Erik Seidel continued to show why he is the man in 2005, winning one of the NL Hold'em events in the 2005 WSOP.
Tyson and I were fortunate to meet Erik Seidel at the CAC conference in September 2005. It was easy to spot Erik, he was wearing a Full Tilt jersey with "Seidel" on the back. Almost every time I've seen Erik on tv he has been sitting down. I did not realize just how tall he is until I saw him in person.
The first time I remember seeing Erik on film was in Rounders. The movie showed Erik Seidel and Johnny Chan going at it in the World Series of Poker. Johnny Chan took Erik Seidel down but he has been famous ever since.
Here is how Erik Seidel describes himself on Full Tilt:
My name is Erik Seidel and I play online poker exclusively at Full Tilt Poker.
Card Player Magazine's Dana Smith interviewed Erik Seidel in the Volume 14, No. 10 issue. It is an important interview because it brings up some of the problems with poker. Erik Seidel has the courage to point out that forcing people to be in smoke filled environments is a dangerous thing. Here are some important points in the interview:
To learn more about my poker career, please keep reading...
I was born and raised in New York where I started out as a backgammon player. I spent eight years on the backgammon tournament circuit before moving on to the stock market. For years, I traded on Wall Street and played poker on the side. Now I live in Las Vegas and it's the other way around.
The first time I played in the WSOP Championship Event, I finished second, and made it back to the final table of the Championship Event in 1999 where I finished fourth. I won my first bracelet in 1994 in the $5K Limit Hold 'em event. In 2005, I made four final tables at the WSOP and won my seventh bracelet in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold 'em tournament.
I've had great success playing here in Las Vegas -- most of my top finishes have been at Bellagio or the WSOP -- and am currently the only player on the Top Ten All-Time money lists for those two venues.
When not playing poker, I'm listening to music or playing tennis.
Dana Smith: However, there are some problems in the "arena," and I know that the health issue of smoking is a major item on your personal agenda. Here's the soapbox - take your stand.
It was great meeting Erik Seidel in person. I mentioned to him that he is a legend but he did not seem to have a big ego. He was very friendly and down to earth with us. I hope he succeeds in making poker better by convincing the powers that be to rethink the smoking and dealing policies in US casinos.
Erik Seidel: I think that smoking is the most important issue in poker. For a long time, poker players have been forced to play in a smoking environment, and dealers and floorpeople have been forced to work in one. I think it's pretty clear that there are health consequences associated with playing in smoking conditions. The good thing is that many casinos are becoming more and more aware that most of their customers want to play in nonsmoking environments and feel very strongly about it. Little by little the tournaments are becoming nonsmoking, and I think that the cardrooms are finding that rather than losing customers, they're gaining customers. That's true in tournaments as well as live games. Nonsmoking policies make good business sense.
I was playing in a cash game recently in which a pregnant young woman was dealing. It's a shame that she is forced to pursue her livelihood in an environment that is clearly not healthy for her. There are people who say, "Well, she could make a living somewhere else," but that's a lot easier to say than do. If you have a profession at which you make a good living, why should you be forced out of your job by the poor health conditions imposed upon you by secondhand smoke? Even if you ignore the health hazard of smoking, it's uncomfortable, it hurts your eyes, and it prevents some players from playing long hours because it affects their stamina.
It's good to see that the industry has been responding in the last couple of years, and that more and more tournaments have become nonsmoking. In other games - chess, bridge, and backgammon - the tournaments are all nonsmoking, so poker is a little bit behind the times in that respect. But poker is catching up, at least in this country, and I think that by this time next year, there's a decent chance that all tournaments in the United States will be nonsmoking. In fact, I've just heard that Tunica will be nonsmoking next year. I'm going to be there this year, but I know a lot of players who are not going because of the smoking. It's too bad that we have to make those choices.
Dana Smith: Can we talk about the conditions at the World Series of Poker for a moment? It seems to me that the environment at the World Series is particularly bad in regard to smokiness.
Erik Seidel: Last year smoking was not allowed if you were a spectator, and the employees did not smoke. Conditions were a lot better than they were the year before, but the room still was very smoky. It was good to see that Binion's was responding, at least in part, to their customers, but it's still tough to get through that tournament for four weeks and maintain your health. I think that the Series eventually will become nonsmoking, and I hope it doesn't take too long.
Dana Smith: What is your circuit - do you play only the biggest tournaments?
Erik Seidel: I've just gotten back into tournaments again after working in Southern California for eight months trading stock. I like to play the major events with $5,000 and higher buy-ins. Poker is expanding - Commerce is expanding its tournament, the Four Queens has just announced a new tournament, and the Isle of Mann is a big event - so there are more choices than ever. To quickly get back to the smoking issue again, all of these added tournaments create more choices for the dealers. Therefore, I expect that if a casino has an event that allows smoking, it may be harder to recruit dealers because now they have the option of dealing in a nonsmoking environment.
Dana Smith: Was playing the Isle of Mann tournament a kick?
Erik Seidel: Yes, it was very exciting to participate in it. I think that it's going to bring a lot of people into the game. I'm not all that happy about playing with your cards exposed, but it has the potential of bringing sponsor money into the game and a lot more exposure for the players. I'm still a bit of a purist, though, and I think that the cards shouldn't be exposed.
Dana Smith: We should explain that cameras beneath the poker table show players' cards to the audience, but not to opponents. You don't want your cards to be shown because everybody can get a handle on your play? Or, you might embarrass yourself if you play a hand badly?
Erik Seidel: Sure, for both of those reasons. You can make an awful play and everybody knows about it. Or, you could make a good play and everyone sees that, too.
Dana Smith: They use a different technique for dealing the cards in Europe, don't they?
Erik Seidel: Yes. I've been considering writing an article on that, so let's see if I can state my views well enough here to save myself the effort. In Europe, the deck is laid flat on the table and the dealer deals one card at a time with his finger. I would like to see the tournaments and side games in the States dealt in the same way. Something dramatic happened to me last year that convinced me that the European method might be the best way to deal. I was playing at a table with a guy from the East Coast who spots cheaters for a living.
"I'm one of the best in the world at spotting cards as they are coming off the deck," he said. "Look at this dealer's technique. Notice how the cards are flipped upward so that you can see them." Then he started naming each card as it was being dealt.
To think that this guy was actually seeing so many cards flash was frightening. It was happening with new dealers as well as experienced dealers with bad technique - a lot of cards were flashing. Fortunately, this guy was honest and chose to point it out instead of take unfair advantage. He spotted cards for three dealers in a row and named them as they came off the deck. It was impressive that this man is so good, and the really scary part was that he said that he is only the second-best in the world at spotting cards. After seeing this happen and comparing it to how the cards are dealt in Europe, I decided that the European method of dealing is better than ours.
Dana Smith: Do other players ever ask you to back them in tournaments? Are you backed?
Erik Seidel: I've backed players, but my experiences have not been good and I've lost a lot of money doing it. When I play in the very high games, very often I will take a partner. And when I first moved to Vegas, some high games were going on and I was staked in some of them. But in the tournaments, I'm on my own.
Dana Smith: Where do you usually play the high-stakes cash games?
Erik Seidel: At the tournaments, and I like to play the big pot-limit and no-limit games when they have them at Bellagio. For a while I was playing just about every day at Bellagio, but it was just too much poker for me. I've stopped playing day-to-day poker because I want to have some more balance in my life. My focus now is mainly on tournaments and some of the side games that go on during them.
Dana Smith: Do you have any commentary about any of the "stuff" that goes on in poker?
Erik Seidel: Stuff? That's pretty broad, Dana.
Dana Smith: We hear rumors that some players dump off their chips - you know, that stuff.
Erik Seidel: Well, if it's going on, I have no direct evidence of it. I do know that there are many good players who I am certain are honest, and they have results that are in line with or better than expectation. I've heard a lot of talk about dumping off chips between players, but I honestly don't know to what extent it exists. Personally, I'm much more concerned about cards flashing, which could give someone a huge advantage over his opponents.
Dana Smith: What about making deals at the final table?
Erik Seidel: My feeling about dealmaking is that the players are putting up their own money and they should be able to do anything they want to do with their earnings - unless sponsorship is involved, or a best all- around player or some such award is at stake.
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