One of the truths of the World Series of Poker Championship Event is that, since Juan Carlos Mortensen won the World Championship in 2001, only non-professional (some would say “amateur”) players have won what is considered the ultimate championship in poker. Even though this may be true, some of the players who captured poker’s greatest title have moved on to become top notch professionals in their own right. One of those players is 2004 WSOP World Champion Greg Raymer.
To call Raymer an amateur would be an insult to the vast skills that he has shown in the game. His first cash in a poker tournament dates back to 1996 and, while he worked a 9-to-5 job as a patent attorney in Connecticut, Greg became a terror in the poker room at the Foxwoods Casino and Resort. He earned eight cashes, including one victory, in different events offered by Foxwoods between 1998 and 2003.
2004 would prove to be the breakout year for Raymer. Even though he had cashed at the World Series of Poker in 2001, nobody knew who the gentleman at the table was who used a fossilized rock as a card cover – hence his nickname “Fossilman” – and wore odd, lizard-eye hologram sunglasses. After earning his way into the $10,000 Championship Event through a satellite tournament on PokerStars, Raymer went on to defeat a strong final table that included former World Champion Dan Harrington, top professional Josh Arieh and eventual runner-up David Williams. At the time of his championship in 2004, Raymer captured the largest ever first place prize in the history of the WSOP up to then: $5 million.
What “Fossilman” has done since then has catapulted him into the true professional ranks of the poker world. In 2005, Raymer made a deep run at the $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship in April before succumbing in 33rd place. He then went on to defend his title at the WSOP, driving deep in the 5619 player field (at that time the largest field ever in the WSOP Main Event) before leaving the tournament in 25th place. If his achievements in 2004 and 2005 weren’t enough, Greg solidified his place in WSOP history when he finished third in the 40th Anniversary No Limit Hold’em event, a $40,000 buy in event, on last year’s WSOP schedule.
Raymer has cashed twelve times in WSOP tournaments that span all spectrums of poker. Whatever the game is, be it Omaha, Seven Card Stud, Deuce to Seven Lowball or No Limit Hold’em, Greg can claim at least one cash in every event. In addition to his success at the WSOP, Raymer has two cashes on the WPT and has earned over $6.8 million in his tournament poker career.
What arguably has been the most significant act of his poker career has been Raymer’s advocacy for the sport of poker. Along with fellow World Champions Chris Moneymaker and Joseph Hachem, “Fossilman” has embraced his position as one of poker’s ambassadors by playing in the top tournaments around the world and online. He has also been a teacher of the game, offering seminars to players around the world, and often can be found online discussing aspects of poker on several forums. His greatest impact, however, may be seen on the political side of the world of poker.
After the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, Greg lobbied extensively in Washington, DC, for online poker to be regulated and considered a skill sport instead of gambling. There has been discussion of Raymer entering the political arena as a Libertarian candidate but, at this point, he hasn’t chosen that path. He is a board member of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) and, while acting as one of poker’s most outspoken advocates, he continues to ply his new occupation as a professional poker player.
For many players who have won the World Championship in the first decade of the 21st century, the victory has seemingly been a burden. Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, however, has firmly embraced his position as an ambassador of the game and continues to be a strong threat at the poker tables, whether they are live or online and in whatever game of poker may be in play.