Erik Seidel Player Profile, Biography and Poker Career

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Posted on: March 30, 2022 10:27 am EDT

Erik Seidel is one of the quietest men in poker, but he’s also one of the most successful. With more than $39 million in live tournament earnings through March 2022, he ranks fourth in the world on the global money list. Bryn Kenney, Daniel Negreanu, and Justin Bonomo are the few ahead of him. And he is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame.

Seidel has a long list of online poker successes. During the poker boom, he was a member of Team Full Tilt, representing one of the largest online poker sites in the world. 

The former Wall Street trader now invests his money in himself at the poker tables, playing in some of the highest-stakes tournaments in the world. His passion for poker is all the more notable when paired with his humble and soft-spoken personality. The $39M on his record speaks for itself, as do his consistently high rankings on the Global Poker Index.

Erik Seidel Biography

Born in New York City in 1959, Erik Seidel was a born gambler, never shying away from a mental challenge. That drive explains why he played tournament backgammon from a young age and then studied poker at the famous Mayfair Club in New York with the likes of Dan Harrington and Howard Lederer. 

His penchant for risk-taking took him to Wall Street, where he worked as a trader. But when the stock market crashed in 1987, he put his poker passion to good use. His first tournament cash on record came in 1988. Seidel scored big in the WSOP Main Event, where he finished second to Johnny Chan. His finish was worth $280K and was even memorialized in the movie Rounders.

Seidel and his wife and two children moved from New York to Las Vegas in the following years, where they still live today.

Professional poker playing career

Seidel’s runner-up finish at the 1988 WSOP was only the start of his long and successful career as a poker pro.

WSOP and other tournaments

The player won his first World Series of Poker bracelet in 1992 in a Limit Hold’em event. He would go on to win eight more WSOP bracelets, in variants that ranged from Pot Limit Omaha and Omaha-8 to Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball and Hold’em. 

In addition, he won a World Poker Tour title at the WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic in 2008, the NBC National Heads-Up Championship in 2011, and events in the Aussie Millions, LA Poker Classic, and European Poker Tour. Seidel also made final tables from the PCA (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) in the Bahamas to the EPT Barcelona and Monte Carlo. He was a top player in the Epic Poker League, too.

9 WSOP bracelets and 120 WSOP cashes

Through March 2022, Seidel has accumulated nine WSOP bracelets, trailing only Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan. He also has nearly 120 WSOP cashes, putting him fifth on that historic list, with nearly 50 of those cashes counted as “top 10” finishes.

Poker Hall of Fame and mentoring

Seidel earned a place in the Poker Hall of Fame in 2010.

While he has never been a poker coach, he accepted one student, New York Times best-selling author Maria Konnikova. She featured him in her book, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win. Konnikova started as someone without basic knowledge of poker but became a winning player under his tutelage.

2022 achievements and biggest wins

Seidel won a US Poker Open tournament on the PokerGO Tour after final-tabling many of the Hold’em high rollers — like the Super High Roller Bowl — on that tour. Seidel won $472,500 for the March 2022 victory.

To date, Seidel has collected more than $39 million in poker tournament winnings, mostly live. His winningest year to date was 2011, when he won more than $6.5 million. That was also the year of his largest single win of $2,472,555 in the Aussie Millions Super High Roller Event.

Poker playing style

Erik Seidel is skilled in many poker variants, but Hold’em tournaments remain his strongest game. 

In his vault of poker skills, tenacity may be the most useful, second only to his passion for the game itself. Seidel has also learned to adapt through the years. As young poker players have changed the tools they use — like HUDs and solvers — and tournaments have changed to reentries and deepstacks, Seidel adapted while still relying on his skills in game theory, strategy, and gut instincts.

Smart decisions

Seidel’s overall approach to poker is to build enough awareness of the cards, the math, and the other players to make solid choices every time he’s at the table.

The poker pro pays close attention to his opponents and the action, and takes things one hand at a time. His adaptability allows him to modify his style and strategy according to his opponents’ styles and strategies. Some say he’s a selectively aggressive player. He often appears to play tight in early stages of tournaments and loosen up a bit after some analysis.

Knows when to fold ‘em

One of Seidel’s greatest assets is the ability to know when to fold. He knows when he isn’t at the top of his game and, alternatively, when he’s on a hot streak. Seidel isn’t one to put faith in luck but not one to discount instinct, either.

Top 5 World Series of Poker results

Of Seidel’s nine World Series of Poker bracelets and dozens of top finishes, his top result was in 2021, and it happened online. He left the United States in the summer of 2021 to play WSOP bracelet events online at GGPoker, something that came about only during the pandemic. Not only was that his most recent bracelet but it was also his most lucrative.

  1. August 2021: $10K buy-in No Limit Hold’em Super MILLION$ High Roller Online (on GGPoker), first place for $977,842
  2. June 2005: $2K buy-in No Limit Hold’em (in Las Vegas), first place for $611,795
  3. July 2007: $5K buy-in No Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw World Championship (in Las Vegas), first place for $538,835
  4. May 2001: $3K buy-in No Limit Texas Hold’em (in Las Vegas), first place for $411,300
  5. October 2021: $50K buy-in No Limit Hold’em High Roller 8-Handed (in Las Vegas), fourth place for $358,665

The fifth result wasn’t a victory but a big final table score in a very high-stakes tournament.

Of note, his sixth-highest WSOP result in his career as a professional poker player was the $280K he won for second place in the 1988 WSOP World Championship Main Event when he lost to Johnny Chan.

Erik Seidel’s poker legacy

The lasting legacy of Erik Seidel’s poker impact is, ironically, his staying power. He was one of the players who hailed from the backgammon games at the Mayfair and trader desks of Wall Street, and he transformed those skills to the poker tables in Las Vegas. 

While some players came and went from the poker world, Seidel stayed. He weathered the changes in the game, long before the television cameras appeared, through the poker boom, and on past Black Friday. His love for poker has and will stand the tests of time.