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Poker Stories Podcast With Steve Zolotow

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Oct 10, 2018

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 73
Born: Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
Live Tournament Earnings: $2.3 million

Top Five Tournament Scores

Date Tournament Place Winnings
March 2004 Party Poker Million III 4th $259,684
May 2001 WSOP $3k Pot-Limit Hold’em 1st $243,335
June 2010 WSOP $10k Stud Eight-Or-Better 4th $125,379
May 1995 WSOP $5k Chinese Poker 1st $112,500
Dec. 2005 Global Poker Challenge 3rd $80,000

Steve Zolotow has been gambling for the better part of six decades, and that’s only a small part of what has been an extraordinarily eclectic life. Born into a famous family of writers that hobnobbed with the Hollywood elite, Zolotow dropped out of the Ivy Leagues to pursue a life of gambling, drugs, women, and even an acting career.

It was gambling that led Zolotow to the Mayfair Club, which started as a bridge and backgammon space before becoming a secret poker club that produced legendary gamblers such as Erik Seidel, Jay Heimowitz, Mickey Appleman, Howard Lederer, Stu Ungar, Paul Magriel, and Dan Harrington. When he wasn’t wagering up to $1 million a week with his sports betting operation, Zolotow was playing high-stakes poker with VIPs like Larry Flynt. Zolotow also has two World Series of Poker bracelets, having taken down a Chinese poker event in 1995 and a pot-limit hold’em event in 2001.

Highlights from this interview include a family of famous writers, ignoring Marilyn Monroe to play with horses, sharing a bed with Elizabeth Taylor, getting acting compliments from Lee Strasberg, dropping acid and dropping out, getting beaten out of the army, a three-some proposal leads to a marriage proposal, Stu Ungar cleans up in bridge, poker comes to the Mayfair Club, how to Moss-proof your loose change, how X-22 almost lost his Cox, up to $1 million a week in sports bets, avoiding jail time in Las Vegas, a Chinese poker bracelet, avoiding going broke, $2k-$4k stud with Larry Flynt, real estate sticker shock in NYC and SF, losing a $300,000 pot to Lyle Berman, and why you can’t drown a fly.

The Highlights

On the perks of growing up in a family of famous writers…

“My father mainly wrote about theatrical people, but he also wrote about magicians, and gamblers, and con-men, and things like that. He wrote the first [biography of Marilyn Monroe]. Growing up I met a lot of famous actors. I was probably 10, maybe 12 years old when my father was working on the book, and he took me to the studio when they were doing a Western (Note: The movie was River of No Return), with Marilyn and Robert Mitchum. Of course, being very impressed by stars, I wanted to feed carrots to the horses instead. At one point, my father had an interview with Mike Todd, who was a big theatrical producer who was then-married to Elizabeth Taylor. (Note: Her third of seven husbands) My father was interviewing him, and I was falling asleep. So, Elizabeth Taylor says to me, ‘You look really tired. Would you like to go nap?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ So now I tell people that I fell asleep in bed with Elizabeth Taylor.”

On his career in sports betting…

“Somebody told me that bookmakers had a lot of money, so I decided to become a bookmaker. I was going to be the house. You have to find customers, set a good line, they have to bet, they have to lose, and you have to collect. I had [good lines] and was very good at finding customers… but I wasn’t a good collector. I got into sports betting, I knew it could be beaten. So, I quit taking action, and started betting. Started fairly small. (Interviewer: I read you were betting up to $1 million a week at one point…) Well, we got up there. Initially I would bet… let’s say there was a basketball game, Knicks were a 3 ½ point favorite. The New York City bookmakers would open up about six o’clock, by ten after six, we could bet the $2,000 or $3,000 we were betting and [by game time] the line wouldn’t have changed anywhere. Two years later, we were betting $100,000 a game, and if we laid the Knicks minus 3 ½, everywhere in the world the line [would move] to 4, 4 ½, or 5.

On the poker players from the Mayfair Club…

“It was a lot of very good players… who suddenly all started playing in Las Vegas. We were the kids. I remember when Erik Seidel was ‘Erik The Kid.’ I backed Erik in the first poker tournament he ever won. I think it was a $1,000 entry fee, and he said, ‘I’ll play for 10 percent.’ And now he’s in the top [three of the all-time money list.] You forget that [the Mayfair players] were the ones, like Erik, Dan Harrington, Howard [Lederer], who came out, and took the world by storm.” ♠

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Scott Seiver, Freddy Deeb, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.