Photo provided by Pokerstars.com
It was during his time at high school that Greg first became interested in science. He was a very gifted student who went on to study chemistry at the University of Missouri. After finishing his bachelor degree he went to Minnesota where he earned his master’s degree in biochemistry and studied law at the Minnesota Law School.
Greg first tried his hand at poker as a student in Minnesota. He was a member of the internationally known Kappa Sigma fraternity and often played nickel-dime poker with his frat buddies. At that time, Greg still did not know much about poker, nor did he feel any urge to concentrate on the game more intensively. He showed talent counting cards and made a little money on the side playing Black Jack at the local Indian Casinos.
In 1992, Greg graduated from law school and worked as a patent lawyer in Chicago. He spent three years with the firm, although he disliked the field he was in. Eventually he accepted a job as a biotechnology patent preparation and prosecution attorney in San Diego.
Bitten by the poker bug
While in Chicago, Greg took to the casino tables in search of a good Black Jack game. When none of the games met his expectations, he sat down at a poker table where he found himself enjoying the game to such an extent he soon became a regular at most $ 3/$ 6 Texas Hold’em games.
At first, Greg stuck to the lower stakes games. After moving to California, he began to build up his confidence by reading a few poker guides, and soon graduated to higher stakes games. Greg was under enormous stress due to his packed schedule as an attorney and he soon decided it was time for another change of scenery. So once more, Greg packed up and headed to Connecticut where he found a job at the major pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
Greg invested all his new-found spare time in poker. He quickly advanced to the next level and became a regular at the Foxwoods Resort Casino, where he played $ 150 - $ 300 games. In the year 2000, Greg took part in a famous tournament for the first time – the World Poker Finals. Not only did he make it to the money ranks, he even placed third at no-limit Hold’em and won around $ 50,000. That same year he also participated in the US Poker Championship and finished 13th.
In 2001, he came first at the limit Seven-Card Stud tournament at the 2001 New England Poker Classic where he cashed $ 25,560. That same year he made it to the money ranks at the prestigious World Series of Poker (WSOP) and finished 12th in limit Omaha Hi Lo. In 2002, Greg placed third and ninth at the World Poker Finals at the WPT Season 1 (no-limit Hold’em) and was able to try his luck at the WSOP Main Event for the first time, without ending up in the cashes, though.
A celebrity over night
In 2003, Greg came first at the FARGO No-Limit Hold’em tournament at the Foxwoods Casino and in 2004, he won his entry to the 2004 WSOP Main Event through an online satellite at PokerStars where he won his first Gold Bracelet – a dream come true for any poker player.
He beat poker celebrities such as Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Doyle Brunson and, in possession of a significant chip advantage, Greg eventually found himself heads up with David Williams. Greg was holding two pocket eights. When the board brought 5-4-2-2-2, he went all in. Williams called and Greg won.
The prize pool for the world champion amounted to an unbelievable five million dollars! Greg only saw roughly a third of these record-breaking winnings, though: after taxes and after paying back the money he had received from his backers he was left with about $ 1.7 million. Greg’s success shows that, thanks to online poker, every player has the chance to make it to the top in poker.
Greg practically became a celebrity overnight. His quirky image – he dons reptile hologram sunglasses during games and uses fossils as card protectors – did not diminish his celebrity status either: if anything, it even boosted it. It is these oddities that have earned him the nickname Fossilman. As he was a newcomer and regarded as an amateur by most professionals, many considered Greg’s WSOP victory to be just a one-time thing, but Raymer proved them all wrong.
Shortly after his win at the WSOP, Greg quit his job at Pfizer and earned his income solely by playing tournaments and online poker. In 2005 he made it to the top ten at the WSOP and the EPT/Pokerstars Season 2 “The World Masters” and won considerable amounts of money at other tournaments.
In 2005, Greg placed fifth at the WSOP (Deuce to Seven Lowball) and won $ 93,124. In 2007, Greg finished sixth, fourth, and fourteenth (Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi Lo and HORSE respectively) whereby, interestingly, he won significantly more prize money for the 14th place finish (approximately $ 100,000) than for the higher ranked winnings.
In comparison to many other poker stars, Greg plays relatively few tournaments. He does not think it is important to participate in every single tournament of an event. Instead, he prefers to concentrate on the main events and – while everybody else is playing in the preliminary tournaments – he goes sight-seeing and enjoys his stay in the city that hosts the tournament:
“I travel on the road for 2/3rds of the year and that is tiring. But I’m not like the other pros. I don’t play anywhere near as much as a lot of the other guys. They get to an event and play all the lead-ups and then the Main Event. Then they are looking for the next festival. They play cards nearly every day of the year and have a quick break at Christmas and New Years because they pretty much have to. I am different though. I will get to a festival and take my time and look around the city. I normally focus on playing the Main Events and take a break during the preliminary tournaments.”
Nevertheless, Greg still plays at more than 40 tournaments a year and plays online cash games at PokerStars an average of 15 hours a week. Greg even attests that being a professional poker player takes up less time than his previous job as a lawyer, “It’s funny because I actually used to play more when I was a lawyer. I used to play every Tuesday at Foxwoods. So I don’t think that burnout is a problem at all. If anything I could play more to stay sharp.”
Famous for his eccentric appearance
Greg is not only “different” though when it comes to his modest tournament schedule; his eccentric appearance and his fondness of fossils make him a unique addition to the poker world. When sitting across from Greg Raymer, the question on every reporter’s tongue, though, is about the origins of these peculiarities. The answer can easily be found in the FAQ section on Greg’s homepage:
The "Fossilman" hardly ever loses his temper
Greg is best-known for his good-natured and easygoing manner and it takes a lot for him to get upset. For one, he has a very good sense of humor which is why it is very difficult to make him angry. To achieve this, you would have to try to hurt him below the belt.
Despite being an all around nice guy, there are still certain people that Greg does not get along well with. One of these is poker pro Daniel Negreanu. Their disagreement even made Bluff Magazine’s top ten feuds in poker. Raymer and Negreanu made it onto this top ten list as a result of an argument they had had about the World Poker Tour lawsuit in an online chat room at Pokerstars.
In 2006, Greg Raymer and other poker celebrities including Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon and Chris Ferguson had sued the WPT because players were forced to sign a contract that would allow the WPT to use any pictures and video recordings for marketing purposes. The players basically had to give up their intellectual property rights. Seven players refused to take part in any further WPT events until the case was settled.
Daniel Negreanu, on the other hand, simply considered this lawsuit ridiculous – any player who did not like the rules did not have to participate in the WPT. After all, he says, there are enough other tournaments and nobody is forced to play at the WPT.
Greg was very surprised by the media’s reaction to the controversy and denies being at odds with Negreanu.
“We exchange views, but to say we are feuding isn’t correct. He and I are simply two people who speak our minds publicly and happen to disagree on some issues.”
To put an end to the whole debate, both of them apologized for their comments about one another.
Although the dispute with Daniel has ended, Greg is still not on good terms with big-mouth Mike “The Mouth” Matusow: after Mike publicly berated Greg at a 2004 WSOP table there still is some disparity between them. This is what Greg has to say about Mike: “Basically, I don’t like Mike, and don’t yet have any evidence that my opinion is likely to change in the future.”
Those incidents put aside, Greg likes to keep a low profile.
Away from the poker tables
When he is not playing poker, he enjoys spending time with his wife Cheryl, his daughter Sophie and friends at home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“I would like to think that the effect on me has been minimal in terms of who I am inside, and how I behave. It hasn’t been difficult to adjust, maybe because I’m used to change. I have moved around a lot in my life, and changed career plans several times, so change is something I am used to dealing with.”
Greg Raymer, whose success story is similar to Chris Moneymakers’, is in part personally responsible for the global poker boom. Greg’s and Chris’ success makes ordinary people believe they too have a chance of winning the WSOP Main Event. Both Raymer and Moneymaker were unknown in the poker circuit before their big wins, they both spent a lot of their time playing online, and both of them won a seat at the WSOP by way of an online satellite tournament.
In the summer of 2006, more than 8,000 players took part at the WSOP Main Event. Some feel that in order to decrease the number of participants, the buy in amount ($ 10,000) should be increased. Greg Raymer does not agree with this suggestion because he feels that everyone should have a chance to prove their poker skills.
Greg’s tip for anyone who wants to be a successful poker player:
“The most important thing is to play within your bankroll. Poker is a wonderful game, but people losing money they can’t afford to is the one negative of the game. If you can manage your bankroll and play solid poker you will get something out of the game.”
Greg Raymer for President!
Greg Raymer is not only an excellent poker player with a degree in chemistry and law, but he is also interested in politics. He is a firm believer in Libertarianism, a political philosophy whose fundamental value is individual freedom: Every single person should be able to do anything they wish, as long as it does not directly harm another person. He also thinks governments should not be obliged to help their subjects.
“That does not mean that I am against all government programs that help people, but such programs should not be undertaken merely because they help people, but only if they are economically beneficial to the majority.”
Greg is even playing with the idea of running as the US Libertarian Party ’s vice presidential candidate. This is what he has to say about him becoming a politician:
“In many ways, I would not make a good politician, at least not the way the business of politics works in our country. I am not very good at compromising. If you convince me you are right, I will agree with you, but until you do, I will do what I think is the smartest thing to do.”
In the above-mentioned interview, the reporter appears to be surprised that not more poker players are Libertarians, seeing as personal freedom is the major benefit of being a professional poker player. In his answer, Greg does not say much about his colleagues’ political preferences, but he does state that almost all poker players differed from the rest of society because of their individualism and their desire for freedom:
“Every successful poker player is intelligent enough to succeed in almost any career, but many of them are too independent in their attitude to do well in modern corporate America. In a team environment, it is sometimes more important to get along than it is to be right, but most of us poker players just want to be right. Having said that, my experience with large corporations makes me believe that getting along and being inclusive and such ideas are taking over to the point that there is not enough focus on getting the job done right. To work as a team, you need to not be selfish, but you shouldn’t take it so far that you favor the mediocrity of the group over getting the job done as intelligently and perfectly as possible. Basically, in most modern American bureaucracies (and probably most of the rest of the world, though I wouldn’t know first- hand) the balance is out of whack, and there is too much focus on the team, and not enough focus on the results.”
Analytical playing style and knowledge of human nature
When asked what books or individuals have had the most influence on his development and game, Greg names David Sklansky’s book “The Theory of Poker”. This book taught Greg all the most important basic concepts and he even calls it “the most important single poker book anybody can read if they want to improve their game.”
When it comes to his colleagues, he respects all players who display good manners at the poker table and who do their best to win within the rules. There are many players he respects for their talents, in fact too many to name them all.
Greg himself has been working on a book for several years now. The book will be a tournament strategy guide but it will also include tips for online poker players.
Without a doubt, Greg “Fossilman” Raymer is one of the most remarkable and versatile poker players of the professional poker scene. His experiences as a lawyer and scientist have definitely had a positive influence on his game. Just like a lawyer, a poker player has to be able to assess someone’s character and “read” a person in only a very short space of time. His work as a scientist taught him to think analytically and logically, skills he still uses on a day-to-day basis playing poker. His life experience has taught him to be flexible, to make decisions and adapt to changes quickly.
The perfect combination of all of these qualities, along with his mathematical memory, his great sportsmanship, as well as his eccentric appearance, makes Greg Raymer a genuine poker star.
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