Poker Source: What is your favorite childhood memory?
Mark Seif: This is going to sound horrible, but I’ll say it. I built this go-cart when I was pretty young, probably nine or ten, and it didn’t have a motor on it yet – I had just built the frame, the wheels, the steering wheel, and stuff. I lived on this big mountain and had a little sister who was five years younger than me. She was always bugging me and I hated her because I was a boy and she was a girl and she was five years younger than me. You know -- really good reasons. She kept asking me if she could ride on the back of my go-cart as I go down this hill. I said "fine," reluctantly.
So, we started down this big, long hill and she’s sitting behind me, holding on. I’m ten years old and I built this thing – I don’t even know how to use a hammer – the wheels started coming off, the whole thing started falling apart. It eventually broke down such that she was holding on to me, but her rear-end started hitting the cement. [Laughing] She held on for a good long time until we finally veered off to the right and stopped. She had the worst burns on her butt for the longest time and she was the subject of a lot of laughter for me [laughs harder].
That shows my horrible personality, I guess. That’s my fondest childhood memory.
PS: So your sister’s butt is alright at this point? Has she forgiven you for that one?
Mark Seif: Yeah. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, we have a few drinks and start talking about that famous afternoon.
PS: How has playing poker changed your life?
Mark Seif: It’s changed my life in a variety of ways. I gave up my profession as a lawyer to be a full-time [poker] professional and I immediately went broke. I was playing the stock market and playing really high cash games and went broke. It’s a very humbling experience. It’s tough in the beginning.
Things started changing for me in 2002 (that was in 2001 that I went pro). By the time September of 2002 came around, I had gone broke and then started back up again. I won a big tournament, the Legends of Poker tournament. The next tournament I entered, I made the final table (didn’t do well), and then the next tournament I entered was the Main Event and I made the WPT first season show – it was the second ever WPT show. It’s been pretty incredible since then. When that show aired, nobody thought it was going to be as popular as it was – of course, it turned out to be very popular – and it’s been nothing but positive since then.
PS: So you obviously knew a little something about poker before you quit your job and started playing professionally.
Mark Seif: I’ve been playing since I was six or seven. There’s some dispute between my mom and I about when I started playing. I have been playing high stakes poker since I was nineteen, at Commerce Casino, so for the last eighteen years. I was underage, but I looked older, so I was able to play.
PS: What has been your biggest extravagance since turning pro?
Mark Seif: Gosh, that’s a tough one. I think my biggest extravagance was buying a Rolex watch. That’s it. I didn't go out and buy a new car or a house or an island or anything like that after a big win.
Having a big bankroll is so important to your mental well-being. It allows you to play more comfortably, more freely, and just better. I think most of us [professional poker players], when we win a big tournament or cash-in big, we just view that as a bigger bankroll, more comfort.
PS: If you weren’t a poker player, how would you be earning a living?
Mark Seif: I’m not really sure. I don’t think I’d still be a lawyer. I enjoyed practicing law, but I didn’t enjoy being a “lawyer” necessarily. The endless minutia and detail that never really went anywhere – I liked law, I just didn’t really like the job.
I’m one of those weird guys who actually loved law school and excelled at it. I had a lot of fun in law school – I really enjoyed it, without working too hard. When I became a lawyer, I really enjoyed trying cases, but all the hours of research, writing, re-writing, editing, taking client calls, and dealing with all that stuff, just wasn’t that fun.
So, what would I be doing? I’d probably own some sort of business. I’d probably be an online poker affiliate [wink and a smile].
PS: What is the worst part of being recognized?
Mark Seif: Actually, it’s something Jen [Mark’s girlfriend] and I have been talking about lately. There are times when you just don’t want to interact. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I just want to be with my girlfriend, I just want to go see a movie, or just sit down, or even walk into the casino. There are some times I just want to be left alone and I haven’t found a polite way to do that yet. I either accommodate people and talk to them or sign an autograph or whatever, and then the times that I don’t because there are times I have to go to the bathroom or I have to make a phone call, it comes out sounding bad. It makes me uncomfortable sometimes.
Bathroom breaks are actually an issue because there have been a couple times where I’ve waited for half an hour for the break and then I can’t go. So now I have to wait another two hours and it’s a rather…uncomfortable…feeling.
PS: What was the lowest point and highest point in your poker career?
Mark Seif: The lowest point was going broke the first year. I actually did it a couple times – I made a comeback and went broke again. That was probably the lowest point. That was a pretty depressing time. I couldn’t really see the forest through the trees any more. I was so engulfed in this big, long losing session I was in that I was disenchanted. I thought about quitting, I thought about going back to practice law.
The highest point was obviously winning my first World Series bracelet. That was huge. To me, that was something I needed to do – it gave me the confidence that I could win.
PS: When you won the second bracelet a week later, how did that feel compared to the first one?
Mark Seif: [Laughs] It was very different. The first one…I had never won a gold bracelet before, so it was a great, great feeling. But the second one was just as great, but different. I can’t say one was better than the other, but it was different because now this one was in front of the TV cameras, it was a very high-profile table, there was a lot of exciting stuff. I had lost the chip lead and then I had gotten it back. I had held the chip lead for a big portion of the final table. Big field, too, 2,013 players. When I won that second one, it felt great because I knew that this was a major accomplishment and that it was going to be something to be proud of.
PS: Where is your favorite place to hang out when you’re not playing poker?
Mark Seif: I’m kind of a homebody. I like being online – researching things, reading about things, buying things, chatting with my girlfriend when she’s not around. I’m just a homebody. I really enjoy being alone sometimes or with people that I’m really close to and relaxing.
I did a lot of “going out” when I was younger. I went to a lot of clubs and a lot of bars (I was a bartender) when I was younger. I lived the fast life -- a lot – for many, many years. In fact, the first couple years of my career as a professional poker player, I’d go out all night and play poker all day and all night. It wore on me, it wore me out. It’s so unfulfilling now; I just don’t get that same satisfaction. I like going to dinner with people I like hanging out with and talking with. Jen thinks I’m boring, but I’m trying to enlighten her and show her that I’ve found the golden way.
PS: What is your most significant or proudest non-poker accomplishment?
Mark Seif: I did very well in law school and I did very well on the bar exam. I got a job as a lawyer for a big law firm and did very well, but I don’t think that’s really as significant on a personally satisfying level as it was becoming really close to my family. That’s one of the things that poker has allowed me to do, but it has also caused me to miss some special occasions, too. I like that I am now independent, that I can do what I want, when I want. That’s something that I’ve enjoyed and the main reason I enjoy it is because I am now closer to my family.
PS: Who would play YOU in the Mark Seif Story?
Mark Seif: The Rock. When I was not so fat, people used to say, “You look a lot like The Rock,” and he’s kind of a nice guy, from what I hear. But yet, he’s also got that crazy look in his eye, which people say I have.
PS: What is your least favorite interview question?
Mark Seif: I get asked a lot of dumb interview questions, but you have not asked any of those.
Number 1: “What’s your favorite hand?”
Anyone who knows anything about poker knows my favorite hand is the one I decided to play that worked out perfectly and won me a big pot. I don’t have a favorite hand.
Number 2: “What’s your strategy going into today?”
Let me start off by saying that poker is highly situational. If you can describe the situation to me to a “T,” which will take about four or five hours to describe every detail…I would want to know, for example, how has this guy been playing for the last two hours, how many hands has this guy raised and how many hands has he gotten into, what has he shown down, what kinds of bets has he called, what kinds of hands does he raise with, has he ever re-raised, if he shows a re-raise hand, what is that…
I mean, it’s so fact intensive, it’s so highly situational, that if you go in with a game plan, you’re screwed. You have to be able to adapt, to be quick on your feet, analyze the situation for what it is, and make good decisions. My strategy is to be well-rested, focused, and to be able to make good decisions when the time comes. That’s my strategy. It’s always the same strategy.