Chan vs. Seidel : Don’t Let One Loss Define You.

I have been playing poker (badly) since I was in high school, but when I saw Rounders in 1998, it was the first time I ever heard the name Eric Seidel.

In the movie Matt Damon  and Famke Janssen watch a scene from the 1988 World Series of Poker where Seidel and Johnny Chan go heads up at the final table.  An erroneous all-in by Seidel ends the game and gives Johnny Chan the title.

Here is the actual WSOP broadcast.

Everything about this broadcast, from the commentary to the camera shots, makes Seidel look as if he was a lamb led to the slaughter by the wolf, Chan.  Janssen’s character even says. “Poor Seidel. Kid doesn’t know what hit him.”

Seidel wasn’t quite a lamb, having been a top-level backgammon player, a Mayfair regular, and even an options trader until the crash of 1987.  But he was new to the world of high stakes poker and this was his first major tournament.

I myself laughed at him when I saw that scene, assuming Seidel had gone down in the the annals of poker history as a sorry sidenote.

But that wasn’t the case.  Seidel’s loss began a run that has seen him win eight WSOP bracelets and has made him number one in all time tournament winnings with almost $17 million dollars.

It would have been easy after that stunning loss, or the re-broadcasting of it to millions of people when Rounders came out, to just crawl in a hole and die.  But Seidel did not let that ONE LOSS define who he was, or what type of game he was capable of playing.

Using his hallmark style of focus, consistency, and an almost transcendent ability to avoid going on tilt,  he set himself apart from his competitors.  And these characteristics, along with a forward-looking attitude, have brought him to the top of his profession.

Seidel’s example is a lesson not just for poker, but for trading, and for life as well.

All-Time Poker Winning List (Card Player)

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One Response

  1. Thanks for sharing. I know it’s taken me years (and am always working on it) to re-wire my brain in understanding that it’s not only okay to take losses, but it is absolutely necessary to survive in this business. One core belief that I have is that if you have a risk management system that allows for small losers, you can never have large losers. I’ve embraced taking small losers because I know I can survive in the long run. It sounds so obvious but many traders struggle with it. Our brain’s trick us into thinking it’s evil to close out trades in the red. I have faith that I can find opportunities to exploit and use effective position sizing strategies that allow me to take on good size when the time is right and I’m playing with the markets money. Too many times I hear traders talking about their win/loss rate when they really need to be focused on the expected-value of their trades over one week, one month, one year, etc. Thanks again for sharing.

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