing Backgammon religiously, deeply analyzing each move so that he would consistently improve as a player. Through enough competition and earnings, Seidel decided that school should no longer be his primary focus, and decided that playing Backgammon for a living would be both more financially beneficial, and intrinsically rewarding.
Playing Backgammon for a living came with the perks of making your own schedule, and with the additional free time from exiting school, Seidel found the legendary Mayfair Club in New York City. A club where poker, backgammon and bridge were regularly played, it was here where Seidel met some of the brightest and most influential poker (and backgammon) minds to date. Widely decorated players such as Dan Harrington and Howard Lederer frequently visited the club, and through familiarity, eventually connected with several players to develop his poker skills.
As Seidel was jetsetting across the country to participate in various Backgammon games, the popularity of poker became more and more prevalent at the Mayfair Club. Often times running more poker games than any other game variety, Seidel was incidentally forced to expand his gaming genres. Seidel continued to improve his poker ability, while simultaneously playing Backgammon for nearly eight years. Although the games were still lucrative, the volatile nature of the games was just enough to convince Seidel to take on a normal job. But despite becoming a stockbroker, Seidel continued to play at the Mayfair Club to subsidize his salary.
Although the life and monetary gain from being a stockbroker was significant, the instability of the stock market forced Seidel to change professions once again. However, he would change only once more, eventually deciding that the evolution of his poker career is where his focus should lie.
By 1988, Seidel was a seasoned poker player, capable of winning thousands of dollars in one sitting. However, since cash games were more conducive to his style, the decision to play in his first World Series of Poker was followed with a great deal of anxiety. Although Seidel’s poker ability was never in question, his results during the 1988 World Series of Poker left something to be desired. He was eliminated before the money in nine out of ten events that he played, but luckily for Seidel, his fortune seemed to turn around at just the right moment.
In the 19th annual WSOP, Seidel made it to heads-up play against the legendary Johnny Chan. Although Seidel concluded that event as the runner-up, he took the lesson learned from competing well against such a worthy opponent to heart, and applied it to his play throughout his career. Always known to him as the “one that got away,” Seidel didn’t lose focus at the sight of his 1988 defeat.
Seidel continued to play successfully within his local games, but eventually made his presence felt on the biggest stage in poker by winning his first bracelet in 1992 at the $2,500 Limit Hold’em event. Cashing for $168,000, the win was not quite as large as his runner-up Main Event finish, but was unmistakably more meaningful. He continued to play tournament poker, and eventually won two more WSOP bracelets, one in 1993 in Omaha 8 or Better, and another victory in Limit Hold’em in 1994.
The World Series of Poker continued to be a hotspot for Erik Seidel, making frequent cashes in several different events over the next half-decade. Bracelet #3 came surprisingly in the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw event, and after the contest, the poker world began to notice the longevity of the career that would evolve around Erik Seidel.
Considering Seidel’s mark in poker history, there are very few players that have achieved higher successes than him in the World Series of Poker. Only Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, Phil Hellmuth Jr. and the aformentioned Chan currently hold more bracelets than Seidel. In terms of all-time career tournament earnings, as of June 2011, Seidel is currently the leader with $15,968,095 overall.
Most of Seidel’s tournament earnings have come from the WSOP and the World Poker Tour. He has a combined total of 78 cashes between them, 60 coming from the WSOP. Seidel holds 8 WSOP bracelets, and 1 title on the World Poker Tour. Seidel has won more than $4.3 million from the World Series of Poker.
Keeping that staggering figure in consideration, Seidel’s 2011 campaign also began with winning over $4.3 million, in just beyond three months of play. In the first month of the year, Seidel went on to take a combined $3,386,654 from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the Aussie Millions. His Aussie Millions title came in the largest live tournament buy-in event ever, an unbelievable $250,000 entry fee, but he reigned supreme to the sum of $2,489,747.
Dominating the High Roller events within both of those venues, he continued his willingness to play high-stakes by taking yet another High Roller title during the February L.A Poker Classic for $144,570. The NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship solidfied Seidel’s quest for utter dominance in 2011, as he also took that trophy for another $750,000.
In April 2011, Seidel finished second at the Hollywood Open for $155,103. In May 2011, he won his fourth High Roller event, by besting a field of 29 elite players to take down over a million dollars. Although his success slowed down for the remainder of the year, a lot is still yet to be seen from Seidel, whom many now consider to be the best tournament player on the planet.
Although the one-time amateur who was just a runner-up to a well-known pro, has since gained enormous credibility, Seidel still tries to avoid the pressures of the limelight. It will be overwhelmingly difficult for him to retain some anonymity with his outstanding resume, but if he could have things his way, he would love to be seen as the big, yet quiet elephant in the room.
Seidel is currently sponsored by Full Tilt Poker, one of the leading companies in online poker.
On his off days, Seidel enjoys spending time with his children, and also his wife. He plays leisure sports when available, and takes the time to take part in charitable organizations during in-between days. He also thoroughly enjoys music.