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WSOP Flashback: Cyndy Violette vs. Erik Seidel (2005)

Cyndy Violette

Cyndy Violette will be inducted into the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in June of 2009. But there was one night back in the summer of 2005 where she almost added another milestone to her already accomplished career.

One of the most exciting final tables during the 2005 World Series of Poker involved a showdown between Violette and Erik Seidel. At the 2005 WSOP, Violette was at the top of her game. In the $2,000 NL event, Violette played excellent poker over a two-day period as she outlasted a field of 1,403 runners and found herself among the final nine. She was seeking her second bracelet but had some tough competition at a treacherous final table that included Seidel. At the time, he was a six-time bracelet winner seeking his seventh. Also at Violette’s final table were Fabrice Soulier (French TV director who had won several poker tournaments in Europe), Perry Friedman (2002 WSOP bracelet winner and member of the Tiltboys with Phil Gordon and Rafe Furst), and Harry Demetriou (a British pro who had made his second final table inside of a week at the 2005 WSOP).

Violette's poker game usually drew less attention than her looks. Her name was often mentioned in debates about the "best looking female poker player." However, her skills at the poker table equally matched her remarkable beauty. For over twenty years, those who have played against Violette knew that she was not just a pretty face, but a premier player.

Violette earned her first and only WSOP bracelet in 2004 when she won the seven-card stud hi/lo event. If she had never taken a hiatus to focus on her family, she might have been the most successful female player of all time. She also used to be strictly a cash-game stud player, but during the height of the poker boom, Violette focused on playing more NL tournaments.

Unlike most poker pros, Violette led a much different lifestyle than her contemporaries.

“I don’t smoke, rarely drink, and believe that a healthy lifestyle, both in body and mind, are important aspects of my game,” explained Violette.

Violette maintained a vegetarian diet. A personal chef prepared her special foods during the 2005 WSOP, which she often ate at the poker table during grueling 12-14 hour sessions. Violette practiced yoga and aromatherapy in order to give her a semblance of inner peace away from the tables. Violette also kept several healing stones within close reach when she played poker. Those lucky charms were also in front of her.

"You have to have balance in life," Violette once said in an interview. "Poker can be obsessive and then it's not good for you. You have to stay focused at all times; don't get emotionally involved, and don't let it take over your life."

Several big names sweated the final table. Phil Gordon, Paul Wolfe, Annie Duke, and Gavin Smith sat in the stands and watched the pro-heavy final table in the televised $2,000 NL event. Before the final table began, Perry Friedman drew little faces on each of his hands. He intended on putting on a show for the hole-card cameras. Apparently, one of the hands was evil while the other was good. During the taping of the final table, he frequently had discussions with the opposite personalities that he drew on his hands.

Before the final table started, Johnny Grooms, tournament director and announcer, read aloud a quick excerpt from the book Tales from the Tiltboys, which chronicled the exploits and hijinks from Freidman’s group of friends. My favorite story included the time when Friedman flushed his own head in a toilet for $10. In another instance, Freidman and Erik Seidel were seated at the same table in a tournament. Friedman would not stop yapping and it bugged the hell out of Seidel, so Seidel bet Perry $1,000 that he could not stop talking for five minutes. Perry did not take that action because he knew that he’d lose.

With six players left, Violette slipped to the short stack and made an amazing comeback after being on the brink of elimination. She caught a ton of cards at the right time and advanced to the final three with Friedman and Seidel. Then Friedman woke up to a big hand. He moved all in preflop with a pair of queens, but Erik Seidel quickly called with pocket aces. From the rail, Phil Gordon pleaded, “Come on Perry! Suckout!”

Friedman’s hand did not improve and he finished in third place. Seidel held almost a 2-to-1 lead over Violette when the two sat down for the heads-up match. During the first hour, Violette took her shoes off and played barefoot. Seidel didn’t want to make any mistakes, since he was on the verge of winning his seventh bracelet, and he played with extreme caution.

The winning hand occurred after two intense hours of methodical heads-up play. Violette pushed all in preflop with pocket nines. Seidel tanked for several minutes before he finally called with pocket eights. Later on, he told me that he put her on a middle pair.

“8-8 is a tough hand to throw away there,” he explained.

Seidel caught a good flop of 8-5-5 to take the lead. His full house held up and he knocked out Violette. She won $295,970 for second place, while Seidel picked up $611,795 and his seventh WSOP bracelet. Since Seidel began playing professionally, only Phil Hellmuth has won more bracelets.

The victory that night for Seidel would not be his last. In 2007, Seidel picked up his eighth bracelet in the $5,000 NL deuce-to-seven event. If it weren't for a bad beat by Erik Seidel, Violette would have most likely won her second bracelet. The bad beat did not deter Violette, hoever. She finished out the 2005 WSOP on a strong note, making three final tables and winning over $400,000 in prize money that summer.

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