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Beyond the Shades with 2004 WSOP champion Greg Raymer, 42

How have you managed all the exposure from your WSOP win?

There is no real need to manage it—only profit from it. I have always been a very self-contained person, with plenty of confidence. As such, I don't have a problem with fame and attention going to my head. The thing I need to do a better job of is managing my career so I can maximize my profitability without selling out or working harder than necessary.

How much of your 2004 winnings of $5 million remain?

Put bluntly, none of your business, or anybody else's for that matter, except my wife. However, having said that, I have never had a losing year at the tables, including 2005 and the years I played poker prior to 2004. The only things I have spent money on of any significance are my new house in North Carolina, and my wife's new BMW.

Is there a rivalry between you, Chris Moneymaker (2003 WSOP champion) and Joe Hachem (2005 WSOP champion)? Do you still compete against each other?

We compete, but only at the poker tables. Away from the tables, we're good friends. Friends who see only a little of each other, but that's because we live in different parts of the world and all have very busy schedules. If it weren't for the timing issues, I would enjoy hanging out with either of them anytime.

How are you preparing for the 2006 WSOP?

The same way I prepare for every tournament. I just try to make sure I'm well rested, and ready to play at 100 percent. Because poker is a purely mental game, I don't feel any need to practice or do anything to get in the mind frame to play good poker.

What are your travel commitments this year and how much time do you

spend at home?

I am away from home over half the time. And I'm not even playing that much poker nowadays. I do lots of stuff for, such as appearing in Deal, a major Hollywood film starring Burt Reynolds due out next year; I’m actually getting ready to shoot my scenes tomorrow.

Where is home? Children?

For half a year now, it is Raleigh, NC. My wife Cheryl wanted to leave Connecticut and move someplace warmer. Neither of us were interested in living in Vegas, which was the only sensible choice if business were to dictate location. So, we looked around the country instead and asked ourselves where was the best place to live. I like it a lot, as does my daughter Sophie, 11.

In your estimation, what is the skill: luck ratio in poker?

It is 100-percent skill. While one hand of poker is all luck, once you play regularly, you can attribute your long term results entirely to skill. I've made a profit now every year for 14 years. It is pretty unlikely that I've simply been that lucky for that long, now isn't it?

What else do you do in your spare time, away from the poker tables?

I get a huge rush when I hit a great golf shot. And that is about exciting as it gets for me, as I've never had any interest in X sports or the like. No skydiving or bungee jumping is in my future.

What's your strategy or mantra going into a big tournament?

It’s the same basic concept that I apply to every hand of poker, cash game or tournament. Play each hand to maximize your equity. Often that means folding to minimize your losses, but I am always trying to make the decision that will most likely result in the highest long-term profit. Often, the aggressive and risky play is the best in a tournament, but it’s also necessary to fold and stay patient.

How does an opponent reveal weaknesses that you can exploit?

They do it in a million different little ways, but most of them boil down to two things: inexperience or lack of diligence. Some players are really giving 100 percent all the time, but if they're new to the game, or to the present circumstances, they can say or do things that I can take advantage of and get the better of them. More often, they’re not somebody who’s really going all out to play their best game all the time, either because they're lazy or because they're not in the game to try hard, but to have fun. There’s nothing wrong with playing the game primarily for fun, but you shouldn't expect to be a big winner if that's the case.
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