PokerLizard sat down with the 2004 World Series of Poker Main-Event Champion, Greg Raymer, to find out how his life has changed since his big win, what he loves about poker, and how a mild-mannered patent attorney by day, turned into “Fossilman” by night!
PokerLizard: So it’s been awhile since your amazing WSOP win. How is life as a professional poker player and do you miss the 9-5 (or maybe 6-8) workdays as an attorney?
Raymer: Well, I’m not really a professional poker player in the strictest sense of the word. Because of my unique status, I’m spending a lot more time making appearances, working on advertisements and endorsements, and writing my book than I am on playing poker. However, I am playing in many of the major events out there, and enjoying it. It will be even more fun once I win another one (fingers crossed). I absolutely do NOT miss my old job, at least not in the sense that I would wish I hadn’t won the WSOP so things would be as they were. I love my new situation, and while being a patent attorney is a pretty good life, this new life is even better.
PokerLizard: In the 2002 WSOP, you put all your money in with AQs, and subsequently got busted by Tony D’s T4o. Do you treat AQ like the rotten meat that Brunson does, or do you simply see it as another decent starting had that must be played cautiously?
Raymer: It’s a very good starting hand, but it’s not aces. In fact, once you drop down from aces, everything is a big step down. However, I still would make that call, as long as I’m still confident that I’m ahead. I don’t care if I had held J3o, if I was somehow sure I was the significant favorite, then calling was correct.
PokerLizard: How was your experience in ESPN’s TOC? A lot of internet geniuses have second-guessed some of your plays (the 8,9 hands mostly); can you explain the rationale behind the plays? Did you ever get Daniel Negreanu’s autograph?
Raymer: It was a great experience, and certainly a new experience. I’ve played with many great players over the years, but never before have I been at a table where everyone plays great. It certainly changes things. As for my calls with 89, I was quite sure I had the pot odds to call with the worst hand on both occasions. I was getting well over 4:1 the first time, and about 2.5:1 the second time. Unfortunately, ESPN didn’t do a very good job of indicating what odds I was getting either time. And yes, I did get Daniel’s autograph. A friend of my wife’s wanted it, as she is a big fan of his. I’ve told him if he’s ever single again I know a lady who wants to meet him. 😉
PokerLizard: Of all those top players, which ones would you consider the most formidable?
Raymer: All of them, really. In my interview with ESPN I picked Daniel as the player most likely to win, but truly everyone played more than well enough to win. Oddly enough, kind of like a bunch of amateurs, luck was going to be the determining factor that day, and skill was going to have very little to do with it, simply because there wasn’t that big of a difference in skill level amongst the players.
PokerLizard: ESPN’s Jay Lovinger compared you to Bob Woodward of the Watergate investigation, noting your similar Zen-like calmness and low-key confidence. Does this comparison surprise you?
Raymer: Yes, since I really know nothing about Bob Woodward. And, of course, he got where he is almost entirely as a result of skill, while my victory owes itself to both luck and skill to a large degree. However, I certainly am happy to be compared to somebody who is so well thought of.
PokerLizard: Have you taken your normal ring games to a new level, or do you still frequent the mid-level cash games?
Raymer: I was already playing in the biggest cash games available at Foxwoods, as high as 150-300. So, I’m not sure if you would still consider me a mid-level cash game player or not. I certainly look for somewhat bigger games now when I’m out of town, but not much bigger.
PokerLizard: Which do you prefer and why – tournaments or limit cash games?
Raymer: I prefer tourneys, because they are simply more fun. Also, I enjoy the extra layer of strategy that comes with tournament play. The only reason tourneys aren’t much more complex than cash games is because you so often have such a short stack in tourneys. The simplifying factor of a short stack makes tourneys simpler than cash games in many ways. Still, there is a lot more to consider in many ways as well.
PokerLizard: You’ve obviously taught yourself well. Which poker books would you put at the top of your list?
Raymer: Theory of Poker by David Sklansky is easily number one, and number two isn’t even close.
PokerLizard: Now that you are a PokerStars fixture, do you enjoy playing online, and are you on there very often?
Raymer: I enjoy playing online, so I do it a lot. At least, I do it a lot when I can.
PokerLizard: For those that don’t know (all 4 of them), your nickname is “Fossilman” because you collect fossils. How did you get interested in fossils? What is your favorite piece? I once read an article about you that said you collected “antique” fossils. Aren’t they all antiques?
Raymer: I never said “antique fossils”. Somebody else made up that oxymoron. About 8 years ago when I lived in San Diego, my wife took me to a rock and mineral show, and I found an orthoceras fossil (the black teardrop-shaped fossil you see me use to protect my cards). I wasn’t really a collector, I just thought it was neat, and would make a good card protector. However, everybody else at the Oceanside Card Club also thought it was neat, so I came up with the idea of buying more fossils and selling them at the table. It was a great success when I lived out west, but sales died down dramatically when I moved here to Connecticut. My best and favorite piece is the large ammonite that you can sometimes catch a glimpse of in the ESPN coverage when I’m at the final table. It is a large, round, nautiloid fossil with lots of great crystals that have grown within the fossil.
PokerLizard: How did you first get interested in poker? How long have you been playing serious poker?
Raymer: I played nickel-dime-quarter poker in my college fraternity. It was a very occasional game, and we were all terrible. In grad school and law school I made extra money playing blackjack and counting cards in the Indian casinos in Minnesota. When I got my first job and moved to Chicago, there were no good BJ games. While checking out the BJ game at a charity Las Vegas night, I found they offered poker. I played for fun, but decided that if I was going to keep playing, I had better learn how to play well. I went to a used bookstore, and found a copy of Theory of Poker, and the rest is history.
PokerLizard: Back in 2002, you solicited backers on some of the online forums. A lot of people who didn’t know you gave you a LOT of negative feedback about your request. How does it feel to get the last laugh on these nay Sayers?
Raymer: I don’t feel like I have the last laugh. Some of the comments were appropriate. If you didn’t know me personally so as to trust me and have a good sense of my skill level, it was foolish to back me. My posts on these public forums were not made with the intent of soliciting money from strangers, but as a convenient way to get the word out to my many long-time friends who were also members of these forums. It surprised me that a few strangers also bought in. I did not want to send private emails to my friends, because it might have made them uncomfortable saying no. By posting on the forums, it was perfectly comfortable for them to say no, as all they had to do was ignore the posts.
PokerLizard: Rumor has it that you have a tournament book coming out. Does the publisher have a name picked out? When is it being released? How will the book differ from the other tourney books?
Raymer: Yes, I am writing a book and have already signed a contract with Two Plus Two Publishing. The book will come out as soon as it’s ready, which won’t be until at least next year sometime. It is largely based upon my thousands of posts on their poker forum, and it will definitely include some concepts that are not yet out there in print.
PokerLizard: Which is your favorite poker game to play and what do like most about it?
Raymer: I actually prefer hi-lo split games over one-way games, probably because they are more mathematical. I really don’t enjoy limit hold’em or limit stud at all. I do like pot-limit and no-limit hold’em, but not as much as pot-limit Omaha. There is more room to play more hands more creatively in the big bet games, which is the best thing about them. Limit games tend to be a lot more cut-and-dried. And, if I’m going to play less creatively, I’d rather play hi-lo games, because the typical opponent plays worse in these games, in my experience.
PokerLizard: What were the most memorable hands you played at the WSOP?
Raymer: I think you saw almost all of them. The final hand is my favorite, of course, but the hand where I doubled through Mike Matusow was a close second.
PokerLizard: When you were first starting out, what advice or information (books/software etc.) helped you the most?
Raymer: All of the books I read helped a lot. Even though Theory of Poker is a clear number one for me, most of the books out there will be of some help, at least. Other than that, I would recommend taking part in a good poker discussion forum, such as those at twoplustwo.com, or the newsgroup rec.gambling.poker.
PokerLizard: When is your new website, FossilmanPoker.com, going to be unveiled, and what types of things will be on the site?
Raymer: At first this site will include a calendar of upcoming events and appearances, as well as trip reports. There will also be retail items available, including the sunglasses, autographed fossils and photos, t-shirts, hats, and other poker-related merchandise. I may start a discussion forum there some day, but I’m not yet sure of that, as there are already so many good ones out there. Of course, if anybody has advice about the content, they should feel free to let me know.
PokerLizard: What is the strangest thing you’ve been asked to endorse since your big win?
Raymer: Well, there is a FossilMan bobblehead doll coming out. That is certainly the weirdest thing yet for me.
PokerLizard: Obligatory PokerLizard question: If you were Matt Damon in Rounders, how long would it have taken you to kick your girlfriend to the curb and get with Famke Janssen? (Since you’re a married man, I’ll understand if you don’t answer)
Raymer: I’ll answer, with the assumption that the answer only applies in a hypothetical world where I am single. I never liked the girlfriend character at all anyway, so she would’ve been long-gone even before Famke was making herself available. And, being unattached at that point, it would have been a no-brainer to get together with Famke.
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