Those tuning into ESPN last night to watch the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event spent a number of hours seeing a world-class athlete in action, someone whose exploits on a different green field had been featured on the network many times before.

At age 39, Richard Seymour has already completed one career full of high achievements, having played 12 seasons in the National Football League before retiring in 2012. During his tenure on the gridiron Seymour was recognized as one of the game’s greats, making the Pro Bowl seven times and being named to the NFL’s “All-Decade Team” for the 2000s.

The poker world has gotten to know Seymour even better over the last several years. That’s because since his retirement from football, Seymour has followed the path of many other athletes to enjoy the competition poker provides.

A second career

Here at the PokerStars Blog we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Seymour each January at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. In fact, at the 2018 PCA he finished third in the $25K High Roller for a career-high $376,360 score. Coincidentially, January is when the NFL playoffs happen, with the games typically shown on the big screens all around the tournament room as events play out.

With the New England Patriots the defensive lineman won three Super Bowls, playing an important role as one of the team’s defensive captains. He was with the Pats for a fourth Super Bowl, too, the one they lost in dramatic fashion to the New York Giants to rob them of another title and an unprecedented 19-0 season.

When Seymour looks up from the table while playing at the Atlantis to see those NFL games taking place, does he ever feel like he’s missing out? From what he told ESPN last night, it doesn’t seem as though he does.

“It’s funny,” he said. “Actually I was at the Super Bowl this past year with the Rams and the Patriots, and I was standing on the sideline and I had absolutely no desire,” he laughed. He went on to say how knowing “what it takes to lead up to that point and just the grind and focusing in” required to succeed was part of why he felt no discontent at not being out there between the lines.

“Things are going to happen to you in life,” Seymour continued, shifting gears just a little to talk about how we deal with those woulda-shoulda questions, generally speaking. “It’s not ‘if,’ it’s ‘when’ they happen. But it’s just about how you react to it, you know, your outlook.”

Making decisions to avoid collisions

Speaking of seeming at peace, Seymour came across as mostly content to steer clear of conflict during some of the hands ESPN showed him playing. Unlike the player who collected nearly 500 tackles and 57.5 sacks during his career, it appeared Seymour was more interested in avoiding collisions in what he calls the “Super Bowl” of poker.

Richard Seymour at the ESPN Feature Table

In one hand Seymour had been dealt 10♥10♦ in the small blind and watched Dario Sammartino raise from early position. It folded to Seymour who just called, as did Jeffrey Eldred in the big blind with 6♥5♠.

The blinds both checked the 4♥2♣8♦ flop, then Sammartino continued and Seymour just called with his overpair. Eldred then jammed all in for 990,000 with his double-gutter, forcing a fold from Sammartino (who had ace-king). Seymour tanked for a long while — more than four minutes — saying “I don’t feel good about it” before folding and preserving his stack of 2.26 million.

Eldred showed his hand and Seymour acknowledged the good play, saying “you deserve it.” As it happened, Eldred was sporting a Kansas City Chiefs shirt, the team New England beat to get to this year’s Super Bowl. Somehow their budding rivalry felt analogous to the one developing between Seymour and Eldred.

It wasn’t the first (or the last) time we’d see Seymour choose the cautious route. Earlier he had just checked down on the river with two pair in a spot where he might have value bet. Later he’d fold ace-king preflop after a player opened and another jammed (a hand as it turned out he would have lost had he played).

Living with results

It was just before the last break of the night that Seymour ended up taking one final risk, open-pushing from the button for his last 12 big blinds or so with K♥4♦. Alas for Seymour, both of the bigger-stacked blinds had calling hands — Anuj Agarwal with A♦3♦ in the small, then Zhen Cai with Q♥Q♦ in the big.

A king-high flop put Seymour in seemingly good position to win, not unlike New England in Super Bowl XLII when they were up 14-10 with less than two minutes to go.

But much as the Giants came back to score a winning touchdown to snatch that Super Bowl away from New England, a queen appeared on the turn and suddenly Seymour was drawing dead. From there he went to the cashier’s desk where he collected $59,295 for finishing 131st.

Talking with ESPN’s Kara Scott afterwards, Seymour exhibited the same serene approach that no doubt helped him in his NFL career and has likely been of benefit to him at the poker tables, too.

“I got in some spots where I felt like I had to make some big folds,” he explained, clearly thinking back to hands earlier in the night. “I just think you go out and you try to make the best decisions possible, and you live with the results. You know, it didn’t work out, but it’s not too much that I regret.”

Seymour spoke as well about “the thrill of playing with a lot of great players” and that while it was bittersweet for the run to have ended, “at the end of the day we had a great time.”

“Whoever takes it down will be a happy man,” he grinned.

Seymour was on the sidelines once more — or the rail, as we call it in poker. And while he obviously has the desire to get back in the game, he’s also obviously content with where he is.

He may be out of the Main, but we will see more Seymour

WSOP photography by pokerphotoarchive.com.

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