On the Button: Joe Sebok

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Pro Joe Sebok, known as the Cub because he’s the stepson of Barry “Bear” Greenstein, and
called Seventhbok because of his many World Poker Tour TV bubble finishes, recently chatted with Ante Up’s Chris Cosenza at a charity event. He discusses his relationship with UB, his inability to win a big tournament and why people have preconceived notions about his personality.

How important are charity events to you? I think charity should be a huge part of everyone’s lives, especially for me, coming from where I’m coming from with my dad (Barry Greenstein) kinda setting the pace with that stuff. I just consider it incumbent upon us to get involved and even a privilege. It’s always a funny situation whenever I come to these events because everyone’s thanking me and I’m just like, “Man, I’m so lucky to be able to do these kinds of things and to be able to help people.” Especially playing poker and having access to money and to not give back is selfish in my opinion.

You’ve been with UB.net for about a year now. How do you think things are going and how did they sign you? Obviously it’s been rocky. Anything with UB is always a little difficult because they’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past. They came to me and I sat down with (COO) Paul Leggett, who’s kinda running the show, and just said, “Hey man, I’m happy to get involved, but I just want to change things. I want to get some of this information out and move forward on the right foot and sort of have a nice break from everything that’s going on. … The last year has been all about that, trying to get as much information out as is humanly possible. … Obviously in a perfect world I would like to just release everything. These people who basically performed this crime in the (poker) community, I think we all want to see in jail. Paul has said that to me repeatedly. But it’s, of course, not as easy as we’d like it to be. But we’ve gotten out a lot of information and there’s still a few things that I’m working on that I would like to finish up. … My goal is to get this mess clean so finally we can do some exciting things, and when people hear the letters UB they don’t just think scandal, terrible, cheating, awful. You know, they start thinking (about) some interesting and exciting things, because I have a lot of ideas to bring to help build the company up. But again, we have to get through sort of the garbage to get to that point.

OK, back to real poker. You’ve played professionally for a few years now. What’s it going to take for you to get over the hump and get that first really important big win? (laughs) What it’s really going to take is me getting back into poker. Basically I took this turn into PokerRoad, and now UB, and there’s so many good business things that I’ve gotten involved in, and they’ve all been great. And I would not for half-a-second complain. I mean, I’m probably the luckiest person in poker to be able to do all of these different things. But it’s going to detract from your game; it’s the nature of the beast. So probably what’s going to happen is, we’ll get things settled … and then maybe I’ll feel satiated on those levels, and then I’ll say. “OK now it’s time to get back into poker.” It’s frustrating. It seems like I’m always there; you know I just cashed in the event at the Bike, so I never feel like, “Man, I suck.” I just can’t do anything. I’m not really one of those guys who goes in and I don’t ever do anything; it’s really just correlated to how much time I’m able to put into it. If I’m able to put in the hours it seems like I’m able to get the results.

What was the best poker advice Barry ever gave you? The best advice he ever gave me I didn’t follow, and that was don’t play poker. (laughs) I decided to ignore it and got into the game. … Some of the biggest things in poker have nothing to do with, you know, “Don’t play ace-queen in this spot.” So much of it is ego. So much of it is having enough of an ego to get out there and go to war and have faith in yourself in battle, but having such a small ego that you can pull back. … It’s really sort of a weird situation; you have to have a lot of ego and at the same time none. So probably those lessons were the best ones he taught me. Just learning some humility. And the nice thing about our game is it’s gonna humble you whether you like it to or not.

Is there a poker strategy point you two differ on? Barry’s become so famous now for the (continuation) bet. I mean, he’s like Mr. C-bet. You even see on a lot of the TV shows they’re like, “We know Barry’s betting right here!” So we’ve had a lot of discussions in the last year-and-a-half or so about the pros and cons of doing that all of the time. What you gain vs. what you lose. If everyone knows you’re going to do that it’s a bad thing. … but at the same time you still put them in a box where they have to make a play on you. So, long story short, we’ve definitely been talking a lot about c-betting.

What is one thing that would surprise our readers about you? Maybe just that I didn’t grow up rich. (laughs) People seem to really think that I grew up with Bear and we had millions of dollars and I got a Mercedes-Benz on my 16th birthday and all this kind of stuff, and none of it’s true. It’s not even remotely true. … I met so many people in the first couple of years that were like, “Wow, you’re like a really cool guy. I thought you were going to be an asshole!” (laughs) I was like, “What? Why?” So I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it’s because they thought I was this rich kid growing up, which I wasn’t. So I deal with that a lot. It’s pretty funny.