Check out our Exclusive FTR Interview with Greg Raymer!
2004 WSOP Champion
2005 WSOP - 25th place
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Sells fossils card protectors on his site.
Greg Raymer Interview Published October 24, 2005
Intro by Eric Sprague:
Greg Raymer proved he has some serious skill by following up his 2004 WSOP championship with an
excellent showing in the 2005 main event.
Some of our most special forum members helped put together the questions below.
Hopefully you'll enjoy the questions and answers!
1. It is mentioned that you are working on a book in the 1st FAQ question
on your site. How is your book going? Many of our members play low stakes
online. Which parts of the book should our members focus on the most?
The book I am (slowly) working on is going to be directed entirely to
tournament poker. While it should be helpful for both live and online
tournament players, it will only back-handedly help you play better in
2. As seen in your multiple 2004 and 2005 appearances, you seem to willingly
enter the 'race' situation often. Can you talk about/defend this type of
play? Is this something you can justify others to play?
I do not willingly enter into race situations, at least, not in the sense
that I put in the first money hoping for such. However, if I make the
first raise, and you go all-in, and I'm pretty sure it's a race, then I
will often call, as I am now getting more (sometimes MUCH more) than a 1:1
payoff in a spot where my chances of winning are about 50:50.
However, if I knew at the beginning of the hand that if I play this pot
I'm going to play a big pot as a coin-flip, I would simply fold preflop.
3. What's the biggest mistake aware players make post-flop in big bet
Relying upon hope. You call because you hope the guy is bluffing, even
though there is no specific evidence that he is doing so. This goes along
with not reading the opponents very well. If you can't read them, you
have to guess, to some degree, and once you are guessing and hoping, you
tend to make loose calls. At least, many of us do this.
4. What factors do you consider when attacking someone's blind from the
button in a deep stacked cash NLHE game? How happy are you to take a flop
in these situations?
It is greatly preferable to attack the blinds in such circumstances if you
have a good postflop hand. As an example if this, I would much rather
raise your blind with 45o or 97s as opposed to K5o. The former hands can
flop monsters much more easily than a junk hand like K5o.
5. Did you move in with the nut flush draw (and two overcards) against
Mike Matusow based solely on the odds of making your hand ?...or was there some
lingering animosity from his verbal attack on you earlier in the
tournament that pushed you to pull the trigger there. I guess what I'm asking is
would you have made the same play if the incident hadn't occurred.
I would have made this play with or without his prior tauntings. However,
I would not make this play against every opponent. Mike can be
hyper-aggressive at times, and he was in that mode. I knew, given the
depth of my stack and the size of the pot, that if I made my normal sized
bet on the flop, that he would raised me all-in no matter what, and that I
would have to call. As such, I decided to bet all-in so he would be
denied that move. I also considered check-raising, but thought that he
might move in himself if I checked, and that even if he bet a smaller
amount, it could easily be enough such that he was potstuck and had to
call my all-in check-raise.
6. What would be your one-liner on improving your game?
Play poker the same way you would compete as a professional athlete; you
must always be playing your A game.
7. Where do you play live games in Vegas?
The Bellagio still has most of the bigger cash games, so that is where I
would usually be found for a cash game in LV.
8. Obviously the 2004 win was a big change for your career. What poker
pros do you find yourself hanging out with now that you have the option to play
at higher stakes?
I almost never hang out with poker pros. I play with them, in cash games
and tournaments, but I don't hang out with them much away from the tables.
I'm married with a kid, and generally boring. I like to play golf and do
not drink or party. I'm more likely to hang out with the older pros, if
any, and that would generally be at the golf course.
9. The I made Greg Raymer fold
thread in our forum talks about you playing at Pacific but the FAQ section
on your site says you only play at PokerStars. Was it really you at
I have never been on Pacific Poker. I used to play a little bit at Party
Poker, mostly their big Sunday tournament. I also used to play a little
bit of the NLH and PLO games on a Prima skin, but I have only played at
PokerStars since winning the WSOP (and I put in 90% of my online play
there before winning).
10. How many events did you play in between the 2004 and 2005 WSOPs (how
many events do you play in a year)? How many did you play in at the 2005
Due to time constraints on my vacation time, I only played in the Main
Event in 2004. In 2005, I played in at least 70% of all the events, that
is, at least 25-30. In the year between the two WSOPs, I played in about
30 poker tournaments, mostly the bigger buyin events, such as WPT events,
EPT events, and WSOP circuit events.
11. How do you rate your play in other games besides holdem, and in cash NL
and limit holdem games, compared to your tournament game?
I consider myself a better tourney player than a cash game player, but I
am still a winning cash game player, even now that I tend to play in mixed
limit games from 100-200 up to 800-1600, and in NLH games as high as
I consider hi-lo split games to be my best. I always do best in the stud
hi-lo and omaha hi-lo games in the big mixed games.
12. How do you psychologically deal with the droughts between MTT success?
How do you keep your game sharp when you're running bad?
I tend to forget my losses and remember my wins. And I expect to lose in
big tourneys. I know that even the greatest tourney players fail to cash
the large majority of the time, so it doesn't bother me too much to lose.
I only get mad when I play poorly.
13. How important do you feel that gambling to build a stack on the first
day of a big tournament is? Do you feel its better to build a big stack or
go bust, or to largely play for survival and be very selective on when to
play a big pot on the first day? In a big multiday tournament, how
correlated do you find that your stack size at the end of the first day is
to your final placing in the tournament?
I tend to build a big stack or go broke early. However, I do not play
with that specific goal in mind. I play each hand for itself, while
keeping in mind my current table image. I think my results tend to come
from the fact that I do not avoid risk. I am happy to get all my chips in
the middle as long as I honestly believe I have an edge doing so. Other
good players really avoid risk, even when they know they are passing up on
a small edge.
14. In the 2005 main event while you were the chip leader on day 4, there
was a hand where someone moved all in preflop and you called with 86. He
had JJ and you ended up catching a straight. I've also heard of similar calls
you made against players that were very short stacked compared to your
monster stack, but not so short stacked compared to the blinds. While I'm
not sure that this wasn't purely a pot odds call in the BB with him
having a very short stack, I got the impression that it was for a sizeable
amount of chips. What was your reasoning behind making this call and
others like it? Do you feel that you are more willing to make gambling calls as a
big stack than most other professional players? Do you try to create this
I don't recall the exact chip counts on this hand, but I do remember that
I was getting almost 3:1 on the call. I had made a mid-position steal
raise with the 86o, and the one short-stack at the table went all-in. I
knew he had a real hand, but I was only going to be a 2:1 dog or less
against a hand like AK, and about even money against baby pairs. It was
only against the pairs from 88-AA that I was making a mistake. Given that
he would move all-in here with a range of hands that included a lot of
hands other than 88-AA, I was potstuck to call him, and then I just got
It doesn't hurt that after you win such a pot you can expect other people
to stop making any moves against you (because they're afraid you'll call
even if you do have nothing). I'm happy for that side-effect. However, I
do not make such a call, knowing it is wrong for this pot, just because it
will slow down my opponents. Such a thing is a very small factor in my
decision to call or fold.
15. Favorite restaurant, favorite type of music, hobbies, anything else
you'd like to share with the public?
I prefer ethnic food, especially Korean. My music tastes are eclectic.
My main hobby now is golf, especially since we relocated to Raleigh, NC,
and live on the golf course, where I just joined as a member.
FTR appreciates Greg taking time from his busy schedule to answer our questions!
Winning the 2004 WSOP, Greg Raymer helped establish PokerStars as a legitimate training ground and made people recognize that online poker players are here to stay. People still refer to non-professionals as dead money but Moneymaker and Raymer showed that the internet can be a powerful force for developing solid experience in poker.
For those looking to find Raymer on Pokerstars, his handle is Fossilman. Raymer actually sells auotographed fossils on his website as card holders. I would consider purchasing one if I didn't already have some nice card holders.
Everyone talks about the sunglasses Greg Raymer was wearing during the 2004 WSOP. What many people don't know is that he had used the sunglasses before the big tournament. Here is what Greg says about the glasses in the FAQ section on his website:
I bought my lizard-eye 3-D hologram sunglasses at the gift shop connected to the Tower of Terror ride at Disney MGM Studios in Disneyworld, Orlando, FL. I was there on a family vacation prior to my first WSOP main event in 2002. I thought it would be a funny joke to put them on in the middle of an important hand. However, when I first did so, instead of making everybody laugh, the glasses freaked out my opponent in the hand, and caused him to fold. Since then, I've found that some of my opponents are very uncomfortable playing against me because of the glasses, and therefore I've continued to wear them during major tournaments.
There was an incident where Mike was being a jerk during the WSOP and Greg Raymer wrote something down at that time. This was all caught on camera and it appeared to the viewers that Greg Raymer was writing something down about Mike. Here is what Greg says about it in the FAQ section of his website:
I am still looking for a company to manufacture "official" FossilMan sunglasses. The ones I wore are thin wire-frame glasses, and there is no space on them for adding the FossilMan brand. I am going to find a company who can make them with a thicker plastic frame, and add the FossilMan logo to them. If you can't wait, there are numerous people selling them on eBay, although I cannot vouch for the trustworthiness of any particular vendor, and you will be buying them there at your own risk.
For awhile, there was a website at www.fossil-man.com where you could order the sunglasses. The guy who set up this site made it look like it was my official site, but it was a ripoff. Fortunately, the last time I checked, this site was shut down.
Ah yes, the famous notebook. When Mike was berating me, it was the end of the level, and we were all about to leave for the 75 minute dinner break. As I always do at such times, I was writing down my chip count. That's all it was, despite much guesswork otherwise. Of course, the whole incident does say a lot about Mike. It's one thing to be the type of person who will act like a jerk in order to put the opponent on tilt and try to win his money. However, in this case, Mike was supposedly using his gamesmanship to put me on tilt, but if so, why would he choose to do it just as I was about to get a 75 minute break that would allow me to cool down and get over it? I think this is a great piece of evidence that Mike was not merely engaging in gamesmanship, but was merely displaying his poor attitude and demeanor.
This is a good example of a situation where things are not what they appear. The timing was perfect for Raymer to be writing something about the incident. However, he was just keeping records of his chips.
Most folks know that Greg Raymer gained entry to the 2004 WSOP through a $160 double-shootout at PokerStars. PokerStars is quite fortunate to have both the 2003 winner, Chris Moneymaker and the 2004 winner, Greg Raymer represent them. Here is what PokerStars says about Greg Raymer:
Meeting the world poker champion, Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, for the first time is quite a bewildering experience. The first thought that comes to mind is - where's the swagger? Of all the champions crowned king of the poker world in the 35-year history of the World Series of Poker, the 2004 winner is, without doubt, the least pretentious of them all.
It is said that Greg Raymer is a class act. There was talk that he tipped the 2004 WSOP dealers $50,000 for their hard work. There has been some new news about Greg Raymer since the 2004 WSOP. The 2005 WSOP started out well for Raymer, he was the chip leader for a good portion of the event, showing that his victory in 2004 was no fluke.
After he won a whopping $5 million in prize money in May, one of Raymer's first remarks in a post-tournament press conference was an admission that he is not the world's best poker player. With a mountain of hundred-dollar bills stockpiled on the poker table, belonging to Raymer, it was an odd time for humility. Raymer told reporters that he had a lot more to learn about poker -- a startling admission from a man who had just won the biggest tournament in poker history. Indeed, Raymer's humble outlook, jovial nature, and down-to-earth manner camouflages an intense dedication not only to poker and game strategy, but a commitment to excellence in whatever he wishes to purse.
Raymer, age 39 at the time he won the championship, is the third consecutive world champion to essentially "come from nowhere" to win poker's top prize. He's also the third straight world champion who is married and is a father. Robert Varkonyi (2002), Chris Moneymaker (2003), and Greg Raymer (2004) were all married at the time of the victory. Each winner also has a daughter.
Admittedly a part-time poker player in the decade leading up to his ultimate victory, Raymer's full-time "real" job was a patent attorney for a large pharmaceutical company. He lived in a quiet two-story home in the woods of Southeastern Connecticut, near the Foxwoods Casino. Raymer's passions included his family, fossil collecting - and poker.
Born in North Dakota, Raymer's poker career actually began in college. He started out playing "nickel-dime" poker with fraternity pals. After college and law school, Raymer took up blackjack and card-counting at various Indian-casinos in the Midwest for a spell, before realizing there was a less-risky way to make some extra money. Attorney by day, poker player by night, he played in the local charity games around Chicago, mostly $3-6 Hold'em and Omaha. He later explained, "I bought a bunch of poker books, found RGP (the rec.gambling.poker Internet newsgroup), and went from there, moving up from $3-6 to $20-40 and eventually $150-300 here in Connecticut."
When he moved his family to Connecticut in 1999, Raymer started playing regularly in the weekly No-Limit Hold'em tournament at Foxwoods and began to take tournaments more seriously. He steadily beat cash games - for progressively higher amounts as his poker prowess improved.
But it wasn't until 2000 that Raymer burst upon the poker scene in what was then a small flash. Raymer made the final table at the World Poker Finals, finishing in third place - worth $49,000 in prize money. Despite the impressive finish and nice payout, Raymer was disappointed he did not win the tournament. He later wrote about the experience of being knocked out of a big event: "It felt like the time I got nailed in the stomach playing in a doubles racquetball tournament in high school. At first you think you're okay, and then a couple of seconds later you're doubling over in pain. I guess there's always next year."
"Next year" would actually be four years later for Raymer. He began playing poker regularly online at PokerStars.com, which allowed him to vastly improve his tournament skills, specifically in short-handed and heads-up play. He also continued to discuss poker strategy with friends and colleagues whom he met locally and via the Internet. In the spring of 2004, Raymer won a $160 buy-in satellite shootout at PokerStars.com and earned an entry fee to the World Series of Poker. His life was about to change.
A few months later, Raymer was sitting down at the poker table at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas, playing the biggest tournament of his life amongst the best players in the world. In the end, he defeated 2,575 players, a staggering number of entries which made the 2004 WSOP main event the biggest poker tournament in history.
When asked to explain the reasons for his victory, Raymer cited his ability to control his emotions. He said, "Normally, it would be difficult to play your best for a solid week. However, for some unknown reason, I was very calm and focused all week long, and made very few plays that I thought were mistakes at the time the decision was made. I wish I knew why I kept my mental processes so even, so I could ensure to repeat it every tournament."
In the end, Greg "Fossilman" Raymer became the second consecutive world poker champion through PokerStars.com - thus earning the popular online poker site the tagline, Where Poker Players Become World Champions.
One of the reasons PokerStars is so strong is because of folks like Greg Raymer and Chris Moneymaker. Yes, the fact that they have some of the best tournament software doesn't hurt PokerStars. Also, the WCOOP generates a lot of interest in PokerStars. However, folks like Greg Raymer and Chris Moneymaker do a lot both directly and indirectly for PokerStars. It is difficult to measure the number of players who sign up at PokerStars for the chance to sit at the same table as Raymer and Moneymaker and chat it up. Also, folks see what they did in the WSOP so they play the PokerStars satellites hoping to do the same thing.
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