Erik Seidel is an anomaly in poker – in a world of glitz, glamour and ego, Seidel doesn’t have or aim to be any those things. He’s accumulated $32 million in tournament earnings – good for second all-time and tops for American players -and is one of the most successful players of all time with eight World Series of Poker bracelets. But to the uninitiated, Seidel’s presence and ego come across more as a science professor than a world-class poker player, which lends a lot of weight whenever he does speak at the poker table.
Seidel was inducted in 2010 into the Poker Hall of Fame and perhaps no player ticks off the HOF requirements like Seidel – he has stood the test of time spanning four decades, crushed the high roller circuit in recent years and has more respect from other players than about anyone.
“Erik Seidel is one of, if not the only player, to have truly stood the test of time and remained in the top, top echelon of players,” said Melanie Weisner in the episode.
Jason Somerville echoed Weisner’s praise. “It’s truly tremendous to see someone like that survive at the highest levels – who else has been able to do that?” Somerville asked.
Seidel was born in New York City in 1959 to parents that let him have the run of the town. Seidel found games early on as a challenge as school bored him. He discovered Backgammon, started playing for money and earned enough of a reputation to be invited to the legendary Mayfair Club at 17-years-old.
He turned pro, toured the world and carved out some success in Backgammon. His travels took him to Las Vegas where he met Chip Reese and Stuey Ungar – both high-level Backgammon players in their own right.
Seidel’s first exposure to poker was a night at the Stardust casino where he sat behind Ungar and watched him play. “I didn’t even know what won and what didn’t,” Seidel said. “He would show me what hands he bluff and stuff like that. It was an exciting thing for me just to be around poker players as good as he was.”
Seidel transitioned to playing poker, backgammon and chess, but as his family grew, so did his responsibilities. Seidel landed a job working on Wall Street, but the crash in 1987 sent him back to the Mayfair Club and few months later he would be heads-up against Johnny Chan for the WSOP Main Event title.
Watch all of Seidel’s story, only on PokerGO as he joins a growing list of Pokerography subjects; which includes Poker Hall of Famers Phil Hellmuth, Jen Harman and Mike Sexton. The new generation of players are also included in Pokerography with episodes featuring Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst and Jason Somerville.