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World Series of Poker Champion’s Perspective -- Greg Raymer

‘Fossilman’ Remembers His Win and Reflects About Today


Greg RaymerSix years ago, Greg Raymer was on top of the poker world. The World Series of Poker main event had exploded in popularity — going from 839 players in 2003 to 2,576 players in 2004 — and Raymer, wearing what would become his trademark glasses, was the last man standing.

A lot has changed since the player known as ‘Fossilman’ won the world championship.

The industry has continued to grow at a massive rate, both in the States and abroad. Laws have changed in America, making it more difficult to play online, while poker’s advocates battle to completely open the market. Even the way the game is played has transformed thanks to the influx of young, aggressive, and skilled Internet players.

Raymer has seen it all and continues to be one of the leading ambassadors for the game that changed his life and gave him opportunities he never thought would be possible. Unlike other popular champions of recent times, Raymer remains one of the most powerful voices for the poker industry — speaking intelligently on any subject he’s asked about, whether it be poker’s next generation or the prospect of the legal situation being addressed in Washington, D.C.

Raymer sat down with Card Player during the 2010 WSOP to reminisce about his win in 2004, and all that has changed afterward.

From Patent Attorney to Professional Poker Player

How did winning the main event change Raymer’s life? The 2004 champ starts with the simple facts first.

“The obvious answer: instead of being a full-time patent attorney and part-time professional poker player, I got to become a full-time pro,” said Raymer. “It was a really easy decision to quit my job since PokerStars was offering me more money to represent them than Pfizer was offering me to stick around and write patent applications.”

Greg Raymer is a Team PokerStars pro.So the one-time Pfizer patent attorney had now become a world-traveling professional poker player. As the industry continued to expand overseas, with PokerStars leading the charge with its numerous new poker tours, Raymer traveled from destination to destination as one of the game’s biggest stars.

The perks were undeniable. He got to see the world on PokerStars’ dime, from Paris to London to Monte Carlo to Barcelona to the Bahamas, all to compete in various poker tournaments.

While some main-event winners enjoy their time in the spotlight and then fade into the background because of their inability to secure another big payday, Raymer has posted solid results ever since his 2004 win.

He famously made a deep run in the main event the very next year, finishing 25th out of 5,619 for $304,680 in 2005. Since the poker boom, no player has come so close to a repeat title at the main event.

Although he hasn’t won another bracelet since his main-event win (and in fact, no main-event winner has since 2000 champion Chris Ferguson), Raymer has made five WSOP final tables in the past five years. Last year, he just narrowly missed out on his second bracelet after finishing third the commemorative $40,000 event for $774,927.

Raymer continues to be one of the game’s most respected stars, both for his ability at the table and for his professionalism away from it.

Still, there are some things he wishes he could change.

The Downsides of Being a Big-Name Pro

When asked what the worst part about his current situation is, Raymer doesn’t hesitate — “Instead of being home for the vast majority of the year with my wife and daughter, I’m on the road seven months a year.”

While he enjoys seeing some of the world’s most beautiful cities, he says he spends way too much time in airports and on planes.

“Traveling sucks,” Raymer says bluntly. “It’s great to be in great places … but getting back and forth really, really sucks.”

Along with the annoyances of traveling, he says he misses his wife and 13-year-old daughter when he’s on the road because they are rarely able to hop on a plane and go with him.

Greg Raymer“I don’t get to see them for most of [the time I’m on the road for poker],” said Raymer. “They’ll come out here for part of the World Series, they’ll come with me to the PCA in the Bahamas each January, but still I don’t see them now for close to half of the year.”

Raymer admits that this current lifestyle is “wearing on him” a bit. But with a smile, the 2004 champ says his plan for the future is simple enough.

“The plan is to win a couple of bracelets and the main event again, and then when I’m renegotiating with PokerStars, I’ll say, ‘I’ll travel when I want to travel,’ and when I do go to one of your events, be glad. When I don’t, too bad,” said Raymer.

Even if he fails win an additional three bracelets in the next three weeks, Raymer does think the next couple of years will be easier for him and his family with the new North American Poker Tour.

“Seeing as how I’m more of a U.S. representative of PokerStars than an overseas representative, I am now expected to go to most if not all of the North American Poker Tour events,” said Raymer, a situation he clearly prefers due to the time requirements for international travel.

Poker Today

While many big-name live pros still scoff at the idea that some of the young players are amongst the most talented competitors at the World Series, Raymer has always spoken highly of the Internet generation.

“So much of the analysis of the game over the last six years has come from the online players,” said Raymer. “The live players, we have not, as a group, really advanced the knowledge of no-limit hold’em in the last six years. It’s more like we’re trying to keep up with the stuff that they’re creating.”

Raymer says he’s probably at least 50 percent better at no-limit hold’em today than he was when he won the main event. The problem? “The opposition, the people we’re playing against, is probably 200 percent better or more than they were in 2004,” Raymer explains.

Greg RaymerStill, Raymer remembers a time when Internet players were terribad (our word, not Raymer’s).

“In 2004, guys like me and other live players would joke about how horrible the online players were. They were ridiculously aggressive. We’ve learned now that live players were not aggressive enough, but the online players then had gone too far the other way. We made fun of how bad they were, and they were,” said Raymer.

But Raymer says that era — when live players were more fundamentally sound than online players — is a distant memory.

“Now, the best online players are much better than the best…” Raymer begins to say before his voice trails off. He pauses, and then continues, “Well, I don’t know if I want to say best versus best, but the good online players are better than the good live players today.”

Remembering His Big Win, and Yearning For Another

Only 34 men have truly known what it felt like to win the World Series of Poker main event. Still, Raymer says the feeling is one that most successful poker players are already accustomed to.

“The only difference between winning an untelevised buy-in tournament and winning the main event is just the intensity of it,” said Raymer. “It’s the same thing, only more.”

An old WSOP braceletRaymer has unquestionably had success since his 2004 win, earning nearly an additional $2 million in poker winnings after his massive $5 million payday for the main event. But Raymer has yet to win that second major title, and he doesn’t hide the fact that this is something that continues to motivate him, even more so than money.

“If you said, ‘Greg, you can enter this tournament or that tournament, but you can’t enter both. If you enter this one, you’re going to win the bracelet and first prize will be $300,000. If you enter that tournament, you’ll make the final table, but you’ll finish third and get $500,000. Which one do you want to enter?’” Raymer theorized. “For me, that’s a really tough decision.”

Even ignoring any potential financial implications that a second major win would bring, Raymer says it is about the sense of accomplishment that would come with such a victory.

“It’s that feeling of total accomplishment,” said Raymer. “I beat everyone. I’m the champion, I’m the victor, I’m the gladiator over the slain lion.”

Over the next few weeks, Raymer will continue to fight those metaphorical lions at the Rio, and we here at Card Player will continue to bring you all the action through our daily recaps, live updates, news features, and CPTV videos.