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Does Poker Appeal to Sports Professionals?


Most of us equate a round of poker to a scene from a James Bond film. Occurring behind closed doors within a room filled with smoke or taking place beneath the glittering lights of a massive casino, some of these games offer jackpots worth well into the millions.


However, you might be surprised to learn that many well-known sports personalities enjoy these competitions just as much as seasoned poker veterans. Let’s first take a look at why such a card game appeals to sports professionals before moving on to highlight some players who take the game of poker quite seriously.


A Unique Synergy of Traits


As this article highlights, poker is a game defined by both skill and luck. Even the most seasoned of players will be dealt poor hands on occasion and therefore, everyone participating has the opportunity to walk away a potential winner. This is likely one of the main reasons why it has resonated with sports professionals. Furthermore, many personalities within the sporting community actually enjoy the thrills associated with risks and uncertain outcomes. Sometimes referred to as “alpha” personalities, they tend to thrive on the unknown and they will also react well under pressure. This is even more relevant when referring to top-tier competitions such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP).


All About the Opponent


Unlike many other table games such as blackjack or roulette, poker is played within a community. While such platforms are certainly fun in and of themselves, many do not offer the level of interpersonal competition that has come to define games such as Texas Hold’em and five-card stud. Once again, we need look no further than the psychology of sports personalities to understand why this trait is so attractive. The decidedly physical nature of poker requires the ability to read what others may be holding, to call their bluffs on occasion and to double down in the event that one believes he or she has a winning hand. In other words, no one ever truly knows what each round has in store.


A Growing Popularity


Thanks in part to the online gaming community, a surprising number of sports professionals now enjoy playing poker on a regular basis. A handful of examples include (but are by no means limited to):


Wayne Rooney
Shane Warne
Terrence Chan (mixed martial arts)
Alan Iverson (basketball)
Boris Becker
Cristiano Ronaldo
Tony Cascarino


Note that this is only a short list of the many personalities who have become enamoured with the world of poker. The same holds true in terms of celebrities such as Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Tilly. Indeed, the chances are high that many others hit the digital tables on a regular basis without publicising their passion. There might even come a time when you are unknowing facing off with your favourite player while attending a virtual poker tournament. Anything is possible in this day and age!


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