STL POKER Interview: World Champion Greg Raymer

Scott Clark, Mon, 09 Aug 2010 05:00:00 GMT

stl poker sat down recently with 2004 world champion greg “fossilman” raymer for a player interview. the 46 year-old poker legend is a poker stars team member. greg raymer (and the non-profit organization poker players alliance) has also championed the cause for the regulation and legalization of online poker. on july 28, the house financial services committee passed the internet gambling regulation, consumer protection and enforcement act by a 41-22-1 vote.

Greg is here today to tell us more about the fight — for the right to play poker.

The Raymer family moved to Saint Louis in 1978 and he is a graduate of Parkway High South. After high school, Raymer enrolled at the University of Missouri at Rolla, majoring in Chemistry. Greg then went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1992 and practice law as a patent attorney — eventually working for the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer. Raymer travels the world seven months a year playing poker and he lives a life that most poker players only dream of…

What are your memories of high school?
“In high school, the game that became my main interest was racquetball. The game was very big in Saint Louis. If not for moving to Saint Louis, I may have never became interested in the sport. I worked at Town and Country Racquet Club and played every chance possible. I was one of the better junior racquetball players in the State of Missouri and my father would bring home Two Nice Guys pizza. I remember it to be the best pizza I have ever had in my life. My best friends in Saint Louis were a bunch of guys that played Dungeons and Dragons. We all hung out and played in Garth’s basement. I was a good student and went to Rolla on a full-tuition scholarship. My friends, that basement and the name Garth — just makes it sound so much geekier to me now.” (laughs)

In 1995, the Missouri Athletic Club purchased the former Town and Country Racquet Club.

Two Nice Guys pizza remains open on Manchester. Greg inquired, he heard they closed.

Tell us about your college days and counting cards at the blackjack tables.
“When I went to the University of Minnesota for graduate and law school, I became a card counter in local Indian Casinos. That was my student job. My long-term average was $7 an hour during my college years and that was more than the minimum-wage jobs were paying at the time — and you could set your own hours. At the beginning of the semester, I would play a lot of hours. When it was exam time, I might not play at all. Blackjack afforded me a lot of freedom and my first job as a lawyer was in Chicago. There were riverboats, but there were no blackjack games that were beatable. I was looking for a good blackjack game, but found a good poker game instead.”

Greg Raymer won $5 million dollars at the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event.

How was your poker career going before you won the Main Event?
“I was a patent attorney for 12 years. I was a serious amateur for the first six years and a part-time professional poker player for the next six years — before winning the Main Event. After I won it all, Poker Stars was offering more money than Pfizer, so it was easy to quit my job as an attorney and become a full-time poker player. I have been representing Poker Stars since I won the 2004 Main Event — even before I won. I wore my Poker Stars shirt throughout the 2004 Main Event, because I had won my seat in a $160 Double Shootout Satellite tournament. This was the last tournament at Poker Stars to qualify for the Main Event that year — the very last one.”

“My relationship with Poker Stars has always been very special to me”.

Tell us more about the fight to regulate and legalize online poker.
“I am on the Board of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). Our focus is to get legislation passed through Congress. The vote July 28 is by far, the biggest step forward we have had since we started this effort. It may be difficult to get this bill voted on by Congress during this session. In my opinion, it would be better if the measure was voted on during this session, because it appears the Republican Party may take back control of the house. This is a question of freedom. Americans should be free to do what they want — with their time and resources. The government’s job is to protect me from crime and laws are to be passed, as a deterrent to crime.”

“Poker is not a crime and should be regulated.”

“The whole point of the PPA is to regulate online poker. Legalize AND regulate it. We want the U.S. government to provide oversight — and to make sure things are done safely and properly. We want to make sure children are not playing online. We want compulsive gamblers identified and guided to help. The ultimate goal of the PPA is to make sure online poker is monitored and fair.”

Do you have any political aspirations?
“Not really. I would like the Libertarian Party to have more power and influence in this country, because I believe that government screws up more things than it helps. Thus, the smaller the government, the fewer the problems, and the true libertarians out there want government at all levels to be no bigger than necessary to do the few tasks that need to be done by the government (rather than by private persons or organizations). So, I don’t really want to be a politician, but I do want things to be better. If that means running for office and maybe taking office someday, so be it.”

What can players expect from the Poker Stars North American Poker Tour (NAPT)?
“If you are going to travel and play poker, you should consider playing a NAPT Event. As you look at poker tournaments across the world, everywhere outside of the United States for the last seven years, the clear leader in tournament poker has been the Poker Stars sponsored Tours. The European Poker Tour (EPT) has been a massive success. The EPT clearly dominates the poker tournament scene in Europe. The Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT) and the Asian-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) are also dominating their continents. This focus and experience, now comes to North America with the NAPT.”

Tell us about your 2010 WSOP and the Tournament of Champions format.
“The Tournament of Champions format was fine, but the players ended up getting more play than they intended to give us. They had to extend the tournament and play more levels than originally anticipated. I lost a lot of chips very early, when I flopped a set and Mike Matusow rivered a bigger set. This year at the World Series of Poker, I learned how to deal with the disappointment of cold decks. I learned more about disappointment this year, than in all my years of playing.”

“Sometimes you play a hand great — and you still lose”.

Are you friends with Saint Louisan Dennis Phillips?
“yes. it is hard not to like dennis and most people get along with me, so it is no surprise that dennis and i get along very well. if someone could not get along with dennis, then that person would clearly have to be an ass. (laughs) dennis is a great friend to everyone.”

Gregory Raymer is also a good friend to his fellow man. Raymer has proven nice guys can finish First. When I met Greg, it was in the cashout room at the 2008 WSOP. He was kind and down to earth. He took the lead in the conversation and asked me, about me. Remember the broadcast of the 2004 Main Event? There was a confrontation between Mike “The Mouth” Matusow and Raymer…

Matusow saw the ESPN cameras and told the future World Champion…

The Mouth: “You gotta stop fucking with me buddy. I am going to fucking bust you. You aint playing with kids buddy. I got balls of steel. Steel balls. I got big kahunas. You got little kahunas.”

Greg Raymer would have the last say, and bust Mike Matusow late in the 2004 Main Event.

What kind of relationship have you had with Matusow since 2004?
“If you asked me right after I won the Main Event in 2004 how I felt about Mike — he would have been one of my least liked players in the Poker World. Today, he and I are actually very good friends. Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth are both very likable guys, especially away from the table — but they can both be very annoying at the table.”

What poker player do you admire the most and why?
“People who play well and also behave as gentleman or ladies at the table. I respect those players who have the self-control to not lose their temper or even show their disappointment when they lose.”

Visit for more with Greg Raymer