Wicked Chops Poker Goes Heads-Up With Mark Seif

Chops here.

SeiffeatureAfter leaving the law profession years ago to become a respected and successful poker player, Mark Seif truly exploded on the green felted landscape last summer by winning back-to-back WSOP bracelets.  One of poker‚Äôs more engaging personalities, Mark has parlayed that success into entertainment projects on the small and big screen, and has a book and DVD in the works. 

Mark is somehow managing all of this while still finding time to play some cards (both live and through his sponsor, Absolute Poker)‚Äîand taking on the responsibilities of being the proud father of a healthy newborn baby girl. 

I can barely take care of my freaking puppy and play a SNG. 

I‚Äôll never complain about distractions again. 

I spoke with Mark last week about all of his projects, his WSOP plans this year, and much more. 

Chops: First of all, congrats on the new baby!

MS: Thanks! 

Chops: I bet you haven‚Äôt had much opportunity to play the past two weeks…

MS: I actually haven‚Äôt played at all live.  We had already planned though on me taking a month off before and a month off after the birth.  I have been able to play on Absolute Poker though.  And I‚Äôll be playing in Reno [the WPT World Poker Challenge] and I‚Äôm really excited about that. 

Chops:  One thing I‚Äôve gotta address…this nickname I’m seeing of yours.  Now my name is Chops.  It‚Äôs a long story how I got that name, but it‚Äôs all I‚Äôve gone by for about 15 years now. Recently I‚Äôve seen you referenced as Mark ‚ÄúThe Shark‚Äù Seif.  Where‚Äôd that come from?  An Absolute Poker creation?

MS:  [Laughing]  Mark ‚Äúthe Shark‚Äù has actually been around for seven or eight years and originally came from being a lawyer.  It translates well to poker for obvious reasons, but I hadn‚Äôt even heard anyone call me that for years until recently‚Ķmaybe starting last year after I won the two WSOP events.  You see it in the papers, and then all of the sudden people started calling me it again. 

Chops: A lot of the new breed of poker players are perceived to be big time gamblers, partiers, really, the new breed of rock star.  You seem like you‚Äôre taking care of yourself pretty well though.  Is it difficult not to get wrapped into the perceived poker lifestyle?

Markseif_964MS:  Well, first let me say that if you‚Äôre some 22 year-old phenomenal poker player, then the lifestyle is great!  You get to fly around the world, play poker, party, hang out with celebrities.  It‚Äôs a great lifestyle for a certain stage of your life.  But for me, I‚Äôm just at a different stage where those things don‚Äôt appeal to me as much as they did before.  So I‚Äôve gotten into the business side as well and I enjoy that.  I‚Äôm also totally nuts about my wife Jennifer and our new baby Sarah. 

Chops:  With that said, is it easier for you to maintain a better work-life balance as a poker player than when you were a lawyer? 

Seif:  Well, with being a lawyer you have a set routine.  Sure you work crazy hours but you generally know what your routine is.  As a poker player, especially with the other things I have going on, it‚Äôs much more [hectic].  Don‚Äôt get me wrong, I love it, but managing it all can be tough. 

Chops:  You‚Äôve been winning and cashing in events since 2000, but it was your back-to-back WSOP wins last year that put you on the public‚Äôs map.  In today‚Äôs crowded tournament fields, winning back-to-back WSOP events seems almost unthinkable.  What did you do differently (if anything) during those two weeks than you normally do?  Was it just a zone?  A great run of cards?  Or did something click those two weeks that maybe hadn‚Äôt before?

MS:  I would have to say I did make some adjustments.  First, my girlfriend (at the time ‚Äì now wife) and I moved to Las Vegas.  Waking up in my own bed was huge.  It‚Äôs just easier to adjust and get into the right frame of mind.  And having the event at the Rio was great for me.  It‚Äôs really well lit, ventilated, and they just did a great job pulling the tournament off.  So, I was very relaxed and comfortable

Everything just felt right.  Absolute Poker was great in supporting me throughout the tournaments.  They just told me to play and they‚Äôd take care of everything else.  They were a big part of my success, and I am fortunate to have such a great relationship.

Chops:  How long have you been with Absolute Poker?

MS:  I‚Äôve been with them for almost two years now.

Chops:  You planning on playing a lot of events at this year‚Äôs WSOP?

MS:  Yeah, I‚Äôm planning on playing all of the no limit hold‚Äôem events, seven-card stud, and pot limit hold‚Äôem events this year.

FreezeoutChops: How about the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E?

MS: Probably not – I am not very good at split pot games.

Chops:  You taking anyone under your wings for this year‚Äôs WSOP, ala Shannon Sharpe last year? 

MS:  Yes, this year I will have a couple of prot√©g√©‚Äôs – look for an announcement on that. 

Chops:  You‚Äôre in a soon-to-be released movie called Freeze-Out.  Looks promising and has some decent buzz.  Tell us how you got hooked up with it.

MS:  Freeze-out, well, the writer, producer, and director M.J. Loheed called me up about making a cameo towards the end of it and to pull some of my friends in it.  I got Scotty Ngyuen, Kathy Liebert, and Peter Costa in a scene at the end.  It was a lot of fun.  It‚Äôs a  great little movie. 

MsChops:  You‚Äôve also got the WSOP II video game coming out.  Is it creepy seeing yourself as an Avatar in a video game?

MS: [Laughs]  I haven‚Äôt seen the game yet but it is weird to see yourself on a bobble head!  I‚Äôve actually got two.  Poker Heads did one to commemorate the two WSOP bracelets.

Chops:  You‚Äôll be a commentator for broadcasts of the newly formed Professional Poker Tour (PPT).  Do you think that poker will eventually move to more of a full-time PGA format where the pros aren’t fronting their own money?

MS:  I think so and the PPT is definitely the first step towards it.  The PPT is putting up $2.5 million in prize money to get this launched, not to mention millions more in production costs.  This is a big time operation and I really believe this can be successful.  Having a PGA-like tour for poker is certainly viable and the PPT is doing the right thing. 

Chops:  While the PPT launch and the continued success of online gaming sites speaks well of the oker boom, I‚Äôd like your take on what you think might cause the boom to slow… 

MS:  I think a major scandal around players colluding or getting deep into a tournament and doing a 50-50 swap would do some damage.  But poker does not seem to be fading at all from the general public‚Äôs demand stand point.

Chops:  You‚Äôre talking about live play?

MS:  Yeah, live brick-and-mortar tournament play is probably the most vulnerable to a scandal. The money is so huge nowadays which may cause incentives for people to be less than ethical. 

Chops:  With the increased attention paid to players (and with the cameras always rolling), do you see this as much of a problem anymore?

MS:  I‚Äôve heard of this done in the past but with the extra spotlight and attention on the game now there‚Äôs just too much at stake for big name players to engage in this type of bad behavior.  But like I said the money is huge. Players could lose millions in endorsement dollars by having their reputation hurt by that so I hope it doesn‚Äôt happen.

Markseif_444Chops:  How about online?  Do you think it‚Äôs a potential problem?

MS:  In the online space, I would like to say that there has never been one case of cheating by a poker site that has ever been substantiated. The major sites like Absolute Poker have done an amazing job of policing themselves. Payments are fast, play is fair, it‚Äôs really amazing how clean online poker is for the most part. Of course, there probably are people out there that are playing in the same games while on the phone or IM’ing each other about their hands. That‚Äôs totally unfair and very serious and I think all of the major sites have sophisticated detection tools and human resources to combat and control that..

Chops:  Another potential speed-bump in poker‚Äôs growth of course is legislation from people like Sen. John Kyl in Arizona to flat-out outlaw online gaming.  Do you think these legislative measures have a legit shot at passing?

MS:  I certainly hope note. Poker is a game of skill. Certainly chance is a factor but it‚Äôs predominantly skill. I hope our legislators see the wisdom in listening to their constituents who are overwhelming in favor of legalized online poker. It would be very sad to deprive Americans the opportunity to play poker online as most of the world is allowed to do.

Chops:  All right, final question.  What would be your dream six-person table?   People can be living, dead, or fictitious.

MS: [Laughs]  Dream six-person table‚Ķ.dream six-person table‚Ķhold on a minute‚Ķgoing into the tank‚ĶOK.

Number 1 is Stu Ungar.

Number 2 is Johnny Moss.

Man that‚Äôs tough.  Really my list would be made up of all the dead all-time poker greats.  Talking to Doyle, and hearing what he had to say about their games, I would love to play against these great players and see how their games would go against today‚Äôs more aggressive styles, how they‚Äôd handle it and play against it. 

Chops:  Thank you Mark for the time and great insight.  Best of luck!


16 Responses

  1. Rob S.

    March 30, 2006 8:39 am, Reply

    long time reader of Wicked Chops and love what you guys are doing. always great poker coverage and never ending hot chicks…hard to beat that. and great interview with one of my favorite pros. Seif rules!

  2. Steve

    April 1, 2006 7:33 am, Reply

    Killer interview! Very well done. Really learned a lot about Mark Seif. He is one smart guy, its no wonder he has achieved so much in poker and life. I was a big fan of his game before but now I really like this guy as a person.

  3. Sammy "Killer" Reid

    April 3, 2006 6:09 am, Reply

    I wish your photoshoping skills were as good as your interviewing skillz. Bravo.

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