Erik Seidel talks Rounders with screenwriter Brian Koppelman

Jon Pill
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Posted on: October 16, 2020 9:32 pm EDT

Erik Seidel’s not a very public figure. Though he has enough of a sense of humor to have contributed his own voice to SrslySirius’s Seiborg music video, and there were those FullTilt ads he did. For the most part, if you hear him talking, it’s at the card table.

But he has done a few interviews lately. In his first-ever appearance on a podcast he chose, for reasons best known to himself, to go on Brian Koppelman’s The Moment with Brian Koppelman.

Koppelman is half the writing team behind 1998’s poker movie classic: Rounders. As well as the largely forgotten poker TV show Tilt and poker critical pancake Runner, Runner.

For anyone who learned to play poker in the nineties and noughties, few pop culture events carry the same resonance as Rounders.

The movie made a whole generation into poker players. And it made Erik Seidel famous outside of the poker world. He, every player knows, is the poor stooge who bluffed three streets into Johnny Chan’s flopped straight. And so came second in the 1988 WSOP. 

It was unfortunate for him. Given that, even at the time, he was one of the best players in the world. Hopefully, it got him into some soft games.

The Rounders effect

Koppelman clears the air from the get-go, asking Seidel what he thought when Rounders hit the multiplexes.

“When I first saw the script,” Seidel said. “I remember reading the lines that were about me and was immediately offended.” But the thrill of working with John Dahl (and the fact he signed before he read the script) won him over in the end. And the quality of the final product left him feeling “fine about it.”

He talks about how it was a fair depiction. He had been overwhelmed in the moment when he was up against Chan. And he holds his hand up to having misplayed that hand.

Other details about that iconic showdown is the fact he turned down a deal because “Johnny wanted more than his fair share.” 


Biographical sketch

In the main part of the podcast, Seidel goes over his history as a player.

He starts with the old days of playing backgammon at school as a 15-16 year old to earn his beer money. As he grew up he moved on from Chess City to the Game Room. Making money at backgammon seduced him away from school and into the world of high stakes gambling.

It was here that he found poker. From there, he found his way to the Mayfair, the New York underground card room where a rogues gallery of 20th Century pros put in their time at the coal face, grinding out a living on leather asses.

The rest, as they say, is history. The podcast episode overall is a lovely, warm discussion between two old friends.

You can listen to the full thing in Koppelman’s own Tweet. He tweets, “If you want a link to have bookmarked, here it is:”

Featured image source: Flickr used under CC License