Seidel's success puts him atop POY list

Erik Seidel

With his big win at the Foxwoods Poker Classic earlier this month, Erik Seidel finally got a monkey off his back.

"I felt like something of a Michael Binger
Bertrand Grospellier
William Blanda
Alexander Kostritisyn

*Note: Results of the Bellagio Five Star World Poker Classic events have not yet been calculated in the Player of the Year ranking.

"It's nice to see that at least some of the kind of old-school guys are winning, that it's not always the Internet kids - some of them play so well. It feels like each year is more challenging than the last. It does make me feel good to see that even with the influx of great players, that some of the old school can still survive."

Among the newer faces on the list, Seidel mentioned Michael Binger as a major threat to take down the POY title.

"I've played with him a few times and I have a lot of respect for his game; I think he's terrific. And I think he'll be a real threat to win POY, because he plays a full slate of tournaments, including a lot of the other events that guys like Ivey and I won't be in. He'll play them and he'll play them well."

The international game

Also joining Seidel in the Top 10 are two Europeans: France's Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier and Russia's Alexander Kostritsyn, who defeated Seidel heads-up to win the Aussie Millions main event this January. I asked Seidel what he thought of the game's expansion into territories that previously weren't known for producing major poker talents.

"It's pretty exciting," said the Foxwoods champion. "I mean, I have had times where I thought, 'I wonder if it'll ever break in Europe, it's such a great game.' I think in a certain sense it took a long time.

"But this year it seems like a complete explosion, with some of the EPT tourneys being bigger than the WPT tourneys. I really hope I have the opportunity to go over and play in some of those tournaments, because it's always interesting to see new places and be exposed to new people and new cultures."

Seidel mentioned Germany in particular as a poker hotbed.

"We did a Full Tilt tour (there) in October, and it was unbelievable how many people showed up. These were huge venues, and they were always filled," he said. "The people were so enthusiastic, and really seemed to know who the players were and what they'd done. It was great to hear an introduction and how they responded to Gus (Hansen), and (Phil) Ivey. Jesus was really big over there too."

He also sees a growing poker scene in Central and South America as a benefit to the game.

"I know there are a lot of players in Latin America. When I play on Full Tilt Poker, people come on all the time and say, 'Hey Erik, I'm from Brazil,' or 'I'm from Peru.' It's always exciting for me to see there really are people from all over the world playing."

Poker and politics

While the rest of the world is enjoying a poker boom, the players who kicked it off in the United States are still struggling against the UIGEA. Seidel says he remains hopeful that better days are ahead for online poker.

"I get the sense more recently that the legislation and the public is starting to move our way," said Seidel. "I think it was really significant that the Poker Players Alliance got to one million members recently. I think that'll give us some clout."

With a million people joined together, Seidel says he'd like to start getting some answers from the presidential campaigns as to what they plan to do about UIGEA and protecting the rights of poker players.

"I'd like to see us get organized," said Seidel. "Candidates should be able to respond to a group as big as ours. We should be able to get responses to questions, and for the candidates to really clearly state where they stand. That's a powerful group - a million people. There's a good percentage of those people who might switch their vote depending on how the candidates handle this issue.

"These are really important issues," he concluded. "And they're not just issues about poker players. If we plan to live in a free country, these are pretty basic freedoms that all the other developed countries in the world seem to have."

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