If you are a golf fan, you have been privileged to watch Tiger Woods plying his craft from 1997 until now.  Granted, his last 18 months have been marred by personal problems, injuries, and a golf swing that seems to be in constant flux, but on the whole, you and I have never seen a man dominate golf as he has done.  Consider the following:  Woods has won 71 PGA Tour Events and 14 Majors, both tops among active players.  He was the fastest player to ever reach the 50 win plateau, leads all golfers in career winnings, and has piled up 11 World Golf Titles as well.  By every measurable standard, you’ve seen a golfing legend when you see Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods on the course.  And yet this is a poker article, but Woods is relevant, because I’ll suggest to you now that Erik Seidel’s run of live tournament success thus far in 2011 is poker’s equivalent to Woods on the links.  If you’ve not yet noticed the run of tournament success that Seidel has built up in this calendar year, allow us to bring you up to speed on a legendary streak of excellence.

The thing about golf that separates it from team sports is that you cannot play defense, nor can you rely on others to help you out.  If you win, it is by individual merit most of the time.  Poker follows suit in this regard – you are an individual, the lone representative of your own personal interests in the game.  You only have to succeed one hand at a time, but a momentary failure means that you are eliminated entirely from a tournament, so any great run of tournament success is also a run of individual success.  No one helps Erik Seidel out, no one subs in for him when he is tired or discouraged.  Now in the immediate present, he is celebrating a great victory over a stellar final table field, taking home $1.1 Million and defeating Erick Lindgren, Daniel Negreanu, and a host of others to take home the High Roller trophy at the WPT’s Five Star World Poker Classic.  That in and of itself would be impressive enough to write this article.  But consider his year on a larger scale, and your jaw will drop quickly.

So here’s 2011 in a nutshell for Erik Seidel. He made two Final Tables at the EPT Caribbean Adventure, finishing 3rd and 4th, and bringing home $340K in tournament winnings.  But he didn’t just go home – he went to Australia instead, finishing 3rd in the Aussie Millions’ High Roller event (good for a $625K score), and then 1st in their Super High Roller Event, the world’s largest buy-in tournament ever, for a whopping $2,489,747.  That’s about $3.4 MILLION in earnings by January 26th if you’re keeping score at home.  Seidel then finished 5th at the LAPC Heads-Up event and won their High Roller event for another $160K in prize money.  Five days after winning the LAPC High Roller, he took down the toughest televised tournament on earth, NBC’s Heads-Up Poker Championship, and another $750,000.  A month after that, he finished 2nd at the WPT Hollywood Poker Open Main Event, and this past week he made his most recent score in Las Vegas.

So let’s review:  9 major cashes, 4 wins, 5 High Roller Final Tables, and approximately $5.5 Million in Tournament winnings for 2011.  And oh by the way, its May 23rd.  Running good is one thing, but this is unprecedented in the world of high stakes poker.

For a little bit of historical perspective, consider the following:  Seidel is currently the all-time money leader with $15.9 Million in career earnings.  If you removed his 2011 earnings and counted his remaining $10.4 Million from all previous years, he would then be 11th among all earners, approximately tied with Allen Cunningham.  If his 2011 earnings by themselves were counted separately, that $5.4 Million would rank 26th on the all-time list all by itself, meaning that in 5 months Seidel has surpassed the CAREER tournament winnings of Sorel Mizzi, David Ulliott, Vivek Rajkumar, Sam Trickett, Tom Dwan, Chris Moneymaker, Dewey Tomko, Todd Brunson, Brandon Cantu, and David ‘Chip’ Reese, just to name a few.  Granted, some of those players have excelled in other forms of poker, but Seidel has excelled in tournament play like no one before him ever has, and it is unlikely to imagine in the current gaming environment that we will see a live run like this again anytime soon.

So enjoy following Seidel this year, because he’s demolishing poker but doing it in a way that speaks volumes for the game.  He is polite to a fault, quiet, non-assuming, and goes about his work surgically.  If you watch him play and try to mimic even a little bit of what he does the next time you play a tournament, you’ll be glad that you did.  Congratulations to Erik Seidel on his epic 2011, and Good Luck at the Tables!