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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Seidel has stock market crash to thank for HOF career

23 November 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The stock market crash of 1987 ended Erik Seidel's career on Wall Street as an options trader and sent the one-time backgammon expert into poker.

It turned out to be a pretty good job move.

Seidel, 51, has earned more than $10 million in tournament poker and collected eight World Series of Poker individual event championship bracelets over a 23-year career.

During the final table of the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold 'em World Championship at the Rio earlier this month, Seidel was inducted into Poker's Hall of Fame along with 1995 world poker champion Dan Harrington. The pair became the group's 39th and 40th members.

But the Poker Hall of Fame is unlike other hall of fames. Induction doesn't mean honorees have called it a career.

"I certainly hope not," said Seidel, who has lived in Las Vegas for the past 15 years. "I enjoy poker and I think I have a lot more left in me."

To prove his point, Seidel cashed in four events at this year's World Series of Poker, including 5th place in a Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split event. Seidel's last gold bracelet came in 2007 in a No-limit 2-7 Draw Lowball event, which earned him $538,835.

"I don't know where my life would have taken me without poker," Seidel said.

Seidel prides himself in knowing all the various poker games and not just the popular Hold 'em.

That eclectic knowledge helped him land a job on Wall Street.

Seidel was studying liberal arts in college but he made a name for himself as a competitive backgammon player, often taking on challengers at the famed Mayfair Club in New York City. The club was also where he was first exposed to poker.

Option traders at Wall Street firms thought Seidel's expertise with numbers might translate from the backgammon board to the Big Board. They recruited him to a desk overlooking the markets.

Seidel had built a career when "Black Monday" hit. On Oct. 19, 1987, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 508 points, a 22 percent decline, and investors lost some $500 billion.

Seidel's firm was wiped out along with a good chunk of his investments. So he decided to give poker his full attention.

"It seemed like a good time to see how I could do at poker," Seidel said.

A year later, Seidel, then 28, found himself on poker's biggest stage. He outlasted 165 players at Binion's Horseshoe to face defending world poker champion Johnny Chan for his crown in World Series of Poker's Main Event.

Seidel lost to Chan but earned $280,000 for second place.

It took Seidel four more years to earn his first gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker, but he won one in the successive two years.

Seidel built a legion of poker followers but 10 years after his heads-up match with Chan took place, the final hand was immortalized in the movie "Rounders."

In the film, Mike McDermott, a law student played by Matt Damon, is obsessed with the final hand Chan played against Seidel, re-running a video of the hand over and over.

In the 1988 hand, Chan was dealt the jack of clubs and nine of clubs, while Seidel drew the queen of clubs and seven of hearts. The flop gave Chan a straight and he slow-played the hand, drawing in Seidel to make a futile all-in move on the river.

Even though he had the losing hand, Seidel understood how the movie helped build poker's following.

"Unfortunately, somebody had to play the sucker," Seidel said. "The movie was important to a lot of people and I can appreciate that. I think over time, it was a good thing for me. A lot more people became familiar with my name."

Seidel continues to play tournament poker and he enjoys seeing the growth the game has experienced. This year, 7,319 players paid the $10,000 entry fee for the Main Event, himself included. Seidel is also sponsored by online gambling company Full Tilt Poker.

Seidel is tied for fifth with Phil Ivey for World Series of Poker individual event bracelets.

"I try and play in all the majors still," Seidel said. "I haven't really played in too many cash games. I try and maintain some balance in my life."

The recent problems on Wall Street brought back some memories for Seidel. He said there were some similarities with the market's tanking in 2009 with what happened in 1987.

But as a Las Vegas resident, he's more concerned about water issues facing in the valley.

"What scares me with Las Vegas are the water problems," Seidel said. "I don't know if they have a solution."
Seidel has stock market crash to thank for HOF career is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.