It was twenty years ago last May when Erik Seidel lost to Johnny Chan heads up for the 1988 World Series of Poker Main Event title. Chan was the reigning world champion and the most feared poker player in Las Vegas. Seidel was the new kid on the block who took his shot at Chan… and missed.
Their battle was immortalized in the movie Rounders. I always thought that Seidel's cameo in the film was a curse instead of a blessing. Instead of being recognized as one of the premiere players in the world, Seidel gained the most notoriety for a scene in a Matt Damon movie.
Seidel grew up in New York City with a background in backgammon. He was a regular on the backgammon tournament circuit for eight years before he turned to poker. He honed his chops at the renowned Mayfair Club with other pros such as Howard Lederer and Dan Harrington before he moved to Las Vegas full time to play poker.
Erik Seidel is one of the most underrated players in poker in the world. You almost forget he's there because he's the quietest guy in the tournament. Seidel is the epitome of class at the tables. Unfortunately, gentlemanly behavior does not draw the media attention that more volatile pros often attract. Seidel is the last guy you'd ever expect to kick over a chair or berate his opponent for sucking out on him. Instead, you'll always find a calm and serene Seidel listening to several of his favorite indie rock bands on his iPod.
I'm always surprised that Seidel's name is omitted from various "Best All Time" lists. Heck, he's one of the founding members of Full Tilt and he's often overlooked over there. The next time you get a chance, ask your friends to name four Full Tilt Pros. I guarantee that one of them won't be Erik Seidel.
Seidel has one of the most impressive resumes in poker. Have you looked at his Hendon Mob stats recently? Eight World Series of Poker bracelets. One World Poker Tour title. Nine million in career earnings. That's tough to beat.
Seidel is sixth on the list of all-time WSOP cashes. Only Phil Hellmuth, Men the Master, T.J.Cloutier, Berry Johnston, and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson have more cashes than Seidel.
Seidel has made 25 final tables at the WSOP and has won eight bracelets. Only Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson have more bracelets.
Seidel is eighth on the all-time money list with over $9 million (U.S.) in career tournament winnings. Only Jamie Gold, Joe Hachem, Allen Cunningham, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey and T.J. Cloutier have won more money.
This is one of my favorite stats… Erik Seidel has won over $1.3 million in Australia. The bulk of that happened at the Crown Casino in Melbourne. During the 2007 Aussie Millions Seidel took second place in a $100,000 buy-in event when he lost to his good friend Erick Lindgren. Seidel still took home $550,000 AUD. At the 2008 Aussie Millions, Seidel took second place in the Main Event Championship when he lost heads up to Alexander Kostritsin. Seidel won $1 million AUD.
Seidel is on pace to win his tenth bracelet by the end of the decade. That would put him in an elite statistical category. In baseball terms, winning ten WSOP bracelets is similar to winning 300 games as a pitcher or hitting 500 homeruns as a batter.
Seidel has been on a tear in the last twelve months, winning over $2.5 million including a WPT title and his eighth bracelet. Two months ago, Seidel survived a field of 346 players and won his first WPT title when he took down the Foxwoods Poker Classic.
Those eight WSOP bracelets did not come easily. Seidel had to overcome some of the toughest players in the world such as the grouping at the final table of the 2007 WSOP $5,000 World Championship No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball which included Chad Brown, Shawn Sheikhan, Andy Black, Freddy Deeb, and Todd Brunson. For his first bracelet victory in 1992, Seidel had to beat Phil Hellmuth heads up to win the $2,500 limit hold'em event. At the 2001 $3,000 no-limit hold'em final table, Seidel outlasted Johnny Chan, Bob Feduniak, Hilbert Shirey, and Jay Heimowitz.
Almost a week and a half into the 2008 WSOP, Seidel is looking sharp as ever. He has already cashed in two events and made one final table, most recently finishing in fifth place in the $10,000 Seven-card Stud World Championship event. I would not be surprised if Seidel made another final table this year, maybe even collecting his ninth bracelet?