- Nickname: Poker Professor, the Professor
- Twitter: @howardhlederer inactive since April 2011
- Birthdate: 30th October 1964
- Birthplace: Concord, New Hampshire
- Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada
- WSOP Bracelets: 2
- Biggest Win: $1,098,785
- Total Winnings: $6,462,745
- Sponsored by: Ex Full Tilt Poker
Howard’s parents were academics and his father, author and linguist Richard Lederer, his two sisters, Annie and Katy, were his first poker opponents when he was growing up. Games were competitive and often heated in the Lederer household but initially it was chess that was Howard’s primary passion. After high school, he postponed any further studies and moved to New York to play chess but he was soon enticed into the backroom poker games at a time when Texas Hold’em was establishing itself as the number one variant.
Despite changing his focus from chess to poker, he was far from an immediate success and invariably left the club empty-handed. It took a couple of years before he started making progress at the game, in part due to his time spent at the Mayfair Club where he met Dan Harrington and Eric Seidel.
The supportive competitiveness they shared helped develop all of their games. In turn, Howard began to teach his younger sister Annie Duke at this time; something he may later have regretted as she has knocked him out of three tournaments. On top of this, his other sister, Katy Lederer, wrote about their formative years in her acclaimed book, ‘Poker Face: a Girlhood Among Gamblers.’
The first time Howard entered the WSOP main event was in 1987 when he finished fifth out of a field of 152 entrants. A prestigious start but despite a reasonable showing at the following year’s WSOP it wasn’t until 1993 that his game really took off. It is no coincidence that this coincided with his move to Las Vegas which gave him more opportunity to play and pit his wits against the best.
Although he entered WSOP events most years, he concentrated mainly on cash games and was part of ‘the Corporation,’ a group of poker professionals who played Texas banker Andy Beal for the highest stakes in poker history, winning a reputed $9.3 million from him. Lederer’s irregular showing in tournaments meant it was 2000 before he won his first WSOP bracelet and he followed that up with another one a year later.
Competitions under the banner of the World Poker Tour began in 2002 and this renewed Howard’s interest in entering tournaments and he won several events and for the first time in his favoured No Limit Texas Hold’em format. It was a profitable time for Howard but he topped it all when he won a 2008 Crown Aussie Millions event, pocketing almost $1 million in the process.
It would be difficult to find someone more devoted to poker than Howard Lederer. He is extremely knowledgeable about the game and is willing to share his wisdom either in the form of the video ‘Secrets of No Limit Hold’em’ or for the more personal touch, at the ‘Howard Lederer Poker Fantasy Camp.’ This has earned him the nickname ‘the Professor’ and he also has strict guidelines about the manner in which he believes the game should be played.
He dislikes players whose approach is uncivil, refusing to shake the hand of Tony Guoga who had been winding up fellow opponents at the 2003 WPT and publicly criticizing Daniel Negreanu for comments he made about his sister, Annie. The pair then became friends for a time after Negreanu apologized. More recently Negreanu could no longer be considered his friend, his angry stance on the behavior of the full Tilt directors is shared by many.
Usually though Howard was a picture of calm at the baize, literally adopting a Zen attitude to the game and citing ‘Zen in the Art of Archery’ as a major influence to his composed approach. For Howard, this involves taking poker one hand at a time. Howard is also a ‘Deadhead’ or Grateful Dead enthusiast and has seen the band in concert over 100 times. However his fanaticism doesn’t compare to his beloved poker as he still finds time to provide expert analysis on the televised ‘Poker Superstars’ tournaments.
Poker is at the heart of Howard’s world though he has been known to gamble on things other than cards. After receiving gastric bypass surgery to counter a weight problem, Howard became a strict vegetarian. But when he was bet $10,000 by fellow poker player, David Grey, to eat meat, Lederer ordered and gobbled down a cheeseburger, perhaps the most costly in history.
Lederer was heavily involved in the web site Full Tilt Poker which he helped set up. On September 20, 2011 the United States Department of Justice amended an existing civil complaint against Full Tilt Poker.
The amended complaint alleged that Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer and Rafe Furst “lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited”.
In total the money paid to themselves is thought to be at least $444 million. In a September 8, 2012 interview with poker journalist Matthew Parvis, Lederer “takes great offense” to the government’s Ponzi scheme characterization.
In the 1987 World Series of Poker main event final table, Howard Lederer had a moment, a poker epiphany, when he realized he could take on the best in the world. Johnny Chan, the chip leader by far, had put in the big blind of $3000 and Lederer with 3♥ 3♦ had the temerity to raise him.
Chan looked across at the twenty-two year old in his first WSOP and called. The flop came out J♦ 9♣ 4♥ which both players checked. The turn was 2♦ and Chan made a bet. Lederer has said afterwards that it was at this moment that he felt his lowly pair was the best hand but rather than confidently re-raise, he decided to slow-play Chan and after thinking for some time called him, in as tentative a manner as he could manage.
The river was a 4♣ meaning there was no possibility of straights or flushes and Chan pushed ‘all in.’ Lederer called him and his pairs of threes and fours held up and he won the pot. He would later describe this hand as the best he ever played though it was not enough to win the tournament. Howard would finish fifth in the end but it was during this hand, not quite deserving of his current title ‘the Professor’ yet, that he went from poker scholar to graduate.
Late updated May 2013