If you don’t know who Seth “SFisch04” Fischer is, that’s partially by design. Though he’s a PokerStars qualifier here at EPT Monte Carlo, he doesn’t maintain a PocketFives profile and says he enjoys flying under the radar. But it’s also partly chance. Had a single card fallen friendly in 2008, things might have been different.
Born and raised in Florida, Fischer was at college in Atlanta when he became one of the millions who picked up poker during the Moneymaker boom.
“I actually ran a poker game out of my apartment during grad school,” he recalls on a sunny day outside the Sporting Club Monte-Carlo. “I would go to school in the day and then at night I would run the poker game. I was just trying to get better and play poker on the side to make some extra money. I had no grandiose ideas of trying to become a professional or anything.”
Fischer had finished the coursework for a degree in sport administration and only needed to complete an internship to graduate. When the one he had lined up fell through, he saw an opportunity in disguise.
“All during that time I just needed an excuse to play poker, to give it a shot, so I told myself, ‘I’ll give myself two months while I’m looking for internships to play poker full-time.’ Since then I haven’t really looked back. I started making more money than I’d ever made my entire life.”
Marriage followed, as did a move to California when his wife began pursuing her own graduate degree. And then came a moment that changed everything.
“That’s when it sunk in”
The first cash on Fischer’s Hendon Mob profile is a final table appearance at the 2008 WSOP worth more than $330,000. It remains the largest of his career. People remember that final because of two things: the spectacular number of bad beats handed out and the guy who won the bracelet.
The scarf-wearing, diminutive, hyper-aggressive Italian pro Dario Minieri earned his first WSOP bracelet and more than $528,000 for the win. But just 10 hands earlier, Minieri had been one card away from taking Fischer’s place as the runner-up.
Fischer had caught a break of his own earlier, cracking Justin Filtz’s pocket aces with A-K and knocking him out in third place. That gave him a big lead as heads-up play began against Minieri. Then Fischer picked up K♠K♦.
Fischer re-raised Minieri’s opener; Minieri jammed with 4♠3♠, and Fischer snap-called with his cowboys. Fischer was a four-to-one favorite before the flop fell J♠8♠2♦. He still had 70 percent equity after the 4♦ turn, but the 4♥ on the river gave Minieri three of a kind and turned the entire game around.
Within minutes Minieri was doing interviews and taking his winner’s photo. “I have never seen so many bad beats in one day,” Minieri told PokerStars Blog at the time. “I feel very lucky.”
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Fischer, meanwhile, headed off to the payout cage for his first WSOP cash.
“I was happy because this was way better than I was ever expecting to do,” Fischer says. “And honestly, I thought I would get there again. I remember going into it Dario was already kind of a personality, he was the big favorite going in. I thought I actually played better than him at the final table. Obviously I got super-lucky to bust the guy in third place. And when I was heads-up for the bracelet, with the chip lead, all-in with 80 percent equity — it’s one of those things.”
When ESPN began airing that year’s WSOP coverage, Fischer caught the episode where they showed Minieri beating him heads-up.
“That’s when it sunk in. It was really painful looking back. At the time I didn’t care [about finishing in second]. But once I saw it on TV afterwards, it was like — there’s a very real possibility that’s the closest I would ever get.
“It still stings, honestly — I’m not going to lie. It probably motivates me to play sometimes. But you have to deal with it. That’s poker.”
A long and winding road
Painful as it was, that WSOP experience opened up doors for Fischer. He dipped his toes into playing higher buy-in events later that year, playing in the Trump Classic at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He was in Philadelphia to visit family and saw a $5,000 Main Event on the schedule.
“I thought, ‘I can do whatever I want. I can play the bigger buy-ins.’ Then I show up and there’s like 30 people and even back then I recognized 25 of them. I was like, ‘This is stupid.'”
And then he went and won the thing for $34K.
“(For winning) they gave me a Movada, a pretty decent watch,” he says. “Then the floor man said, ‘Hey, too bad, last year we gave out a Rolex!’ The whole environment seemed kind of — I don’t want to say unprofessional, but not fancy at all. The Taj was kind of a dump. I think within three years from that point it was closed. There was no special stage or anything, we were just out in the middle of the casino floor. I can’t complain though, it was my only live tournament victory.”
More live cashes followed, including a WSOP Circuit Main Event final in Atlantic City featuring familiar names like Andy Frankenberger, Chris Klodnicki, and eventual champion Chris Bell. Fischer’s newly flush bankroll also allowed him to begin taking on higher buy-in tournaments online. After Black Friday he began traveling from his home base in Berkeley, California, to Vancouver, Canada, where he booked a win in the Super Tuesday in 2012 and later came within a few spots of repeating the feat in 2015 and 2016. It’s a trend that continues to the present day: Fischer took down the winning the High Roller Club $530 Bounty Builder a few months ago.
These days Fischer’s live poker schedule is mainly focused on Las Vegas, where he says he plays about 30 events most summers around the time of the World Series. Though he says he doesn’t particularly enjoy the live poker road life anymore — he doesn’t care for living in the casino, and the crew of friends he came up with has slowly drifted out of the game, meaning he’s often the only one of his group of friends traveling anymore — there are a few spots that he enjoys visiting if he can win a seat in a satellite.
EPT Monte Carlo tops that list.
“I’ll play more satellites for Monte Carlo because I like it here. PCA, same type of deal. Everything from the accommodations to the poker room being right on the water — the whole environment is second to none. It’s the best environment in the world to play, for me. I can’t imagine a more luxurious place to play. So once I came last year and had such a good time, I knew I definitely would like to come back.”
While variance is an occupational hazard for every poker player, Fischer’s experiences over the last 15 years have given him perspective that lets him roll with whatever the game throws his way.
“As I’ve gotten older it’s hard to go to any live tournament, especially when I’m playing two or three events at the most, and say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to win!’ or ‘I’m going to make the final table!’ because you’ll end up being disappointed. So you try to temper your expectations a little bit.
“That’s the reason I come here to Monte Carlo and to the Bahamas. Even if I don’t do well with poker, at least I’m in a nice place and I can enjoy myself.”