Longevity in poker: Why we should all look up to Erik Seidel

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It’s becoming increasingly evident that poker is a tough game to retire from.

Fedor Holz announced his retirement after an epic run, then continued to play high rollers. Charlie Carrel left the grind behind but is now looking for a new poker challenge. Doug Polk said he was done with poker but then played a heads-up challenge against Daniel Negreanu.

Even Doyle Brunson, the Godfather of poker, hinted his time playing at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) was behind him a few years back, only to then show up for some cherry-picked events in 2021.

Why is poker such a hard thing to leave behind? Well, it’s because we all love it. You can’t become a poker pro without having the passion and determination to grind your way up. For most, that passion never wanes.

Just look at Erik Seidel.

An undisputed legend of poker, Seidel has been at the very top of poker tournaments since the late 1980s, when he famously finished second to Johnny Chan in the 1988 WSOP Main Event (we’ll get to Rounders later).

He has $38.5 million in career winnings placing him fourth on the All-Time Money List, according to Hendon Mob. He has nine WSOP bracelets, tied for fifth all-time. And he’s been winning at elite levels for more than three decades.

Seidel discovered poker during the 1980s in New York City where he was a top-tier backgammon player. “It took me a few years [to learn poker],” Seidel said during a recent interview on the Poker In The Ears podcast, his first poker podcast interview ever. “I definitely wasn’t a quick study.”

Once things clicked, the results kept coming. Seidel won $280K for his runner-up finish in the 1988 WSOP Main and he went on to crush tournaments throughout the 1990s, not just in no limit hold’em but across all poker variants.

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Longevity in poker is something the BBZ Team know a thing or two about. BBZ coach Jonathan “apestyles” Van Fleet and Twitch superstar Lex Veldhuis both began their careers in the early-to-mid-2000s and to this day they’re playing the highest stakes tournaments online.

But it seems unfathomable that a player who didn’t come up online and was so good at live poker 25 years ago, like Seidel, would remain at the top of the game today. As podcast host James Hartigan points out, the overlap between players winning in the 90s and those still winning in 2021 is very small. The game has evolved and the efforts we make to learn the game–studying BBZ Poker Bundles and attending BBZ’s Daily Seminars–have made poker tougher than ever.

So why does Seidel believe he’s been able to stick around?

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“I think it’s just a natural curiosity,” he says. “I still just love the game and I’m really interested in playing it. I don’t know if I could say anything specifically except that I really just enjoy it and I’m always curious about what players are doing, how the game is advancing, and what I can do to adapt my game to the current time.”

Now 62 years old, Seidel isn’t studying poker for hours every day as you might be. Instead, he relies on his own intuition and experience, but he isn’t afraid to ask other players for help when he needs it.

“Jason Koon has been very helpful to me,” says Seidel. “He’s always willing to answer questions and things like that. If a lot of the good players didn’t answer questions for me I think I’d have to stop.”

That’s exactly why so many players benefit from BBZ’s Daily Seminars and Discord. They get to ask other players–particularly those at a higher skill level–for solutions and advice.

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“The game has changed so much over the last four years or so,” Seidel continues. “It’s really hard to keep up with the way the game has changed, especially at the top levels. I’m sure I could still get by if I just played $10Ks and below, but the high rollers–$25K and above–have gotten so difficult.”

Yet Seidel is still competing with the best of the best. He finished fourth in the $50K High Roller for $358K at the 2021 WSOP and has five seven-figure victories from tournaments with buy-ins of more than $100K on his resume.

It’s not just live poker where Seidel excels either. His ninth WSOP bracelet came in 2021 when he won a $10K Super MILLION$ High Roller ONLINE event for a massive $978K.

In the poker world, Seidel is an icon. But he’s not the flashy, outgoing type, despite his hugely successful career.

“I don’t think I’m in the same category as people like Daniel and Phil,” he says. “I’m not going and sitting on floor seats or getting invited to big celebrity parties or anything. I don’t really get any special celebrity status, but for me, it’s nice when I’m walking down the street and somebody recognises me. It’s almost always a pleasant encounter and it’s nice I’ve done well enough that I get recognized. That’s the level I’m comfortable with.”

He’s probably best known outside of the poker community for his appearances in Rounders, the 1998 poker movie many consider to be the best poker film of all time. Naturally, as the film shows his losing moment to Chan, he didn’t react well to the script upon first reading.

“But it didn’t take me long before I realized…that there was a certain amount of artistic license,” he says. “Chan was a much better player than I was at the time. [Rounders] has been a good thing overall. They haven’t made many good poker movies and I think Rounders is a decent one.”

There is simply no other player who has been around for as long as Seidel who is still crushing the super high rollers against the best young competition. If you can’t see your passion for poker ever waning, you should do everything you can to be like him and ensure your poker career lasts a long time.

That means studying, playing and, most importantly, enjoying the process.

“I just prefer to play poker the way it needs to be played,” Seidel says. And that’s why we should all look up to him.

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