Off the Felt with Eric “basebaldy” Baldwin



Off the Felt is interviewing your favorite people in the poker industry to find out more about their lives — you’ve got it — off the felt. We recently sat down with Eric Baldwin to talk a little poker, the art to carving out a creepy mustache, and assembling the dream team of poker players in softball.

How did you start playing poker?

I started playing poker, kind of a boring story that a lot of guys my age have. Saw the movie Rounders and then got interested in it through that. I started playing small home games in high school.

What is next on your poker schedule?

Epic Poker League Main Event at the Palms. I’ve got to miss the Legends of Poker because of my ten-year high school reunion, which is kind of scary but will be kind of fun. Then I’m spending some time with family and going to the Lake of the Ozarks, which is apparently some big party lake for Labor Day weekend.

What is your favorite tournament stop?

Honestly, my favorite tournament stop was always Aruba, and I’ve always said that long before I was affiliated with Ultimate Bet. The atmosphere on the island to me it just puts the Bahamas and the Atlantis to shame. I think the climate is better, the beach is better, the service is better, you also don’t feel like you are trapped on adult Disneyland like on the Atlantis campus.

In Aruba you can just walk across the street and there are independent businesses competing with each other instead of them knowing that they have you there on their little island and taking advantage of that. It’s not a current stop anymore, but the only reason I say that is because I think someone should try and bring a tournament there because that was far and away my favorite tournament destination.

Where did the nickname “basebaldy” come from?

Well, my last name is Baldwin and growing up playing baseball was my life. I thought until I was probably 20 that I was going to be a professional baseball player. So when AIM came along I needed to make a screen name and I thought it was pretty creative. I don’t know, I was like 12, so I made that my screen name and my emails, and it just kind of stuck. No one really calls me that outside the poker world. My teammates always had different nicknames for me. My hometown friends never call me that. It is only just people who are in poker, based on the online name.

What’s the best thing about your hometown, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin?

Can I refer to my fiancée on this one? I’m going to go with Crystal Creek Dairy which is a cheesehouse/restaurant where you would be hard-pressed to spend more than $3.50 a person and it’s like the best food ever. That, and I’ve got to plug one other thing, my favorite bar in the whole world, Morry’s Bar. It’s kind of like Cheers for people from my hometown.

We’ve seen some pictures of you with a pretty nasty mustache. What’s that all about?

That started after college, my core group of college buddies and I went on an annual fishing trip in southern Ontario, Canada. You’re in the middle of nowhere, staying in a cabin, you’re on vacation, so no one shaves. You aren’t trying to impress anyone so no one shaves for the whole time we are there.

So one year, kind of drunk off some Canadian beers around the campfire, we got the idea that when we go home we should carve out creepy mustaches and go to all our old college bars and scare the women and laugh at people’s reactions. We worked up the nerve to do it one year and it became an annual tradition. I wanted to take it further and see people’s reactions when I brought that nasty thing to a tournament or two.

What is your favorite thing to do away from the table?

Attend Arizona Diamondbacks games. Since the end of the World Series of Poker, I’ve actually been to 17 Diamondbacks games in five different cities. I think I’ve kind of got a problem. I love it.

Why the Diamondbacks?

I grew up a Cubs fan and my favorite player is a guy named Mark Grace, and he’s now an announcer for the Diamondbacks. Coupled with the fact that when I moved out here I wanted a West Coast team because it’s some one you can watch at night because the Cubs games start too early for me. Along with the fact that one of my college teammates was with the Cubs and was one level shy of the Majors and then they released him and they just aren’t really good, but that was the last straw so I made the switch. I switched over about two-and-a-half years ago when they were the worst team in baseball, so nobody can accuse me of being a bandwagon fan.

Can you name the top three home run leaders in the MLB right now? I’ll give you a hint they are all in the American League.

Alright I’m going go with Jose Bautista, I’m going to go with Curtis Granderson, whom I played against in college once, and I’m going to go with the third one — uhhhh, I’ve got to guess on this one I’m going to go with Miguel Cabrera.

Not too shabby. Baldwin got the first two correct, but failed on the third. Mark Teixeira is the correct answer.

What’s more impressive, hitting for the cycle or throwing a no-hitter?

I would say throwing a no-hitter, because if you hit for the cycle, that means you had a single, double, triple, and a homer. There have been players who hit three home runs and a single in one game, which I would argue is more impressive than a cycle. I think a cycle is more of a cute novelty item, whereas a no-hitter is straight performance and you just dominate.

If you could pick any pitcher to face (dead or alive) who would you want go against?

That’s tough because all my favorite pitchers were dominant so it would be tough to hit against. I would pick some random bum. I would say Bob Gibson. I think he holds the record for the lowest ERA in a single season, and everyone said that he was mean. If you looked at him the wrong way he would just throw at you and knock you down and laugh at you. I never got to see him play but I’ve heard all types of folklore about him, I think he’d be fun to face.

If you had to put together a baseball team with professional poker players who would be your starting line up?

I’ve played slow pitch softball with several poker players and I can tell you that I would not have Gavin Smith on the team. He plays catcher on our softball team and it’s not very impressive [laughs]. I would go with Ryan Welch at pitcher. He was actually a pitcher in college and was a good friend of mine. I would go with Jeff Madsen in the outfield because he runs pretty well and can catch the ball and is there for some comedic value. I’d go with Justin Young at first base because he’s left-handed and that’s probably the only place he can play.

Gavin Griffin at catcher because I believe he caught collegiately for a while. Scott Clements I’d throw in there somewhere because he’s very athletic and I know he at least played basketball and I think he played baseball, and he has the intimidation factor. Jim Shipley, he plays a little bit of poker and used to play collegiately, so he’d be in there.

I’d throw my agent in there, Matt Palmer, he’s a former Wisconsin high school quarterback legend. "TitanTom" Braband would be in the lineup. We actually played at rival schools for a while. You can also throw in Jared Hamby because I know he was good at basketball and he’d be a perfect trash talker. Also, Shannon Shorr as a left-handed pitching specialist. Our softball team was very soft, everyone was just out there having fun and drinking beer and laughing at how bad we were.

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