While a game like poker might not be what comes to mind when one thinks of athletic performances, the fact of the matter is that the two pastimes contain quite a few parallels. Both athletes and poker players have to be deeply in tune with their bodies when they perform.
Just as an athlete has to train themselves to compete at a high level for hours on end, poker players have to keep themselves cool and collected, trying to prevent themselves from any involuntary movements or reactions that might give away nervousness or a hint at what they’re thinking, whether it’s excessive perspiration or unconscious tics.
Similarly, the burning desire to win and love for competition creates a natural comparison between poker and more traditional sports, and as such, it’s no surprise that many top athletes love to gamble in their spare time: it just comes with the territory when you have plenty of money to spare and spend much of your career rolling the proverbial dice with carefully calculated athletic maneuvers.
Here’s a look at some of the most famous crossovers between athletes and the world of poker, whether it’s players who found successful second acts at the table or those who went all in too early.
While Michael Jordan made himself a household name around the world because of his skill on the basketball court, his combination of hard work, his unending drive to be the best and his natural mental and athletic abilities mean that he probably would’ve made a name for himself as one of the best in any other career field he ended up choosing.
In fact, ‘His Airness’ loved playing poker so much that it even came as a detriment to his playing career at times. When ESPN aired “The Last Dance,” a ten episode documentary following the course of Jordan’s career, many fans were shocked to hear about how his poker habit cost the Chicago Bulls wins at times.
During the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks, Jordan would make the two-hour trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey between basketball games in order to get his fix at the poker table, staying up competing long into the night and, eventually, affecting his performance on the court the following nights.
To hear Jordan explain it, playing poker was his way of letting off steam from the pressure of competing as a basketball player… and it’s only an athlete like him who would try to recuperate from stress with even more competition.
Jordan’s gambling adventures and the significant debt that followed are among the most well-known stories of athletes engaging in poker. However, his experiences pale in comparison to the success achieved by other sports figures, notably NBA Hall of Famer Paul Pierce. Pierce, embracing his passion for poker towards the end of his basketball career, made notable appearances in professional poker tournaments.
His participation reached a peak when he competed in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2015. This foray into the poker world not only showcased his skill but also caught the attention of sports betting sites. As a result, Pierce quickly became a popular underdog pick among bettors on these sites, reflecting the seamless integration of athletes into the realm of competitive poker and sports betting.
For most people, part of the draw of playing poker comes from the opportunity to win big with some careful choices. For seven-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady, on the other hand, it’s all about winning.
After the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2017, stories started to circulate about a time when various players were on board the team plane on the way back from a road game. Unable to sleep and wanting to pass the time, an impromptu card game broke out. Eventually, Brady asked his teammates to deal him in.
At first, nothing could go right for the championship winning quarterback, and he began to get visibly angry, swearing at teammates as hand after hand came up empty. The tables turned eventually, though, and Brady made his way back into the game, quickly amassing a big pile of chips for himself and suddenly acting as if everything were right as rain.
His teammates assumed that he’d been angry about losing money, but when the game finally ended, he got up without taking his earnings: Brady simply wanted to win the game, he didn’t care in the slightest about making any money off of it. Much like Michael Jordan, his singular focus on winning is what helped make him a superstar… and top poker players today should watch out if Brady ever decides to try his hand at a new career.
Funnily enough, one of Brady’s teammates on those Patriots teams ended up with a successful second act at the poker table, as three-time Super Bowl winning defensive lineman Richard Seymour had racked up more than $600,000 in poker winnings as of 2021. For more news and updates on poker, keep reading GutshotMagazine.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Telegram.
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