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Poker Stories Podcast With Mark Gregorich

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Oct 07, 2020

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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.

Mark Gregorich has been making his living in high-limit cash games since the mid-’90s, but before that he followed in his parents footsteps, working as a high school teacher. When budget cuts cost him his job, he decided to make the move to Las Vegas, where he has been grinding ever since.

Gregorich, considered by his peers to be one of the nicest guys in the game, was also once voted as the best Omaha eight-or-better player. In fact, his skills in the game were so revered, that Doyle Brunson asked him to contribute to his book Super System II. Although he has always preferred cash games to tournaments, the Washington-raised Gregorich does have a solid record at the World Series of Poker, with 11 final table appearances.

Highlights from this interview include bear spotting with the kids, the family business, self-deal poker rooms, having a bad bluffing face, teaching high school at 22 years old, the only reasons to wear a tie, The Horseshoe and The Mirage, poker in the ‘90s, the who’s who game at Bellagio, seeing Omaha8 games literally die out, writing for Doyle Brunson, losing a bracelet to Carlos Mortensen, the animal mentality in Bobby’s Room, throwing cards at Sam Grizzle, home game raids, penguin betting, poker cruising, the long route home, and hitting lessons from Orel Hershiser while looking like Greg Maddux.

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 Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo, Antonio Esfandiari, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Mike Sexton, 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.

The Transcript Highlights

On His Introduction To The Game

Mark Gregorich: I had already discovered [poker]. My best friend growing up, his dad played in these 18-and-over cardrooms in Washington. We had a lot of these public, small, deal yourself rooms. It’s pretty crazy thinking about some of those rooms now, just compared to how poker has come along.

Julio Rodriguez: Yes, Washington was notorious for these one- and two-table rooms that were everywhere.

MG: They were absolutely everywhere. Everybody smoked. Everybody deal themselves, so anyone who was halfway adept at being a mechanic could do pretty well in the game. We learned these games from my friend’s dad when we were 15 or 16. He taught us Omaha hi-lo, crazy pineapple, seven card stud hi-lo split. No hold’em yet, but we learned those split games.

So we started playing, basically on rainy days in Washington… so probably six days a week. We would get together after school and play for a few hours. Our group started growing, and by the time we hit my junior year, we would have a poker game every weekend, either at my buddy’s house or my house. We often had two tables. It was dealer’s choice and there were a lot of crazy games.

JR: How do you become obsessed with a game that you couldn’t access. I had Rounders, I had online poker, and I had hole-card cameras to get me hooked.

MG: In our case, it was just the interaction and personal experience. I grew up playing games with my family, and this was just another extension of that. And of course, the action appealed to all of us. We all had jobs for $3.50 an hour, so we had pocket change to play these games.

JR: Were you good right away?

MG: No, I was terrible. I couldn’t keep a straight face. Everyone knew I was bluffing when I would turn red.

On His Close Calls At The WSOP

JR: You disparaged your tournament record, but I’d bet 99 percent of the poker world would trade resumes with you. You’re right that you’ve focused on cash games, but you’ve also done [well at the WSOP with many final tables].

MG: I’ve done okay, but having a first in there would make me feel a lot better about how I’ve done. I’m actually a little irritated with Daniel Negreanu, because I was his tag-team partner a couple years ago and he was supposed to win me my first bracelet. Instead it was another one of my thirds.

JR: Which one of those close calls was the toughest to swallow?

MG: It had to be the second-place finish. A lot of these final tables blend together, but that one was the toughest.

JR: This was the $5,000 limit hold’em in 2003 back at Binion’s. David Chiu finished third, and the guy that got you was Carlos Mortensen.

MG: This was back when the tournaments were only two days, and we came back with something like 15 people. It was long. We played really late the night before, and really late the day of the final table. Carlos and I came in pretty short, but the structure was really slow and allowed us to pick our spots really well.

Carlos and I played a long time. It was kind of topsy turvy. At one point, I had aces, and he had a flush draw. He only had half a bet left, but he made the flush on the river. After that, I don’t think I won another chip.

At the time, I wasn’t super disappointed, but I definitely didn’t feel like I had won a bunch of money either. The next day I was back at noon for the main event, which produced my most memorable TV moment. I was two-outed on the river by this Irish cop, about five spots out of the money in a pretty big pot. He just let out this huge, “YEAH!” after hitting, and Norman Chad said on the broadcast “that they were going to have to carry Gregorich out on a gurney!”

On The One Time He Wasn’t So Nice At The Table

JR: The consensus on you, is that you are one of the nicest guys in poker. Do you have any poker enemies? Any feuds?

MG: Not really. I’ve had very few blow ups at the table, a few arguments here and there, but nothing much. I did throw cards at Sam Grizzle one time, that was probably my biggest moment.

JR: And what did Sam do to deserve that?

MG: I just snapped. Sam has a way of getting under people’s skin for sure. There should be a book of Sam Grizzle quotes, he has some great lines. He’s one of the funniest poker players you’ll run into, but it’s usually funny in a mean, biting, sarcastic way. I’ve played with him a ton over the years, and we’ve gotten along for the most part since. In fact, maybe we’ve gotten along better since I threw cards at him.

We were just playing in a cash game, and I was running good, and somebody was trying to be funny at the table. I was laughing at the jokes, maybe they weren’t funny, but Sam was calling me a laughing hyena. He just kept doing it, and kept doing it, and finally I couldn’t take it anymore.

I was folding my hands, and saw he had his cards unprotected, so I just winged my cards right into his hand. It did a one-hop off his chest. He just gave me this absolutely shocked look, didn’t say anything. He couldn’t believe I was capable of that. After that, we were cool.