With PokerStars Players Championship II on the horizon, Cardplayer Lifestyle has been bringing you the stories of some Platinum Pass winners. In case you’ve missed them, we invite you to learn more about Amir Epstein, Karl Robinson, and Chad McVean. In this final of four installments in our miniseries, we take a closer look at someone whose name most poker fans already know, Greg Raymer.
Best known for his 2004 WSOP Main Event win, the “FossilMan” won his Platinum Pass at Cardplayer Lifestyle’s Inaugural Mixed Game Festival. He bested 123 other hopefuls in a $200 H.O.R.S.E. tournament in October 2021 and has been clinging to his Platinum Pass ever since. Even so, while Greg knows what it’s like to be in the winner’s circle, he’s nonetheless been the victim of a pretty awful tournament poker run over the last year. Will PSPC II be the turning point?
Let’s go back to when you won your Platinum Pass. What made you decide to hop into our H.O.R.S.E. tournament in the first place?
The day before I had planned to compete in the $1,500 Seven Stud event at the WSOP. As I was leaving my room, I looked on twitter, and saw that the computers were down at the Rio, and all events were indefinitely delayed. At that point I decided to just head down to your Mixed Game Festival and have some fun instead. It was only there that I learned about this tournament the next day. With the massive value of the added Platinum Pass, it was just too good to pass up, and I bought my entry for the next day.
There was initially no runaway chipleader at our 8-handed final table, but as an onlooker it seemed like you pretty much managed to steamroll your way to victory. When play got down to 4-handed, it appeared to me that you were brimming with confidence and that you had no interest in doing any sort of deal. What do you remember about your tournament experience, and final table play in particular?
While I appreciate your use of the term “steamroll”, it sure didn’t feel like that to me. I certainly wasn’t running over the other players, and stealing a lot of pots. Mostly, I was betting with a strong hand and getting paid off. Or, when I had a modest hand, I was calling the other player down, and picking off bluffs. Especially once heads-up, my opponent kept trying to bluff almost every time I had a marginal made hand. I am always happy to make a deal, but only if it is to my benefit.
Honestly, with the Platinum Pass that was worth more than the entire prize pool, it is rather hard to come up with a deal anyway. Even if my opponent had wanted to buy me out, what was the chance he had enough cash in his pocket to do so?
You took home nearly $5,000 for your win as well as the first Platinum Pass to have been awarded after a nearly 18-month pandemic hiatus. Can you describe how that felt at the time?
Any time you win a tournament, no matter how large or small, it feels amazing. It is the reason we all play tournament poker, that rare moment of victory, and how great it feels.
Nobody realized at the time that it would still be more than a year until you’d finally get to cash in that Platinum Pass to take your seat at PSPC II. In the interim, unfortunately you’ve run pretty poorly in poker tournaments. In 2022, you recorded a shade under $20,000 in tournament winnings, which unfortunately represents your lowest total since 2003, just before you won the WSOP Main Event. To what do you attribute this downturn?
I attribute it to variance. Of course, I made mistakes in my play, and could have performed better. I know I’m not even close to perfect, and still put in the time studying, trying to improve and get closer to that impossible goal of perfect play. However, I would guess that I realized something like 70% or less of my theoretical equity in all-in pots this year. It also seems like every time I raised all-in with AK, I ran into AA an amazingly high number of times.
Tournament poker can be agonizing. It’s easy to make a lot of mistakes. And easy to run bad for a long time, even if you avoid mistakes. I definitely make mistakes. But if you want to do this for a living, you have to withstand the variance, and play your best regardless.
— Greg Raymer (@FossilMan) December 19, 2022
Well, just, … FML. For the bazillionth time this year I shove with AK and run into AA. That officially ends my Vegas trip, and not at all how I wanted. I sure hope this means I’ve been saving my run good for the @PokerStars #PSPC
— Greg Raymer (@FossilMan) December 19, 2022
To what degree has your Platinum Pass – and the potential for your momentum could turn right back around at PSPC II – helped you stay resilient in the face of this downswing?
It is nice to have that Platinum Pass in my back pocket, so to speak. However, I don’t think it has changed how I feel. I’ve been playing poker seriously for 30 years now, and as a full-time pro for 18 years. I’ve had plenty of bad runs, and many good runs as well. I am used to this sort of variance. Though it still sucks when you’re in one of the down periods.
Been running bad in tournaments all year, but mostly running good in the cash games. Playing 7 stud hi-lo regular at @PokerRoomRWLV in the mixed game. Just hit an 8-high straight flush on the river to scoop a huge multiway pot. Wish I had run 10% this good in the #MainEvent, lol
— Greg Raymer (@FossilMan) July 8, 2022
On the plus side, at least according to what you shared in July, you’ve been running well in cash games. Had that continued In the latter half of 2022? What percentage of your poker playing time is cash games vs. tournaments?
How much time I spend playing cash varies quite a bit. I love cash games, but am not a big fan of no-limit hold’em as a cash game. It is a great tournament game, just not that appealing to me for cash. I prefer mix games for cash, and those are hard to find. I play in some home games when not on the road, and those are all PLO. I still prefer mix games, but PLO at least is better than NLH for cash. My run-good in cash games continues, though not as strongly as it had in the first half of the year.
You published Fossilman’s Winning Tournament Strategies back in 2019 and you’ve been a longtime contributing strategy writer for Card Player Magazine. Obviously, continuing to produce poker training content of this nature helps you stay sharp. In what way(s) do you feel you’ve gained the most from this as a player?
Teaching others always helps to improve your own knowledge and understanding, regardless of the subject matter. Even if you were teaching me a purely factual topic, doing so would help you understand it better. When teaching a game like poker, students also notice things that you miss. Sometimes their questions give you insight into how other people think about the game. Even if what they are doing is a mistake you are going to help them fix, it can also be something you now understand, and can see in some of your opponents. The better you know and understand how your opponent is thinking, the more perfectly you can exploit that mistake, and win more of their chips.
I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on this series, and I want to thank all of you who went out of your way to do so. It is appreciated. https://t.co/XZeJ9Exp2u
— Greg Raymer (@FossilMan) July 12, 2022
Besides playing and keeping your game sharp overall, have you engaged in any other specific preparation for the PSPC II?
I think the important thing when preparing for a big event like this is to just show up well rested, and ready to go. I will fly in the day before, arrive in the afternoon, and just relax all that day. I won’t find a one-day event, or even a cash game. I’ll just chill, and make sure I get a good night’s sleep. That will enable me to play my best on day 1, and hopefully carry me through to a deep finish.
Over 1,000 players competed at the original PSPC in 2019. A similarly large field is expected for the $25,000 buy-in PSPC II. Considering the unique, eclectic nature of the field (i.e., Platinum Pass-winning recreational players, high rollers, well-to-do businesspeople, and shot-takers), to what degree do you see yourself having a shot at a big score? What would cashing (min $30,000) – or, in a dream scenario, a deep run – mean to you?
Winning a tournament is the ultimate feeling. Winning a major event like the PSPC II would feel even better. I focus on equity while I play. I don’t play tight to reach the min-cash, nor do I play only to win, with no regard for ICM. Yet, in the end, it is only by winning that we can achieve that ultimate feeling you get from tournament poker. If I get deep, I will avoid risk and ladder up when it is smart to do so. But if I manage to go all the way, it will probably feel just as good, and mean just as much, as winning the World Series of Poker Main Event felt back in 2004.