Monday, March 14, 2005
Here's another quick post.
I've a lot to say, but it shall have to wait for now.
I'm posting this because it's a subscription-based site, The Sunday Times in the UK. From yesterday's edition.
By the way, if you read this humble poker blog, you're in fine company. 2004 WSOP Champion, Greg Raymer, told the FilmGeek that he reads my blog. Imagine my shock. Now go read the FilmGeeks great poker trip report.
Anyway, here's the article. Enjoy.
March 13, 2005
A Life in the Day
The 40-year-old world poker champion Greg "Fossilman" Raymer won $5m in the 2004 World Series in Las Vegas. He and his wife, Cheryl, and their daughter, Sophie, 8, live in Connecticut. He competes in the European Poker Tour final in Monte Carlo on Tuesday
"The alarm goes at 6.50. I turn it off and go back to sleep for a few hours while my wife gets Sophie off to school. My excuse is either I've had a late night playing poker or I'm back from a trip. I don't eat breakfast. I just grab a Diet Coke and see what needs to be done. Right now, things are hectic. When I became world poker champ last year, life changed overnight. The prize was a thick platinum bracelet with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, plus $5m. Then the online gaming site PokerStars.com asked me to be a rep for them, doing endorsements and poker tours, so I said yes and quit my job. I'd been an attorney for the drug company Pfizer, but this sounded much more fun.
When I'm at home, I'm usually sorting through stuff - requests, bills, e-mails. . . If it's not too taxing, I'll pop on an online poker game and play it at the same time. It's easy to stop in the middle of, say, writing a cheque, look at the cards on the screen, make a decision and then go back to what I was doing - I usually make money. I've been playing poker for 13 years now. It started while I was at University in Missouri, playing for nickels and dimes with friends, then my aunt gave me The World's Greatest Blackjack Book, and I ended up getting a student job counting cards at a local casino. It was great in term breaks, because I'd maybe go in and play all day.
I graduated in chemistry and did a master's in biochemistry in Minnesota. Then I realised I didn't want to spend my life in a lab, so I went to law school and qualified as a biotechnology patent attorney. My first job was in Chicago but I still went to places like Las Vegas when I got a chance. Blackjack was limited to a minimum bet of $10, so I started playing poker again, where you could make more money.
To win at poker, you have to study it properly, so I read loads of books; one I'd recommend is Sklansky's The Theory of Poker. I'm now writing my own book. The thing is, poker's not just about skill and luck, it's about behaviour. When you're sitting round a table, a player's demeanour can be the crucial tells of how he is doing - everything from tapping fingers and humming to shrugs and stares. So during an evening, you're constantly making mental notes of how his body language correlates with the cards he's got in his hand.
I started getting steady wins, but I was now married, and Cheryl was becoming increasingly concerned about the time I was spending on it. She'd also hear horror stories about players bankrupting their families. In the end we made a deal: I was allowed a $1,000 poker bankroll on condition it stayed separate from our savings. And if I lost it all, I'd never play again. It never got to that. In one game I won $22,000, which we ended up using as a down payment on our house.
Cheryl's opinions improved after that. In fact, she now plays herself; she's even won a ladies-only tournament. She's the one responsible for my nickname - Fossilman. She's collected fossils since she was a kid and got me hooked, and I use one of them to put on top of my cards when I'm playing.
I have lunch between 11 and 1. I love Mexican food, so I might have tortillas with meat and cheese. I make them or take some out of the freezer and microwave them. If the weather's good, I'll sit outside. We live in a rural part of Connecticut, where all the houses sit on a few acres. We're also only six miles away from Foxwoods, the largest casino in the world. It's on a native Indian reservation site, which are like
sovereign nations in the States - exempt from state laws.
The thing is, casinos are illegal in most of the US. The only places they have them are Atlantic City, the state of Nevada and a handful of other states that have riverboat casinos, like Illinois. The reservations, however, are all over the US and they offer full casino gambling.
The first time I entered the world poker tournament was in 2002. I came about 80th. Just before, I'd taken Sophie and Cheryl to Disney World and bought these 3-D hologram lizard eyes. They were so funny I thought I'd put them on in the tournament. Things can get tense at the table, so it's good to lighten things up sometimes. But when I put these glasses on, the guy I was playing freaked out and ended up throwing his hand away. It made me think that there was more to them than I realised, so I wore them again. Several players demanded that the directors stop me wearing them, but they were overruled and I've worn them ever since.
At home, one of us will collect Sophie, and dinner's usually at 6. Cheryl's a great cook. I love her steak tips marinated in Korean barbecue sauce, with grilled potatoes and onion with cheese. After, I'll help with the washing and the garbage and then, once Sophie's to bed, we might watch TV. I like South Park and televised poker - there's a lot of it in the US. I may be out at a game in the evening; if not, it's good to get an early night.
A while ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea - a condition where you temporarily stop breathing in your sleep. It's common, especially if you're middle-aged or overweight. I have a Cpap machine, which is an oxygen tank attached to a mask I wear over my nose. The pressure from the air keeps the throat open. It's a hassle, but once the lights are off I'm out like a light myself, probably dreaming about my next big win."
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