Erik Seidel caught up in etiquette controversy after blinding WSOP opponent down

Jon Pill
Posted on: August 11, 2020 07:06 PDT

It's pretty rare for Erik Seidel to come up in poker news, except in lists of tourney finishers. The 8-time WSOP bracelet winner lives a low-key life. He can come across a little shy on camera and speaks rarely and softly when in front of them. In his TV ads for Full Tilt, he even manages to almost disappear into the background. His vibe tends to be "I'm just here to play poker." And around the baize, he's generally considered a class act.

So, it's unusual to see him wrapped up in a controversy over sportsmanship and etiquette. But wrapped up he is.

The controversy settled around whether or not he should have blinded out Max Kruse in the heads up match between Kruse and him. Kruse was late in showing up to take his seat and Seidel raised him hand after hand. Every round robbed Kruse of a blind and a half. By the time the unfortunate Kruse arrived, half his stack had made its way into Seidel’s hands.

Blind luck

The matchup came after an uneventful, but successful round against Laurynas Levinskas, a solid tourney regular with $2.5 million in live tourney cashes under their belt. This was in the first round, the round of 128. This took him to the round of 64 where he was to play Kruse. The winner of that match would be all set to play whoever came out on top between Sean Winter and Michael Zhang.

Kruse’s avatar joined Seidel’s in the round of 64. Kruse himself did not.

The question then is what Seidel should have done. In live tourneys where hands and clocks are slower, the call feels less serious, and standard practice is to blind the opponent down.

But online, 12 minutes of blinds can eat a stack down to the cobwebs and the flexibility of software makes waiting fairer.

Earlier in the series, during the $10k Short Deck event, Lev Gottlieb, paused the tourney when his heads up opponent disconnected. On the other hand, in smaller matches, few online players would opt for the same courtesy. In the ruthless and anonymous digital world, heads up players have preserved their sportsmanship.

Further muddying the question of sportsmanship is the fact that Kruse is not a poke pro. He is a Fußballspieler — that is to say a soccer pro — from Germany. Where harsh moves on another shark who ought to know better seem understandable, blinding out a recreational player leaves a very different taste in the mouth.

In Seidel’s defense

In a reply to Patrik Tardif’s tweet criticizing his move, Seidel said that it “was a mistake." He added that if Kruse had been blinded out, Seidel would have reimbursed his buy-in. He cited the fact that twice in other live heads up tourneys he had himself been blinded out in a similar manner.

Others were quick to come to Seidel's defense. James Chen pointed out that “A primarily live reg like[Seidel] wouldn’t necessarily know that online regs would do the same for him if he disconnected. He prob feels at enough of a disadvantage playing online without the latest software tools/charts to want to make that assumption and risk being wrong.”

You think Erik is lying about his intentions? Because why?” Oliver Busquet tweeted, taking those who doubted Seidel’s apology to the task. “Because he cares so much about the opinions of the f***ing poker peanut gallery?”

In the end, Seidel did nothing against the rules. He may have violated etiquette, but the problem with etiquette is how varied it can be across games, stakes, and locations.

Where there is no right answer, everyone gets to be wrong.