While he may not be one of the names called when people discuss the best players in the game today, the highly underrated Erik Seidel is a player that, if not considered one of the best today, certainly should be in the running for that as well as the best of all time.
Born in New York City in 1959 and now calling Las Vegas home, Erik began his trek to the poker tables by languishing at the backgammon board and trading stocks on Wall Street. For eight years he played backgammon professionally and, although he was making a name for himself, the smaller tournaments and prize pools made him yearn for a stronger challenge. He would discover that on the baize of the poker tables.
Seidel found the legendary Mayfair Club in New York in 1985 and, with his talent for tournament backgammon play and some prior knowledge of poker, followed in the footsteps of other players such as Howard Lederer, Dan Harrington and Steve Zolotow to pursue the game professionally. Little did he realize that he would have perhaps one of his most recognized moments, if not one of his personal highlights, a scant three years later.
At the 1988 World Series of Poker Championship Event, Seidel maneuvered his way to the final table alongside Jim Bechtel (the 1993 WSOP Champion), T. J. Cloutier and Humberto Brenes. Battling these difficult players, an inexperienced Seidel found himself the only player remaining against defending champion Johnny Chan. In a clip immortalized in the feature film Rounders, Erik was beaten by an expertly slow played straight by Chan and denied the world title. Even Seidel himself admitted, “I was totally out of my element,” in Steve Rosenbloom’s The Best Hand I Ever Played. It would be the last time that Erik would find himself in that position.
Four years later, Erik picked up the first of what has now become an impressive eight WSOP bracelets and also returned to the WSOP $10,000 Championship Event final table in 1999. The victories haven’t all been in No Limit Hold‘em; Erik also has tournament victories in Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball. He has been one of only five men to win a bracelet in three consecutive years (along with Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Gary “Bones” Berland and Allen Cunningham) and his eight bracelets put him in rarefied air behind only Phil Hellmuth, Brunson, Chan and tied with Moss on the list of all time bracelet winners.
The World Poker Tour has also been a fertile ground for Seidel. He has cashed in sixteen events there, made two final tables and captured the Foxwoods Poker Classic in April 2008. All totaled, Erik has a stunning 125 cashes in major events around the world and sits in ninth place in all time money earnings with over $9 million won.
A view of Erik’s game (from Barry Greenstein):
- Aggressiveness: 7
- Looseness: 6
- Short-handed: 7
- Limit: 7
- No-limit: 8
- Tournaments: 8
- Side games: 6
- Steam control: 7
- Against weak players: 7
- Against strong players: 7
Seidel has demonstrated that he should be given consideration in the “best player of all time” argument. With his quiet, assassin-like skills and subdued behavior at the tables, Erik Seidel should remain a powerful force at the table for years to come and could Seidel has demonstrated that he should be given consideration in the “best player of all time” argument. With his quiet, assassin-like skills and subdued behavior at the tables, Erik Seidel should remain a powerful force at the table for years to come and could eclipse many more poker records along the way.