- Twitter: @Erik_Seidel
- Birthdate: 6th November 1959
- Birthplace: New York
- Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada
- WSOP Bracelets: 8
- Biggest Win: $2,472,555
- Total Winnings: $17,605,835
- Sponsored by: Ex Full Tilt Poker
Born and raised in New York City, Erik Seidel loved playing games as a child and even made a TV appearance on the game show ‘To Tell the Truth,’ at the age of 12. But backgammon was his game and in the 1970’s he dropped out of Brooklyn College to start a different kind of education at the Mayfair Club where he earned a living in cash games and tournaments. As it became more popular, he tried poker too but as a sideline to backgammon.
Eight years later, having seen his fortunes yo-yo, Seidel decided to seek the stability that a steady job would afford him and became a stockbroker on Wall Street though he kept visiting the Mayfair club in his spare time. With the Stock Market crash of 1987, Erik, along with many others, had to re-evaluate what was meant by a ‘steady’ job and the parallels between the financial world and the gambling one would not have been lost on Seidel.
Better to lose all your money doing something you enjoy than something you don’t and so Seidel went back to gaming at the Mayfair Club full time. His return coincided in a poker renaissance for the club with Howard Lederer and Dan Harrington frequenting the tables at the time and Erik found himself unable to resist the allure of this fast-growing game.
By playing the best, his game improved rapidly and the following year he persuaded his friends to bankroll him for an attempt at the WSOP in Vegas. Ten attempts in fact but he went out in the first nine before reaching the money finishes and his friends must have been ruing their decision. But that was before the Main Event and his second place finish though despite this, the final hand is one Seidel has attempted to erase from his memory. However, it continues live on, courtesy of the silver screen.
After this, Erik went back to Wall Street and though he continued to play poker, it was three years before he returned to play in a WSOP tournament. Again he had to be content with a second place finish, this time in a Limit Hold’em tournament. However in the following year, 1992, he cracked it and won his first bracelet at the WSOP in another Limit Hold’em tournament.
1993 and 1994 saw him repeat the achievement with wins in Limit Omaha Hi/Lo and Hold’em tournaments respectively and he remains among a select few to have taken home WSOP bracelets in three successive years. In 1995, he quit the East coast and gambling with his clients’ money to move with his wife to Nevada and professionally gamble with his own.
Despite several final table finishes, it was in 1998, the year ‘Rounders’ was released, that he won another WSOP tournament. For cinema goers, he was the stooge slow-played to perfection by Johnny Chan but for the poker community in the know, his solid, un-showy performances won him a lot of respect.
By halfway through the first decade of the new century he had surpassed Chan in winnings. In 2007, he secured his eighth WSOP bracelet and in April 2008 took home his biggest prize to date, almost $1 million dollars by beating Robert Richardson in the World Poker Tour Foxwoods Poker Classic.
His big, nearly $1 million win in 2008 has been financially improved on twice, in 2011 he won the Super High Roller No Limit Hold’em at the Aussie Millions cashing $2,472,555, later in 2011 he got first at Super High Roller No Limit Hold’em, this time at the Five Star World Poker Classic, banking $1,092,780. He is quoted as saying ‘I like to think I was making some good decisions and I was playing okay but it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on when you have a streak like that.’
During tournaments, he can be quite cagey about revealing his hole cards even to the point of hiding them from the television cameras. However rather than being a tactical move, Seidel claims he does this because he is embarrassed about the all the good cards he gets dealt.
Although playing in tournaments is Erik’s primary poker concern, he embraced the internet revolution and was part of the Full Tilt Poker team. Along with Howard Lederer, he was involved at the site’s conception as part of the initial design team. He is said to be disgusted with what happened and how things were run and it is thought he is owed $5 million by Full Tilt.
Despite all his success, he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2010 and he has 8 WSOP bracelets and 75 WSOP cash finishes to his name, it is still the 1988 WSOP final defeat that remains Erik’s most famous moment in the eyes of the wider public. Since then, Seidel has been quietly raking in the chips and ploughing through tournament fields to rank as one of the top earning poker players of all time. The starry-eyed newcomer, who appears in the ‘Rounders’ movie, has matured into an experienced, accomplished and respected poker veteran.
In 1988, when he was 28 and in his first major tournament, Erik Seidel found himself in heads up play against the defending champion, Johnny Chan, in the final of the World Series of Poker main event. He was wearing a garish red sun visor and dressed in black, which accentuated his long limbs and gave him an air of awkwardness against Chan’s calm demeanor.
When the flop of Q♠ 8♦ 10♥ was laid on the table, Seidel bet aggressively, raising $50,000. Seidel was holding Q♣ 7♥ but looked nervous as his long fingers fiddled with his chips, awaiting Chan’s decision.
Chan thought for a long time before eventually calling and the turn was a 2♠, which both players checked. 6♦ came on the river and Seidel, with the top pair of queens, went ‘All in.’ Chan immediately followed suit and turned over J♣ 9♣.
With both players standing, it was apparent that Seidel towered over Chan in height but it was Chan who had come up with the giant hand. He had had the nut straight since the flop and had slow-played Seidel perfectly to take his second title in a row.
Despite taking second place, it was a hand that Seidel would want to forget. However, ten years later, this moment would be immortalized in the film ‘Rounders’ and though it boosted Seidel’s profile, he was the young man ‘owned’ by Chan, ‘the kid’ who ‘doesn’t know what hit him.’
Last updated May 2013