A few days ago, Poker Hall of Fame member Erik Seidel joined the select club of players who own 10 World Series of Poker bracelets. He tied all-time legends and fellow Poker Hall of Famers Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan and the late, great Doyle Brunson. While still playing at 2023 WSOP Paradise in the Bahamas, Erik was kind enough to take some time out to answer our questions about his latest triumph at the felt and his successful 35-year career in poker.
Erik’s win came in the WSOP Paradise Super High Roller Event #7, a $50K buy-in affair that featured 137 runners and a $6.6M prize pool. Seidel had to face some of the best players in the world, such as 4-time bracelet winner Adrian Mateos, Timothy Adams, Alex Foxen and Jason Koon, who owns 10 Triton tournament titles. For the win, Erik claimed his 10th WSOP bracelet and earned the third largest prize of his career: $1.7M.
Interview with Erik Seidel
How does it feel to win your 10th bracelet and tie Chan, Ivey and Brunson?
“This was a huge win for me. To cash for $1.7m and pick up a bracelet against such tough competition was a really big deal.”
At these festivals you have to play long days of 12 hours or more. How do you stay focused for so many hours while playing against the best in the world?
“It’s always a challenge, I have weird sleep patterns, but the game is interesting enough that I can usually stay alert and engaged.”
This is your 32nd title and outright poker win. What do you think are your most important trophies and which ones do you have a special affection for?
“Winning the Super High Roller €100K EPT in Monte Carlo was a big one for me, but this one might be my favorite.”
With titles in the WSOP and the WPT, you are only missing an EPT Main Event to win the “triple crown” of live poker. Is this something you are actively chasing, or not really something you’re paying attention to?
“Obviously I’d love to do that, but it’s not anything that I’m aiming for in any way.”
You have recorded poker tournament cashes in 19 countries. What are your favorite venues to play poker? Any new ones you would like to visit in the future?
“I loved playing the Triton in Vietnam this year. That’s part of the beauty of playing this game; we get to go to so many cool places. I could give you a long list because there are so many good destinations.”
It has been 25 years since the premiere of “Rounders.” Do you look back today and laugh at the scene of your hand with Chan? Do you think the film has aged well?
“I haven’t seen it since it came out, so no real idea how well it’s aged. It’s a seminal poker movie, so it was good to be a part of it.”
Have you ever thought about writing your biography?
“A very gifted writer approached me about this and we’ve had a bunch of discussions, but I’m not sure it’s interesting enough.”
You have been playing the live poker circuit for 35 years, and have achieved pretty much everything there is to achieve in poker. What motivates you to continue playing?
“I love the game, it’s really exciting for me to compete again these amazing players and I like the challenge of trying to improve.”
How long can you imagine yourself continuing to play poker?
“I hope I can stick around a while longer. If I feel like I’m really falling behind I’d have to stop.”
Erik Seidel on 35 years successfully playing the live poker circuit
Erik grew up in Manhattan and there he discovered a place that would change his life: the Mayfair Club. Bridge and backgammon games were replaced by poker, where Seidel shared a table with Dan Harrington, Howard Lederer and Steve Zolotow, among other great players.
In 1987 Dan and Howard made the final table of the WSOP Main Event and asked Erik to join them the following year. He did that at the 1988 WSOP and he played the Main Event for the first time, reaching heads-up against Johnny Chan. In the final hand Johnny caught him with a flopped straight, a moment that was immortalized in the movie Rounders. Seidel took home $280K for second place, but the vast majority of that sum was distributed to people who had bought percentages of his action.
In 1991 Seidel finished second in a WSOP $5K Limit Hold’em event and in 1992 he was able to win his first bracelet in a $2.5K Limit Hold’em tournament for $168K. In 1995, Seidel moved to Las Vegas along with his family. Three years later he won his second bracelet, and in 1999 he finished fourth in the WSOP Main Event, winning $279K.
Over the years, Seidel continued to add final tables and bracelets to his list of accomplishments and he became part of the team of professionals at the Full Tilt Poker online site. In 2010 he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame along with his friend Dan Harrington.
Incredibly, after already being enshrined as an all-time great the previous year, 2011 was the best year of Seidel’s career, where he made 11 final tables and claimed 4 titles, with earnings of $6.5M. He finished fourth in a PCA High Roller $25K for $295K, third in an Aussie Millions $100K event for $618K and won the same festival’s Super High Roller $250K, where he achieved his best live result: $2.4M. That year, Seidel also won the prestigious NBC National Head’s-Up Championship $25K with a top prize of $750K.
During 2015 he won the EPT Monte Carlo Super High Roller €100K and his second best result: $2.2M. In 2017 he agreed to mentor writer Maria Konnikova in her goal of becoming a professional player. You can read her story in her great book The Biggest Bluff, which includes some conversations with Erik.
Today Erik is 64 years old and he has spent 35 of them successfully playing poker. His performance in 2023 proves that he continues to maintain his elite level with 25 cashes, 12 final tables and 1 title, with earnings of $3.3M. In his career, Seidel has earned $45.5M and is currently seventh in the ranking of the most winning poker players of all time.
He is currently in Las Vegas playing the 2023 WPT World Championship, where he will seek to add a new cash to his successful career.
Note: Featured image credit: World Poker Tour