All Content © 2004-2014 Greg Raymer

1. Who is Greg Raymer? Why are you called the FossilMan?


               I am a 40-something husband and father.  My wife Cheryl and I have been married since 1994, and our daughter Sophie was born in 1996.  I was born in 1964 in Minot, North Dakota, an Air Force brat.  However, when I was just a few months old, my father ended his military service, and took us back to Michigan where he was from.  I grew up in Lansing until the age of 11, when we moved to the Clearwater, Florida area.  After a few years, we moved to Manchester, Missouri, in the suburbs of St. Louis, where I spent my high school years at Parkway South H.S.  I have a B.S. in Chemistry from the U. of Missouri at Rolla, an M.S. in Biochemistry from the U. of Minnesota, and a J.D. also from the U. of Minnesota.  I was 28 years old before I finished school in 1992 and started my first permanent job.  I was a patent attorney working for a big I.P. litigation law firm in Chicago for 3 years before deciding that I did not like litigation.  I ended up working for another law firm in San Diego for 3 years where I specialized in Biotechnology patent preparation and prosecution.  I then decided to get out of the law firm lifestyle, where you have to work 60-80 hours per week, and go to a corporate job.  I ended up accepting a position with Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company at the time, at their research facility in Groton, CT.  I moved to Stonington, CT, the next town over, in late 1998, and stayed with the company until just after winning the WSOP in 2004.

While in school in Minnesota, I made extra money by playing blackjack as a card counter at the various Indian casinos in the state.  When I got my first job in Chicago, there were no readily beatable blackjack games available.  While looking for a blackjack game, I found a poker game, and played for fun.  I had already learned the basics of the game while in college playing in nickel-dime-quarter games in my fraternity and with my friends in grad school and law school.  However, in those little game we were all pretty pathetic, and none of us knew how to play very well.  Once I started playing 3-6 limit poker in Chicago, I decided I should learn how to play well, and bought myself some poker books to study.  Fortunately, one of the first books I found was The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky, which helped a lot to lay the groundwork for all my future poker education.  While in Chicago, I mostly played 3-6.  In San Diego, I moved up from 3-6 to 10-20 and occasionally 20-40.  I also started to learn big bet poker in the 3-5 blind pot-limit hold’em games in Oceanside, and also learned tournament poker at this time.  In CT, I moved up from 10-20 to 20-40 to 150-300, and gained a reputation as one of the best local tournament players at Foxwoods.  Now, I am an itinerant poker professional.  I was a full-time representative for PokerStars.com from 2004-10. I traveled the world playing in many of the major poker tournaments.  Winning the WSOP has also allowed me to be hired to endorse a variety of poker-related products, as well as to make paid appearances at casinos and other venues.  I currently have a poker training school that teaches one day seminars at poker rooms around the country, I am actively trying to win more major poker titles.  Most recently, in 2012 I won four HPT Main Event titles in four months and was named HPT Player of the Year for 2012.  In addition to poker, I also enjoy spending time with my family, playing golf, and going to estate auctions to buy antiques for our home.  As an undergraduate and in graduate school, I worked part-time as a radio DJ and party DJ.  I also did stand-up comedy while going to graduate and law school in Minnesota.  This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I have no problem with talking in front of a crowd or into a microphone.  I was always very easy-going with an audience, very relaxed.  Unfortunately, I just wasn't all that funny. ;-)  As for the nickname, please read question #3 below, and it will be obvious why I was given that name.


2. The sunglasses.


  I bought my original lizard-eye 3-D hologram sunglasses at the gift shop connected to the Tower of Terror ride at Disney MGM Studios in Disneyworld, Orlando, FL. I was there on a family vacation prior to my first attempt at the WSOP main event in 2002. I thought it would be a funny joke to put them on in the middle of an important hand. However, when I first did so, instead of making everybody laugh, the glasses freaked out my opponent in the hand, and caused him to fold. Since then, I’ve found that some of my opponents are very uncomfortable playing against me because of the glasses, and therefore I’ve continued to wear them during major tournaments.

 

Today, I don’t wear those glasses anymore, for a few reasons.  First, they are essentially just dark sunglasses with the hologram sticker on the outside.  As dark sunglasses, they are too much of a hindrance to my vision unless I am in a VERY well lit space, such as a televised table.  What I recommend instead is that you check out Blue Shark Optics, and especially the Greg Raymer signature edition.  With BSO glasses, you are not wearing sunglasses, but instead specially treated glasses that reflect enough light so your opponents can’t see your eyes, but still let in most of the light so that your vision is still perfect.  And with some of the special coatings we use, you will find that these glasses actually enhance your vision in most poker rooms.  Also, use the code “Fossilman2014” and you will receive 10% off from the purchase of the Greg Raymer signature edition, as well as any other BSO glasses you might choose to purchase.


3. The Fossil.


 In about 1995 I made a deal with my wife that I would have a bankroll for poker, separate from my income, savings, and investments. This initial bankroll was $1000. If I played and won, I could do whatever I wanted with the money, e.g., move up in limits, buy stuff, whatever. However, if I lost all of the money, I had promised to quit playing poker forever. In about 1996, my wife took me to a rock and mineral show in San Diego, where we lived at that time. I bought an orthoceras fossil because I thought it was neat and would make a great card protector. Many of the other players at the Oceanside Card Club also thought it was neat. I then had the idea to go back to the show, buy more fossils, and sell them at a profit. And it worked quite well. So, I went into the business of selling fossils whenever I played poker, as a way of more quickly building my bankroll so I could get into bigger games.On the store page here at FossilManPoker.com, you will find orthoceras and ammonite fossils for sale, including an autograph on the back. If you look around the internet, you will probably be able to find them (without autograph) for less money. Hopefully, you will prefer to buy the official FossilMan fossil with an autograph, but it's cool if you choose to save money instead.


4. I was wondering how I could get your autograph?


As mentioned above, you can buy a fossil, and that will include an autograph on the back. Or, you can buy an autographed picture of me, also available in the store. Hopefully sometime soon I will finally finish my long overdue book on tournament poker, and you will also be able to buy it with or without an autograph. Finally, if you see me in person, I am always willing to give an autograph to any friendly person who asks politely. If I'm in a game, please wait until I'm out of a hand before asking me. And if I'm rushing through the airport or otherwise in a hurry, please forgive me if I say I don't have time. That seldom happens, but it's bound to be the case at least occasionally.


5. I know it's a hard question, and most likely one you cannot answer truthfully, but how did it feel winning THE tournament, and knowing that, for one year, you are THE man of the poker world? How did you handle the stress of those final few hands?


Well, I’m more than willing to answer this question truthfully, but I can't, simply because I can't figure out any way to put it in words that is fully accurate. The best I can do is ask you to look into your own life, and compare it to any victories you've enjoyed. If you've ever hit the game winning run, or caught the winning pass, or made the great play in whatever sport that won the game for you or your team, it's that feeling. In this case, because it's for the title of World Champion, maybe it's even more intense than what you've experienced, unless you've also won something comparable in your life. Overall, it feels great, and I'm very grateful to have been able to enjoy that experience. As for handling the stress, mostly I didn't feel it. I was in a great mental state the whole week, and basically just doing my best to make the best decisions on every hand I played. I wasn't worried about the results very much at all, but only on whether each decision was the best it could be. Of course, some of my decisions weren't perfect, and even when they were, I still had to get very lucky to win. But the stress just did not exist for me at any conscious level. At the end, when they were taking pictures, and I was being asked to hold up the money, I did notice that my BO was horrendous, even though I had showered that morning and was not noticeably sweaty at any point. So, I presume there was some stress reaction going on inside me somewhere.


6. What books, software, or other poker material do you recommend?


For book and software recommendations, go to my store. There you'll find a link for books, videos and software that I recommend. In addition, I highly recommend that you make use of the many poker websites out there that offer instructional materials. A great example is the essays and forums on Two Plus Two, where you can engage in poker discussions with a variety of excellent participants. The World Series of Poker Academy is another great information source. From that site, you can sign up for live classes taught by some of the poker world's top players. If you are searching for a place to play live poker in your area, check out World Tavern Poker, the number one bar poker league in the US.


7. How much money did you net after paying your backers and taxes on the WSOP win?


As is well known, I won $5M. I had a backing deal (see below), and my backers got about $2.1M, leaving me with $2.9M. After paying state and federal taxes, I will end up with about $1.7M. A far cry from $5M, but still a very happy number. ;-)


8. I'm very interested as to the "IPO" you set up prior to the WSOP. Can you tell me about the deal you had with your backers?


 As mentioned above in question #3, I had a deal with my wife where my bankroll was a fixed amount. By 2001, I was playing in some pretty big games, as my bankroll had grown to support it. For example, I would often play in the 75-150 mixed games at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, and occasionally these games played as high as 150-300. In 2002, I spent a big chunk of my bankroll on my family and house, more than I should have. I then went to the 2002 WSOP, and paid cash to enter the main event, as well as a couple of other events just prior to the main event. Unfortunately, I lost about $30,000 on that trip, and was left with a bankroll of only about $15,000. The good news was I still had plenty of bankroll to play poker, but the bad news was I could not afford to play in the big mixed game at the local casinos anymore. Since the next biggest game that was regularly available was 20-40 limit hold’em, I decided I should see about getting some backers to add to my bankroll, as I felt that having a piece of my self in the big mixed game would be more lucrative than having 100% of myself in the 20-40 game. Thus, I went out on the internet to raise money. I could've asked many of my poker friends personally, either live or by email, if they wanted to invest. However, I did not want them to feel any social pressure to do so, and did not wish to have any investors who were doing it only because we were friends. I only wanted them to do it if they thought it was a good investment, and they had the bankroll to afford it. So, I put up a post on the rec.gambling.poker newsgroup, as well as on the 2+2 forums, laying out the deal and asking interested parties to email me. As you might imagine, I caught a lot of flack from the naysayers out there. Fortunately, I also found about $30,000 worth of interested investors, who bought anywhere from 1-10 shares each at $500 per share. I bought shares with all of my bankroll also. The deal was simple, though we laid out a multi-page contract to cover all the details. Each of us bought shares at $500 per share. I played poker within prescribed limits for the rest of 2002. If we lost, each share took a proportionate share of the loss. If we won, I got the first 35% of the win for my time and effort as the player, and each share then got it's portion of the remaining 65% of the win. Since I owned about 1/3 of the shares, I was getting a bit under 60% of the win. At the end of this deal, each share was worth about $488. We decided to renew the deal and do it again for the first half of 2003. Of course, there was some turnover, with a couple of investors who cashed out, and a couple who bought more shares (or new investors who came in). At the end of deal 2, each share was worth about $550. We did it again, and the shares were worth about $600 at the end of 2003. Finally, we renewed the deal in 2004, with the deal set to end as soon as I was done in the WSOP main event. At the end of the deal, each share was worth over $36,000. My largest single investor collected well over 1/3 of a million for his initial $5000 investment!


9. Greg, I was wondering how much playing/studying you do every day?


 I do as much as I can, mostly because I enjoy it.  I spend a lot of time on the road nowadays, literally being away from home about 60% of the time.  When I am home, I am often working on my book, my various endorsement deals, and other poker business.  But, I always try to read some 2+2 everyday, as well as rereading the books in my poker library.  The more you work at the game, the luckier you will seem to be, I promise you.


10. How about Josh Arieh? And what did you write in your notebook about Mike?


I am often asked about Mike and Josh, since they were such famous adversaries of mine during the 2004 WSOP. Both of them are very skillful poker players, and are very good at getting into their opponent's heads and manipulating them. Neither of them are the greatest, but neither am I. Both have the talent to be amongst the greatest. Josh is usually a very likable guy. I do not dislike him, even after seeing some of the stuff during the WSOP (much of which I did not see until it was on TV). I take his comments whispered into David William's ear after I knocked him out of the tournament as a compliment. That is, I presume that he made those comments in frustration due to the difficulty I put into his life at the final table and the days leading up to it. Both of us were often at the same table over the last few days, and were always getting into each other's way. We both like to play lots of pots and try to control the table, so it's inevitable that we will bump heads when at the same table. I suspect I would not have liked Josh 5-10 years ago when he was younger and cockier, but I like him now, and feel that he has matured as a man but that during the stress of the WSOP some of his youthful swagger and cockiness came to the forefront and served to make him look bad when edited on TV. As for Mike, my opinions about him have changed dramatically over the years since I first got to know him at the 2004 Main Event. At first, I did not like Mike at all. But either he has changed, or I have just learned more about him. I now know that Mike is one of the fiercest friends you can have, and will do anything within his power to help his buddies. However, whether you're a friend or a stranger, he doesn't hold back with his thoughts and opinions. As such, he can get on people's nerves easily, especially people who aren't used to taking criticism. Despite the very adversarial and aggravating start to our relationship, I now consider Mike a very good friend, and I have a lot of respect for him as a person and as a poker player. He is still "The Mouth" whenever you are around him, in public or in private, but once you get to know him better, he is a very good person. And finally, the famous notebook. When Mike was berating me, it was the end of the level, and we were about to leave for the 75 minute dinner break. As I always do at the end of the level, I was writing down my chip count. That's all it was, despite much guesswork otherwise. What

is your honest opinion of Mike Matusow as a player and as a person?


11. I would like to have you come make an appearance at my event/business?  How much does it cost, and how do I make it happen?


The cost will vary depending upon a lot of factors, with convenience being the biggest. If you're near my home, or near an event where I am already planning to be, then the cost will be lower. If I have to fly a long way and it takes multiple days to be involved in your appearance, the cost goes up. Generally, the cost will be between $5,000 and $30,000. I realize that sounds like a lot, but unfortunately there are a good number of people who will pay that price, and I don't have enough time to do very many of these appearances anyway. If the price hasn't made you lose interest, please go to my contact page and submit the information about the appearance and how to contact you. I will get back to you as soon as possible. I would like to have you come make an appearance at my event/business?


12. I want to play in the WSOP. How do I do it? Where can I win a seat like you did?


Anybody can play in the WSOP. In addition to the main event, there are many other events where you can win a bracelet. These events cost from $1000 to $50,000 to enter, and anyone can enter. You don't need to qualify in any manner, you just need to show up at the casino on time with the cash in hand, and you're in. For full details, go to www.worldseriesofpoker.com, and check out all the details. Of course, most of us don't want to pay full price to play in these events. In the case of the smaller events, you will typically find live satellite tournaments being spread at the casino in advance of each event. Throughout the WSOP, if you go to the Rio (the WSOP has always been at Binion's Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas, but the new owner, Harrahs, has held it at the Rio since 2005), you will find 1-table satellites for all of the events. You can also find 1-table satellites as well as super-satellites for the main event running almost every day throughout the series. Additionally, at least for the main event, there are numerous brick-and-mortar as well as internet casinos that run satellites and super-satellites. I won my seat for the 2004 WSOP online, as did Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 Champion.  However you get there, best wishes for a great time when you play the Main Event with me (and 5-10K of our closest friends).


13. In connection with the notebook incident, what else do you write down or take notes about?


I think it is a good idea to take notes when you play. You can really take notes about anything you like, as long as you go to the trouble of reviewing them later and using them to learn. Writing down your chip counts at each level in a tournament is good, as it will help give you an idea of how you're doing other than just adding up the money won or lost. I convert the chip counts into big blinds won or lost per level, and see whether or not I'm winning bets, even if I'm not winning money. If you consistently win bets but are behind in dollars, then either you've just been unlucky, or your problem is the end game of the tournaments. That is, maybe you're making mistakes near the end, when it costs you your whole stack, even if it doesn't cost you that many big blinds worth of chips. Maybe you don't play a short-stack very well, or you don't play well against other short-stacks. Maybe there are other end game factors that you're not taking into account. At least a measure like this will tell you where to start looking for some of the holes you'll want to plug.


14. What/Where/How much do you play on line to stay sharp?


Before winning the WSOP, I played a lot online, as it was a convenient way to play a little each night before bed. I played most of the time at www.PokerStars.com, and occasionally on a couple of other sites. Now that I’ve won the WSOP, I have less time to play poker online, as I’m on the road so much, and usually playing live or getting other work done.  Until Black Friday, I did still play a lot online, but since then, I haven’t played a single hand of real money online poker.  I look forward to its return.


15. Greg, I was once told that you were a Mathematician. My friends don't believe me. Are you?


Not officially. I have degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, and law. I studied math up through differential equations, so I certainly know all the math you would generally need for poker. But, I am not a mathematician by degree, so the answer to your question is probably no.


16. What have you taken from the field of law and been able to crossover into poker? and vice versa?


The main thing a lawyer learns that will help them in poker is to think analytically. However, I had already learned that pretty well as a scientist before going to law school. The other thing some lawyers learn is people reading skills. If you're a litigator or do a lot of negotiation, then you have to be able to read people well, and determine when they're bluffing or lying, and when they're not. As such, lawyers who have that type of practice, and who do well at it, are probably in a position to quickly become very good poker players. As far as poker helping me in law, poker is a great way to simplify things. In poker, there are only 52 cards, so you can estimate the opponent's cards, and quickly do some math to figure out the best decision. And you quickly learn, if you're going to be a long-term successful player, that the only thing you can control are your decisions. If you make the best decision and then the cards are dealt out and you lose, you have to learn that this is irrelevant to the decision you made. It was beyond your control, and you did all that you could do that was within your power. This type of thought process is a good thing for lawyers, and for everybody. Judge somebody based upon their decisions to the greatest extent possible, rather than their results. Sometimes this is impossible, but it is what we should all strive for when evaluating somebody else's abilities in any field.


17. We all see you crushing your final table mates with that massive stack, and playing very aggressively... but, in the opening hours and days of WSOP, did you play tight and wait for hands, or were you "going for it" from the beginning?


I am always going for it. However, I never play in a way that I am knowingly taking the worst of it, but I almost never avoid a situation that I believe has +EV (expected value), no matter how risky it is. Thus, I am always trying to accumulate chips in a tournament, even if doing so will risk my tournament life. I merely have to believe that it is a +EV situation in order for me to put my money into the pot. Thus, one of the first big pots I won in the 2004 WSOP was where I called a raise by the player under the gun while holding 88. Who knew then that this hand would be the start AND the finish of my run? The flop came J83, and we ended up getting all the money in on the flop. He held KK, and I doubled up from about T13,000 to about T26,000 during level 2. Now, when I called his preflop raise, I knew he had better than 88, but I also knew I had position and would be able to play my hand almost perfectly postflop compared to him. The only way I could put in a lot of money badly here is when we both flopped a set, which is a rare enough occurrence that you usually shouldn't worry about it.

 

18. After you won the WSOP I thought you were going to write a book. I haven't been able to find it, could you please advise?


If you had found it, you'd be a huge step ahead of me. I have been very slow at working on this book, but I hope to get it done someday. I realize it has been a long time, and I still have not gotten much accomplished. I just need to find more time or less laziness. Keep your fingers crossed, but don't hold your breath.


19. Greg, I read somewhere that you used to be a patent attorney. You seem like a trustworthy guy. I have this terrific idea that involves poker, how can I contact you with the details?


I appreciate that you trust me, and are interested in possibly working with me regarding your invention. However, I need to ask you to NOT send me any information about your idea. As you might imagine, I get a lot of people who know me from television, and who saw that I used to work full-time as a patent attorney. As such, they figure (correctly) that I would be a good person to work with in patenting and developing their idea. Unfortunately, I just don't have enough time to properly investigate each idea that comes my way. If I had looked at every idea that had been offered up to me, I would have spent thousands of hours doing just that. As such, I decided early on to simply say "no thank you" to everybody when it comes patentable ideas.

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