Whether it is football, investing, or poker, Richard Seymour has brought a dogged work ethic and laser-like focus to all of his professional endeavors.
While Seymour has achieved a modicum of success in poker since retiring from the NFL, the former Pro Bowl defensive lineman finally had a breakthrough last week at the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event. Seymour, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, rose to as high as 35th in chips on Day 5 of the world’s most famous poker tournament before finishing 131st in a field of 8,569.
Seymour is not the first former football player to try his hand at poker. Six-time WSOP bracelet winner T.J. Cloutier played in the 1959 Rose Bowl for Cal-Berkeley and later spent two seasons in the Canadian Football League. Others such as former Bills running back Fred Jackson, former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, former Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin, and former Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell have also drawn notice for their efforts in major poker tournaments.
But Seymour’s finish may be the most impressive by a celebrity in the storied history of the World Series of Poker. Although actor/comedian Gabe Kaplan finished 13th in the 1991 Main Event, only 215 entrants took part in the tournament. Actress Jennifer Tilly captured the 2005 WSOP Ladies Event, outlasting 600 competitors. Film director Nick Cassavetes went slightly further in the ’05 Main Event than Seymour did this year, finishing 93rd, but that field was about 3,000 players smaller than this year’s.
“I was just trying to make the best decisions possible,” Seymour, 39, told US Bets of his remarkable run. “I didn’t have time to think of the magnitude of the moment.”
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) July 10, 2019
Seymour’s run did not come as a shock to the game’s top professionals. Heading into the Main Event, Seymour notched a 44th place finish at the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Event in 2016 and placed 18th at the 2017 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic. More importantly, Seymour is constantly studying the most accomplished players in poker and looking for different ways to analyze a hand in order to optimize his performance.
“It’s not a surprise to me at all, because he’s determined, he’s a competitor, and he works hard,” said Daniel Negreanu, a six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner. “You look at his career in the NFL, those type of personalities don’t accept mediocrity. They try to get the best out of themselves and he’s one of those people.”
Recapping Seymour’s run
A veteran of several Main Events, Seymour knew of the importance of remaining level-headed during the marathon tournament. Over the first two days of the Main Event, Seymour took few risks while placing an emphasis on making solid, fundamentally sound decisions. He ended Day 2C with 57,000 in chips, far below then-leader Julian Milliard-Feral (947,900).
From there, Seymour recalls making a number of folds in critical hands when he held top pair and top kicker. Seymour ended Day 3 in better position with 275,000, but still nowhere near the overall lead (2.18 mm). He finally moved into contention on Day 4, ending the session in 35th place overall with 2.75 mm. Seymour celebrated with a glass of wine inside his RV, parked in the back lot of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
By Day 5, ESPN’s cameras were taking notice. Placed at the Rio’s featured table, Seymour relished the spotlight. He also learned from prior tournaments. At a featured table several years ago in the Bahamas, Seymour felt he spent too much time engaging in table talk. A dialed-in Seymour focused intently last Wednesday on building his stack.
He also rebounded from crippling hands. At one point, he held top pair against an open-ended straight draw and his opponent hit the low end of the straight with a 6 on the turn. Seymour also missed out on a chance at a large pot when he folded pocket 10s against an opponent holding a double-belly-buster straight draw.
Oh my…. woulda made the same play with the 6-5 double gutted but the nit roll from Richard Seymour…. scared money don’t make no money rich pic.twitter.com/YvFpfzGcVC
— Travis (@Travisgbtbb) July 11, 2019
“I easily could have chased chips and gotten off my game plan,” Seymour said. “But I just remained disciplined, stayed in the moment, and did not let it affect me.”
With about 725,000 left, Seymour raised all-in from the button with a K-4 offsuit. Zhen Cai, who went on to finish sixth in the tournament, called from the small blind with pocket queens. Though Seymour caught a king on the flop, Cai moved back in front with a queen on the turn. Despite a king on the river, Seymour’s tournament came to an end.
Fitting in with the poker community
During his short time in his second career, Seymour has already endeared himself to the poker community with his affable personality and passion for the game. Negreanu called Seymour one of the nicest players on the tour.
In 2017, Negreanu met Seymour inside a gym at a tournament in the Bahamas. The two agreed to a cross-weight wager, where Negreanu would collect if he gained more weight than Seymour lost over a 12-month period. In 2012, Seymour’s final season with the Raiders, he was listed at 6’6″, 317 pounds. Despite receiving considerable attention on social media, the wager turned out to be a joke, Negreanu admits.
“I had to get to something big like 240,” Negreanu said with a laugh.
Another poker great, Phil Hellmuth, compares Seymour’s mental approach to that of Bill Belichick, the NFL’s all-time leader for Super Bowl wins by a coach. Seymour spent the first eight years of his NFL career under Belichick with the Patriots. Hellmuth later called Belichick the “greatest coach” in the history of the sport.
“As someone like Richard comes along, I think he’s great for the game,” Hellmuth said. “He has a very strategic mind.”
Seymour has also made forays into sports betting. Earlier this month, Bet.Works revealed that Seymour joined the company’s strategic advisory board. Bet.Works is a Business-to-Business (B2B) sportsbook technology supplier that provides fully managed turnkey solutions to its sportsbook clients.
On the gridiron, Seymour said he was motivated less by individual accolades than by earning the respect of his teammates and peers. Seymour achieved the lofty goals by giving maximum effort on virtually every snap.
With his playing days long behind him, Seymour is bringing a similar mindset to the poker table.
“I’m a firm believer that if you do things the right way, if you work hard, you study and put in the time that’s required, it takes all of those qualities to be successful,” Seymour. “I feel like I have the right pedigree to be successful in whatever I do.”
Photo by Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports