Cardschat Exclusive Interview with Erik Seidel
A CardsChat Interview with Erik Seidel by Jennifer Newell
There are some people in poker that are intimidating by sheer poker greatness. Erik Seidel is one of those players. Not only that, but he towered over me in height but boasted of a wickedly dry sense of humor that made my lame attempts at sarcasm want to hide under a rock.
I had the opportunity to interview him for a previous employer, but our schedules dictated a Skype phone interview, sans video. It was a relief for this writer, as my shyness exceeds Seidelís by leaps and bounds. But the interview was smooth, and he complimented me after its publication. From that point, I felt more comfortable - still intimidated but with the slightest bit of occupational courage.
When CardsChat wanted interviews, I confidently said that I could speak with Erik Seidel. ďNo problem!Ē I eventually emailed him, he responded, and we met in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker. It was a rare day off for him, so we met at a wine cafť near his home. I walked in a bundle of nerves but was soon put at ease by his casual and friendly manner.
Jen: You got your start in gaming with highly competitive backgammon and poker pros. What are some of the traits common in both players that equal success?
Erik: I think there are a lot of similarities. One of the things I find in common with a lot of the games players is they very often somewhat outside of many social circles, and gaming is their distraction. They get into it that way, so I think we start off with that in common. Then thereís the fact that theyíre interested in games, thinking through problems, and focused. If you donít have that kind of focus, if youíre not going to put in your 10,000 hours, youíre not going to be successful at it. Thereís such competition in the fields, so we have a lot of people in our community who are independent thinking people.
Jen: When you played at the Mayfair, what did you see in your future? Did you see gaming in your future?
Erik: When I was playing backgammon there, I was concerned about the future because there was a limited amount of money you could make in backgammon, no matter how good you are. Itís just not that lucrative of a profession. I was hoping to get into something like other players who graduated toward Wall Street, and I thought that would be a good fit. I hoped that was the direction Iíd go in, and I did get recruited to the mortgage desk at PaineWebber.
Jen: As the years have gone by in poker, what adjustments did you make in your game to compete with Internet players?
Erik: I donít have any real specific adjustments that I can point to. Itís more that the game is changing, and you have to adapt the way you think about the game and be more aware of what these kids are capable of. Itís a much more volatile game now, so thereís less control over your results. Itís must easier to get knocked out of tournaments earlier now because the kids really put you to the test. You have to make the adjustment of playing a more aggressive game, but I donít like to go into things thinking that Iíll play this way or that way. I go in and try to think through each situation as it comes.
Jen: How accurate is the portrayal of you as a superhuman robot hybrid in the ďSyborgĒ song?
Erik: Thatís a very funny song. I do enjoy it. (laughs) I donít know that it represents me too well. It was a nice piece for last year. I certainly feel a lot more human this year.
Jen: What do you think of all of the publicity that came from The Micros?
Erik: I love the Micros. Theyíre really a positive thing for poker. I love what theyíre doing, and theyíre extremely funny guys. Iím happy that theyíve gotten the reception theyíve gotten. Iím a huge fan of their work.
Jen: Do you ever play the big cash games in Las Vegas?
Erik: I havenít played the big cash games in awhile. I guess I played last year, just one time, but I used to play them more regularly, particularly when I first came to town. It was a big reason I came to this town. The problem now for me is that I donít want poker to take over my life. I like to have poker as a part of my life; I like playing and I like tournaments, but I donít want to be doing it every day. I have a lot of other things I want to do. I wanted to find some balance so Iím not completely giving up my life to the game.
Jen: When people like Doyle tweet about the big cash games that are so lucrative, does that tempt you?
Erik: Yeah, Iím somewhat tempted, and Iím curious about what the lineups are. If theyíre good, I wouldnít mind going over to play. Right now, Iím focused on the World Series, though, and I have somewhat limited energy. Itís amazing to me that Doyle can do what he does at the age of 78. If I get knocked out of a tournament, I rarely feel like doing anything else except going home and getting into bed. I just want to recover from the day. Iím pretty much vegging out when I get knocked out. Guys like Ivey, Greenstein, itís incredible that they can play tournaments and cash games like they do. Ivey is the craziest example. There was a year he went deep in a WSOP
event, maybe the final table, and heíd still go play the cash games after. Thatís superhuman to me. Itís incredible to have the energy and the interest to do that. I do feel like there are some games that Iíd like to play more to improve; my limit games are not as good as Iíd like them to be. There are times that I feel like I should go down and play a few hours a day in those games to improve, but when I have free time, I donít want to play poker actually.
Jen: What is your favorite poker game
Erik: I like playing Pot Limit Omaha a lot, but I really do enjoy all of the games. Not so much Limit Holdíem, but outside of that, I get a real kick out of playing even those games that I donít know real well. Iím happy playing anything.
Jen: Who is the poker pro you most respect?
Erik: The person that comes to mind is John Hennigan. I think that heís somebody who has been a really top player for a long time and has always operated with great integrity. Heís one of the people I most admire. I was really rooting for him yesterday in the $50K [Poker Players Championship] and was sorry to see him bust. Heís very well respected, and youíd have a hard time finding anyone to say anything bad about him.
Jen: Is there any poker player who you fear at the table?
Erik: I donít think thereís anyone I fear. When you play with these guys enough, you just have to make the adjustments. Any of these young kids are great, and Ivey is obviously hard to play against when heís super focused, but one person isnít that different from another.
Jen: Who is the funniest poker player you know, excluding yourself?
Erik: Juanda has a really underrated sense of humor. Heís very, very funny if youíre around him. Doyle is great and always funny. Barry Greenstein is very funny. I know Iím overlooking some people.