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Seif steps into spotlight for poker chat
In 2005, many had never heard of Mark Seif. The former attorney, whose highly aggressive tournament poker style had netted him fringe notice in the poker world up to that time, burst from the shadows by becoming a double bracelet winner at the 2005 World Series of Poker.
Since then, Seif has continued to be a force at the tables and a voice of reason away from them. I recently had a chance to sit and talk with him about how his life has changed since his double bracelet victory; the tournament poker world today; his involvement in the legal case over Jamie Gold's 2006 championship victory; and the future of the Professional Poker Tour.
How did winning those two bracelets in 2005 change your life?
It was huge; it changed my life dramatically. While I had made World Poker Tour final tables before that, the two bracelet wins that year propelled me into the mainstream of the poker world. The exposure that I received for those victories impacted my life tremendously.
Because of those wins, I am now able to teach at many of the poker "boot camps" that are out there now. I was able to get the co-host seat for the Professional Poker Tour broadcasts, which was nice as well. Also, I can also help out many charities with their events with my recognition, which I am very interested in. It's pretty remarkable.
How has the game changed since your victories, and how have you been doing overall this year?
To be honest, I haven't had a great deal of success since I won those bracelets in 2005. I did win the Seven-Card Stud event at the U.S. Poker Championships later that year and finished 11th in the championship event. Since then, though, I have been pretty quiet. This year, in March, I was at the final table for the WPT event in Reno and the rest of this year hasn't been great, other than that.
There's reasons for that, though. I don't think that I have been playing my "A" game. There's a substantial difference between my "A" game and the rest of my game. I've also had my hand in so many different projects that I have to admit it has had an effect on my game. Lately, though, I have been putting my nose to the grindstone and getting back to playing my best. I expect the rest of this year to be better for me.
How does your "A" game differ from the rest of your play?
When I am playing my "A" game, there is no place else I would rather be than in that tournament, playing that hand, playing the people I am against. I don't care how long we play or what the conditions are, whether we take breaks or whether there are distractions - I am very focused, like a laser beam, and I have great patience.
When I'm not playing my "A" game, then everything that I am doing starts creeping into my mind and distracting me from what I am doing. I'll make some rash decisions on hands that I probably shouldn't be playing, and my mind says, "I'm probably a dog, but it's 3-2, there's a bunch of chips in the pot, and I'd rather have a big stack of chips or get out of here."
I take more chances, I'm not as focused and I miss things that I would have caught if I was on my "A" game. Those may seem like small things, but they are very critical if you are going to play at the highest levels.
You were critical of some of the moves that Harrah's made this year with the World Series of Poker. What were some of the problems that you observed as a player this year?
Quite a few of the professional players still feel disenfranchised from decisions at the World Series of Poker. The Players' Committee, which Harrah's started, is a great idea, but unfortunately that committee has been very secretive and those associated with it have their own allegiances and alliances to look out for.
Many of the decisions of the committee weren't fully [put before] a majority of the players and, as such, there were a few making the decisions for many.
The factor that they were running four, maybe five tournaments at a time was very difficult on the pros, I think. We all feel that need to win that bracelet and with two main tournaments plus other events, the professionals were spread very thin over what would become 14- to 15-hour days.
The conditions sometimes were abysmal. Being out there in that tent, with the doors slamming due to the winds and temperatures around 100, it really gave a big advantage to those players that were inside. It felt very commercial this year, more so than in the past it seemed.
I was also against the cordoning off of final tables. If you made a final table, and it was to be broadcast on the Internet, you couldn't bring friends or family to watch you try to win a bracelet.
That was terrible. The public should be allowed to watch what's going on. If there had been more discussion on these things, I think we wouldn't have seen them occur.
It would have been better, if they were going to sequester these Internet final tables, to have a larger area where several family members and some of the public would have been admitted.
Yeah, you know, Phil Hellmuth wins his 11th bracelet and no one is allowed to witness it, basically?
History is being made and it is kept away from being seen? It seems as though it is another spot where the players are losing more of their place in the game in favor of business decisions. It's not in the best interest of the game.
It seems that this same corporate mindset has gone down to the media coverage as well.
Yes, it seems to be the "thing" now to sell the coverage rights to one organization and that's not right either. We shouldn't limit it to one or two outlets; we should have media from all outlets that want to cover it. To limit coverage is very wrong.
You were involved with the legal case that arose after Jamie Gold won the World Championship in 2006. As a poker player, how did you like seeing that happen?
The reason I got involved in the Leyser vs. Gold case was because I am a poker player. I was concerned about the impact of this case on the poker world at large.
For years, poker had been like the stock market. We have some players who have the money to play and some very talented players that didn't have the funding, which was rectified by those with the funds to have backing arrangements with those that didn't - kind of like investing. Those agreements, for the most part, have always been treated in an honorable way.
For that reason I got involved because I thought it would have a tremendous impact on these agreements, and I felt that the right people prevailed in this and the fair thing was achieved.
In the end, I think the right things were done and we have preserved the honorable "living up to the agreement" end and shown that there will be ramifications if you don't live up to them.
You've had success in the WSOP and on the World Poker Tour. Which do you prefer and why?
There are substantial differences between the two. The World Series of Poker is, well, the World Series of Poker. We measure success in the game by the number of bracelets that you have. The World Series is the Super Bowl of poker, to be honest.
The money, though, is in the World Poker Tour. It is routine for events to pay the winner well over $1 million. You would be hard pressed to see that same type of payout for World Series events. The World Poker Tour also has what you could call a manageable field. They normally run between three and six hundred players. In the World Series, you have to beat a small nation most of the time and that's hard to do.
It really depends on what you want. The WPT has the money and the WSOP has the history and prestige.
What was your experience like with the Professional Poker Tour, and do you think it will come back?
I loved the PPT - not so much in the first half of the season because I sat back on my couch and watched it, cringing at some of the stupid things that I said. (Laughs.) As it went on, though, Matt (Corby, his co-host) and I got better, the shows got better and it became very highly rated on the Travel Channel.
When we did that, there was no show out there that was like it. Wall-to-wall pros, maybe 100, 150 total, and you got to see everything from the start of the tournament to the finish. It was a really unique show, and I really hope that we get a chance to bring it back.
It is supposed to be alive and well still, but we are looking for a broadcast home for it. Steve Lipscomb tells us that we're looking for the right place for it. I really do hope that it comes back.