The 40th Annual World Series of Poker is only weeks away. Between now and the start of the Main Event BluffMagazine.com will be presenting the 40 Greatest Champions in WSOP history exclusively on WorldSeriesofPoker.com.
Erik Seidel’s first final table finish at the WSOP is one that will follow him forever. He took second place to Johnny Chan in 1988, a clip that was immortalized in the movie Rounders. It was Seidel’s first trip to the WSOP and an experience that he now knows he was entirely unprepared for.  He was an unknown player from New York, another Mayfair Club graduate, that had only begun his poker education three years prior.

Seidel, a New York City native, developed a love for board games as a child and was a fierce competitor. While attending Brooklyn College Seidel developed his backgammon game to where he could start playing professionally.  For eight years Seidel was a professional tournament backgammon player and traveled around the country.  When he would return home he found more and more people playing poker at the Mayfair Club when bridge and backgammon used to rule the club.

Seidel had grown tired of being a professional gambler wanted the security that an office job brings.  He began to trade stocks on Wall Street and played poker at nights and on weekends. He spent long hours discussing poker strategy and game theory with Howard Lederer and Dan Harrington after the games broke at the Mayfair.

The eventual eight time bracelet winner found some investors in 1988 and traveled to Las Vegas for the WSOP where he made his deep Main Event run. He did not win a bracelet in his first few years at the WSOP but broke through with a bracelet in 1992 in a Limit Hold’em event. He won a 1993 Omaha HiLo bracelet and another Limit Hold’em bracelet in 1994.

Feeling the success of his three bracelets Seidel decided to turn pro and moved to Las Vegas with his wife in 1995. Able to play with the best every day Seidel’s game moved to another level. He has won five bracelets since moving, bringing his total to eight; two in Deuce to Seven Draw in 1998 and 2007, two in No Limit Hold’em in 2001 and 2005, and a Pot Limit Omaha bracelet in 2003. He made another deep run in the Main Event in 1999 where he finished fourth.

Seidel’s lack of flash and introverted game doesn’t do much for TV producers who want flash, ego, and attitude.  He won a WPT championship at the Foxwoods in 2008 and has finished second twice in two Aussie Millions Championships. His conservative appearance and quiet nature disguise how quickly he can adapt his play to the table. Seidel’s age, health, and experience make him the most realistic challenger for Phil Hellmuth in the race for most lifetime bracelets.