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The Blogfiles + Heads-Up with Jeff Sealey

Jeff Sealey is just like a lot of people reading this site.  He's got a good day job, he's kind of a smart-ass, and he plays a lot of poker.  The big difference is that Jeff Sealey is a REALLY good poker player.

Jeff_sealey_aussie4 Before you start scratching your heads and thinking, “How does a blind dude play poker?”, don’t confuse Jeff Sealey (at right) with blind rock-balladeer Jeff “Angel Eyes” Healey. You know you did.

After qualifying for the 2006 Crown Australian Poker Championship (aka, the Aussie Millions) on Paradise Poker, Sealey finished fifth against a ridiculously strong field. Next week, Sealey is off to the Bahamas to play in the Conquest of Paradise at the Atlantis. Sealey, who is never afraid to speak his mind, keeps it humming. So we present to you our next Blogfile/Head-Up interview…Jeff Sealey.

Jose_canseco_1 WCP: What got you into playing poker?

JS: I grew up in a neighborhood of degenerate gamblers (who somehow managed to grow up into productive members of society). 

When I was a kid we played street baseball, whiffle ball,  RBI baseball...and a lot of poker.  Gambling debts were often collected in the form of a 1984 Topps Don Mattingly or a 1985 Mark McGwire USA Team baseball card.  Remember the 1986 Jose Canseco Donruss "Rated Rookie" card?  I used to think that was the coolest card ever. 

Oh how the mighty have fallen...

WCP: You qualified for the Aussie Millions on Paradise Poker, who has since set you up with your own blog.  What got you playing on Paradise?

JS:  I like playing on Paradise Poker because they, quite literally, have the best range of tournaments on a nightly basis.  If you start at about 4 PM eastern time and look until about 11 PM eastern time, you have every range of buy-in available.  $20, $30, $50, $60, $100, $150, $300...you name it.  The cash games there are profitable as well.  I haven't played online much recently due to most of my time being taken up with other business ventures, but Paradise is my favorite place to play.  I'm "Donkey75" on Paradise, so feel free to bust me at your earliest convenience.  The other nice thing that 'Dise does now is they're using that Frequent Player program (like Poker Stars, Party, etc.) where you can get in some freerolls and make a run at a WSOP seat on a freeroll.  Everything tastes better when it's sprinkled with free. 

WCP: Was the Aussie Millions your first live tournament experience?

Jeff_sealey JS: I have played a lot of live poker.  My first main event experience was in the World Poker Open (WPT Event in Tunica) in January 2005.  I was a nervous wreck when it started and managed to finish about in the middle of the pack (302 out of 502). 

I went to Aruba with my brother in September of last year.  It's funny, because I think I learned more about poker there than any other time in my life.  What was a vacation for some was more like "poker camp" for me.  I didn't play in the main event in Aruba, but they had daily $500 and $1000 buy-in tournaments that a lot of the pros/top online players played in.  I chopped the last $1000 event, winning $12K, and it gave me a ton of confidence.  Playing in those tournaments with guys like Phil Laak, "Miami" John Cernuto, Juha Helppi, Mike Mizrachi, James Van Alstyne, and others really teaches you a lot.  I spent probably 10+ hours at the table with Miami John (who is one of the nicest guys in the world), picked his brain about a few things, and watched him play.  If you stop worrying about trying to pick up tells on guys like that and just watch the hands he plays, how he plays them, etc. you learn a ton. 

I went to Caesar's Indiana for the WSOP Circuit event and played, but man, that thing flopped.  There were roughly 120 people in the main event.  Living in Indiana, I really hope that tournament grows because I would love to have an annual main event less than 3 hours away. 

So I guess I gave a long answer to a short question....no, this wasn't my first live tournament. 

SilverchairWCP:  What ever happened to Silverchair?  Seemed those young lads had such a promising career...

JS: Ahh...Silverchair.  I heard they died of dehydration.  The water was just too damn hard to drink.  Very hard indeed. 

WCP: What's the biggest differences you make in your game when playing online vs. live?

JS: I am about 10 times better live than I am online.  The fact of the matter is that there are too many distractions when you're playing online.  I don't really dial in unless it's a huge tourney on Sunday or unless I'm a few spots away from the final table.  People online will make calls that they would never dare make live (for fear of being embarrassed), so it limits the number of hands you can play as the aggressive player.  Tight-aggressive is the name of the game online.  You had better loosen that range of hands you will play when you play in a main event...or you'll never win one. 

WCP: Many poker players who strike it rich with a strong finish in a big tournament still keep their day job.  For example, Steve Dannenmann started a successful company that is still his primary focus.  How bout you? 

JS: Yeah, I kept my day job, but I hardly "struck it rich."  I just recently resigned my position at a bank to be a partner in a smaller real estate company in Indianapolis, IMN Companies. I'm still financing commercial real estate projects and I'm investing in a few of my own. 

The idea of being a full-time poker player has zero appeal to me.  There are just too many swings.  I'm all about working for yourself, which you essentially do if you're a poker player, but your net winnings in poker are truly unpredictable.  Talk to anyone that's a full-time poker player that's above the age of 27 and ask them how "cool" their job is.  Some people love it, it's just not something I choose to do.  I love playing poker, but having a revenue source other than poker to pay the bills which sure helps.  If you read Barry Greenstein's book, it gives you a little different perspective on the life of a pro poker player. 

By the way, I've played with a lot of top pros but Barry Greenstein is flat out sick.  There are guys like me and then there is the Greenstein level, which I have a LONG way to go before reaching. 

WCP: Obviously you're a successful player with more (sorry) wicked poker chops than most, so what do you think are a few things that separate the Greenstein's from the Sealey's?

Barrygreenstein JS: For those that have never played in a main event before, you can probably imagine the mindset when you're going into your first one.  Sure, you want to win, but if you just cash in your first main event, almost anyone would be happy with that.  The biggest thing you don't want to do is make a bad play and LOOK bad.  I mean, invariably, as soon as you go home all of your friends are going to want to hear about the hand you busted so-and-so on and then the hand you got knocked out on...that's about it.  They don't want to hear about the great laydowns you made, the great reads you had coming over the top of a guy and making him fold, they want the cliff notes.  You just say to yourself, "Hang in there, catch some cards, and maybe you'll make a run.  Just don't screw this up jackass...".  Well, Barry Greenstein knows that and this man plays with FEARLESS aggression.  Here's a real life example....

Barry is on the button 3/4 of the way through the first day of the Aussie Millions.  UTG limps in, 3 seat limps in, 4 seat limps, 5 seat limps, I'm two from the button and I limp (4s5s), Barry bets 10X BB.  Now, who wants to play heads-up with Barry?  I mean it's Barry freaking Greenstein!  This is the mindset of 99% of the people out there.  Everyone folds to me.  I look at this pot and here's what I see...

Blinds (1.5 bets), limpers (5 bets), Barry (10 bets), and now it's 9 more bets to me.  So....9 to win 15.5 against Barry Greenstein, not quite 2-1.  I was average stacked and knew that no matter what hit on the flop, Barry would bet if I checked.  I smoke a flop or have a good draw and I could pick up a big pot.  I don't, I fold, and pick on somebody else later. 

I call and the flop comes K54 rainbow.  I check.  Barry bets 12 bets (I forget what the blinds were, so I'm using "bets") and I shove all-in.  Barry folds and I take down a big pot, which was the first and last I won from Barry all day. 

I use this example because Barry did this sort of thing all day.  Fearlessly aggressive position play.  I don't care if you're Jeff Sealey or Phil Ivey, if Barry makes a big raise and he has position on you, you're going to fold 99% of the time.  Most people don't have the guts to make a 10x BB bet with something like KcTc, even on the button.  Barry does.  The difference is, he's Barry Greenstein...and we're not. You or I make that bet, everyone is calling us a donkey.  Barry makes that bet, it's a great play. 

So to your question, what's the difference between us?  He has earned the respect of everyone as one of the top players in the world. Take his phoenominal poker skills, throw in fearless aggression, and then pretend like you're a rookie pitcher making his major league debut against Albert Pujols.  I'm more like facing Ichiro at this point.  I may hit a bunch of slap singles and outplay you, but you're not shaking in your boots when you play me.

WCP: Being from Indy, what do you think will happen first...a "name" pro wins the WSOP ME again, or the Colts win the Super Bowl?

JS: I think that both will happen very soon.  Look at how far Raymer, Matusow, etc. made it in this past WSOP ME.  Eventually somebody is going to take one down. 

MikevanderjaghtThe Colts will be OK.  Their division is clearly worried, as evidenced with Houston's passing on Reggie Bush for defense...in order to stop the Colts.  If the Colt's don't have a "liquored up kicker" shank a FG against Pittsburgh, they win the Super Bowl.  They'll draft some help and between that back and Rhodes, they will "two-headed monster" their way into the Super Bowl.  Hell, if "Fast Willie Parker" and a 100 year-old Bus with little tread left on the tires can do it...so can the Colts. 

WCP: We're all writers...and the one thing that we can apply from our writing to the poker tables is to think outside the box and get creative.  What traits about your professional career help make you a better poker player?

JS: I'm a naturally aggressive person.  I talk loud, I talk fast, I'm emotional.  However, financing commercial real estate has me working with numbers on a daily basis.  I am constantly running numbers in my head, which obviously translates well in poker.  But, perhaps the most important thing in my life outside of poker is the fact that I don't have to win to get "unstuck" some ungodly amount, since I don't rely on poker for income.  I lose money in poker, just like the next guy.  Nobody wins all of the time. 

Fortunately, when I lose money in poker, my mortgage is still getting paid.  Eventually, I win more than I lose, but if I have a losing month, it doesn't kill me.  If I win the ">Conquest of Paradise, what will I do with the money?  I'll buy another trailer park.  I know that's exciting and all...but that's how I think.  My goal over the next 5 years is to have $20,000/month in rental income from real estate, which will afford me the ability to play in 5-6 main events a year.

WCP: You say you talk big...do you talk to people at the table during hands to better put them on a hand or get in their head? 

JS: I don't so much talk big as much as I talk loudly.  I don't rub it in when I win a big hand, but I do talk some good-natured trash to people at the poker table.  If I think someone is posturing, I tell them I know that they are so they can give up their posturing now.  90% of the time I'm right.  10% of the time they shove-all in.  Sometimes you look like a genius, sometimes you look like an ass.  That's how live goes I guess.  Everyone always says you want to have a "tight-aggressive" image.  The key is, and I know every poker book mentions this, is to mix up your play.  When people have you as a rock and you get caught on a stone-cold bluff, you earn a new level of respect from those at the table smart enough to be paying attention. 

As far as putting someone on a hand goes, if you can get someone to converse with you when you're deciding to call them or not, that's worth its weight in gold.  A lot of people won't do it, but if you can get them to...good work.  Now you'd better know how to use it. 

WCP: What leaks do you need to fix, in your opinion, to take your game to the next level?

JS: Leaks I need to fix...I have about a million.  I talk too much (on occasion).  I give away tells, but I'm extremely cautious and aware of physical tells, so much so that I occasionally give off false tells (which I honestly believe helped me IMMENSELY in Australia). 

When I was in Aruba, I played in one of the $1000 daily tournaments with Cory Cheresnick.  He had made a final table of a WPT event (which was one more final table than I had made at that point) and he was cool to play with/talk to.  He seems sort of arrogant, but he really is a nice guy.  We talked a little after that tourney and he told me that he thought I played really well but that I had a ton of tells.  He told me one of them (that I'm not going to reveal), so I really worked on that one and some others. 

Other leaks I need to fix...let's see.  I am really working on knowing when to let off of the gas.  Playing aggressively is the only way to win anything.  Not knowing when to let off the gas is the biggest way to blow a bunch of hard-earned chips.  This is something I've become much better at...but got a clinic on at the final table in Australia by Lee Nelson.  That's a tough art to master.   

WCP: How long does it take for you to size up an opponent at the table and know how to attack him/her?

JS: Sizing up and attacking an opponent is something you have to do relatively early at a table.  If you're very observant though, you will let someone else attack another player first and then see how the player reacts.  I'm all about aggressive play, but learning something about your opponent with someone ELSE'S chips?  Priceless. 

WCP: What's your thoughts on recently introduced (and passed in sub-committee) legislation to ban online poker?

JS: Is anyone surprised that they're trying to ban internet poker?  It's funny, because I'm becoming increasingly embarrassed to be a Republican.  I think I'm a "liberal Republican" now.  I know that's an oxymoron, but what would they POSSIBLY ban it for?  Because it's ruining the fabric of American society?  Come on.  I read somewhere that if the US taxed Internet gambling (much like England does), then it could have paid for the entire war in Iraq. 

I was in the Navy for five years, so I'm all for giving the military more pay, better housing, better equipment, better sea/shore rotations, etc.  Tax online poker, just like tobacco, alcohol, and riverboat casinos, and watch the dollars roll in.  Of course, that makes too much sense.  They would rather BAN it, get ZERO tax revenue from it, and then spend more time and effort trying to ENFORCE it (which is going to be a circus in and of itself).  How is online poker ruining the fabric of America anymore than people cashing their social security checks just to run to the convenient store and buy two packs of Newports, five scratch off tickets, and a case of PBR? 

To answer your question though, it will never fly.  Poker has become woven into mainstream America.  It's not like drugs.  You don't see guys on ESPN seeing who can roll the biggest joint or races to see who can snort five lines of blow the fastest.  Poker is everywhere.  Freaking PEPSI is using poker players now for advertising.  The conservatives will hoot and holler all the time about online poker ruining lives begging the churches to give them money to put on ads about the evils of online poker and then ESPN will show another 21 year old take down $10,000,000.  Uh...scoreboard. 

WCP: Do you think poker has reached a saturation point with the public?  Or do you think there's still a big appetitite and it will continue to grow?

JS: Poker has reached a point where it's here to stay, but it needs to be in a new form on TV.  Some form where you know when it's going to be on, what is going to be on, who is going to be playing, etc. 

Phil_hellmuth_monitor_1ESPN plays WSOP reruns so often that I honestly never watch it.  Once you've seen a WPT event on the Travel Channel, do you watch it again after you know who wins?  I mean seriously, that's like me Tivo-ing the Pacers game tonight and then watching it in reruns ten times over on Fox Sports Net.  I KNOW WHO WINS!  That and now they have every tour on the planet on TV.  The "Heartland Poker Tour" was on TV the other night, UB's series, Bodog's series, Mansion Poker's Speed Poker Tourney, and I have no clue when the Aussie Millions is going to be aired (rumor has it that it will be after the Speed Poker tourney since that was held prior to the Aussie Millions).  You have the pros beating up on each other for what is a relatively small sum to them in a series of sit n' go's, and now you watch them playing cash games.  The funny thing is that about the only person I can watch over and over again is Hellmuth.  You hate to see someone act like that guy does sometimes, but I have to give the guy credit. 

It's sort of like Don King.  He's almost a parody of himself, but damn is it entertaining.  I could listen to Don King talk for HOURS about NOTHING.  Note to XM Satellite...GET DON KING A TALK SHOW.  I will never turn my radio off then.  Hearing him say things like "The Prince of Punchland", just makes my day.  Give me the crappiest day of my life and a little Don King will put a smile on my face. 

I guess the short answer to your question is, I think the casual poker fan is already tired of it.  True "pokerheads", not unlike the guys that have an excel spreadsheet of everyone's 40 time heading into the NFL draft, will never get tired of it.  I'm not that into it and unless they're on or in some way directly making money on it, do you really think the pros sit around watching poker on TV?  Most would rather watch paint dry. 

WCP: Any good incidents where someone has blown up at you in tournaments cause of YOUR talking?

JS: I don't have any incidents where a guy blew up because of my talking, but I do have one where a guy started crying because of a fake tell that I sent.  My first table of Day 3 of the Aussie Millions had me seated in the 8 seat with Wes Bugiera (check the spelling, made the final table at Aussie) in the 7 seat, Scott Fischman in the 4 seat, and Nenad Medic in the 3 seat...tough table, considering it had 3 people at the final table and Fischman, who is as good as any tournament player out there. 

I had As7s in the cutoff.  Action folded to me, I raised 3x BB, the button called, and the blinds folded.  The flop comes AhQs2s.  Now the button had been VERY tight, and was relatively short-stacked, so I felt fairly certain that he had a big hand.  I bet pot and he smooth called.  Now I knew I was behind.  The turn brought a 7h.  Now I really had to think.  I checked and the button bet 1/3 of the pot...definitely wanting a call.  I put him on AK, AQ, or a set at that point, but I called to see the river.  The river brought the 4s, giving me the nut flush.  Now, this guy has about $30K in chips left and I wanted him to make a bet and give him the mindset that "I can make this call and still have a chip and a chair".  I bet $20K into a pot of about 80K.  This guy was thinking forever, and I gave what I felt was a sign of weakness...intentionally.  After thinking forever, the guy called and I turned over my nut flush.  He literally stood right up from the table and stormed off....CRYING!  I looked at Wes next to me and said, "Is that guy CRYING???".  I could not believe what I saw.  He came back a few hands later and was so titled that he was on the rail in almost minutes, but man...I can honestly say I had never seen that before.  I hope to never see that again.

WCP: On the coup de gras...what's your dream six-person table...people can be living, dead, or ficticious...

JS: Six person dream table...wow.  Let's see:  Whitey Herzog, Bruce Sutter, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, Bob Forsch...and me.  That's the least I could do for the only guys to bring a World Series title to St. Louis in my lifetime.  I'm starting to know what Red Sox fans felt like.  I'm getting old fellas...I'm getting old. 

WCP: Thanks Jeff, good luck at the Conquest at Paradise.  And all, we highly encourage you to check out Jeff's site.   

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I can remember it like it was yesterday, standing in Dugout Baseball Card shop wanting to buy a pack of '86 Donruss for a shot at the coolest card evar but not having the money for the outrageously priced $10 a pack. Knowing how badly we wanted a pack the guy who ran the shop told my little brother, who was 5 or 6 at the time, that if he could spell Mississippi he could have a pack for free. Hot damn. So little brother starts off strong M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I, then he begins to stumble a bit... P. (YES!) P. (YES here we go!) eeee...(NO NO NO)... I (BINGO!).

Not being able to turn us down the card guy gives him a pack of cards and I nervously and excitedly looked over his shoulder while he slowly revealed each card one by one. Oh by the way the owner says that no one has pulled the Canseco yet so good luck. First card blank. Second card blank. Third card blank. 4th card BAM! Jose Rated Rookie Canseco. I don't think we even looked at the rest of the pack because we were too busy running around the shop screaming and dancing.

Even though Canseco's now a scumbag and the card is not nearly worth what is was then, I still keep it in the nicest case I own.

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