Erik Seidel

Erik Seidel is one of the best tournament poker players in the world.

Notice that I didn’t state that in the form of a question. It’s simply a fact, backed up by a long list of accomplishments on the tournament circuit over the last few decades.

If you’re wondering how someone you haven’t heard of, or don’t know much about can be one of the top poker players in the world, you aren’t alone.
Outside of the poker world, his claim to fame is the use of footage from his World Series of Poker final table against Johnny Chan from 1988 in the movie Rounders.

Erik Seidel was born in New York in 1959. His path to professional poker play includes backgammon play. He traveled playing in backgammon tournaments for almost a decade.

If you dig into the history of many top poker players you’ll find that a large percentage of them have played backgammon. It’ an excellent training tool for would be poker players.

He also worked as a stockbroker. He lost his job when the stock market crashed in 1987. By this time he’d been having quite a bit of success at the poker tables so the transition to full-time play was natural. He soon moved to Las Vegas, where he still resides today with his wife. They have two children.
Seidel is one of the group of professional poker players who came out of the Mayfair Club. Others from the Mayfair include Dan Harrington, Paul Magriel, Steve Zolotow, Jason Lester, Howard Lederer, and Stu Ungar.

The Mayfair Club was an underground card room in New York that operated until 2000. It became somewhat famous as players that played there started doing so well in the WSOP main event.

As you’ll read below, Erik Seidel has a long list of accomplishments at the poker table. But the one that really hit me as placing him at the very top of the game is the fact that as of 2015 he’s finished in the money in 92 different WSOP events.

The only player to finish in the money in more World Series events is Phil Hellmuth.

This is an amazing fact, yet it seems every poker fan knows who Hellmuth is, but many don’t know much about Seidel.
He’s won a total of eight WSOP bracelets, which currently places him 6th on the all-time list behind Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, and Phil Ivey.
Here’s the list of World Series of Poker events he’s won:

  • 1992 $2,500 limit Texas holdem event for $168,000
  • 1993 $2,500 Omaha 8 or better event for $94,000
  • 1994 $5,000 limit Texas holdem event for $210,000
  • 1998 $5,000 deuce to seven draw event for $132,700
  • 2001 $3,000 no limit Texas holdem event for $411,300
  • 2003 $1,500 pot limit Omaha event for $146,100
  • 2005 $2,000 no limit Texas holdem event for $611,795
  • 2007 $5,000 no limit deuce to seven draw lowball event for $538,835

Seidel’s tournament success isn’t limited to the WSOP. He’s also had success on the World Poker Tour circuit with a win in the 2008 $9,700 Foxwoods Poker Classic for $992,890 and a second place finish in the 2011 $9,600 Hollywood Poker Open main event for $15,103.
His largest tournament cash finish was in the European Poker Tour’s 100,000 Euro buy-in no-limit Texas Holdem event in 2015. His winnings came to around 2.2 million dollars.

In 2010 Seidel was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame along with another player from the old Mayfair games, Dan Harrington.
As of late 2015, he ranks third on the all-time tournament money list behind Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari.

If you ask any poker fan to list the top poker players of all time you’ll hear many different names. Most of them will be mentioned on almost every list, but Erik Seidel is left off too many of these lists.

Common names I hear include Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, and Phi Ivey.
All of these are great poker players and deserve a spot on most top 10 lists. But as you have just read about all of Seidel’s accomplishments, he deserves a spot as well.

But if you ask professional poker players for their lists almost all of them will include Seidel.

I believe that the main reason for this is because he comes across as a normal guy. He doesn’t act like a jerk at the table like Hellmuth or Matusow, and doesn’t have a fancy hat like Doyle Brunson or Chris Ferguson.

I don’t know Seidel and have never met him, but he’s always struck me as a decent guy who focuses on his results instead of building a public personality or grabbing as much fame as possible. This is something most poker players could learn from.