It’s well known that top athletes around the world love to play Poker. Some take up the game after finishing their careers, and others find the time in their busy schedule to dedicate themselves to playing casually, or professionally in tournaments.
But why do so many sportsmen and women take up this game? And why does it seem they flock to the tables after their careers are finished?
It isn’t physical
Successful athletes maintain their bodies in peak physical condition, and it can be grueling work. Table sports don’t take much of a physical toll. Instead, it requires a strong mental game, and it allows athletes to compete while giving their bodies a time out. Unfortunately, many athletes are forced to retire early due to injuries sustained during training and competitions, which could be the reason why you see so many at the poker tables!
They can still play competitively, without risking further injuries to themselves, and this low level of physical requirement allows athletes to play Poker during their careers without causing any conflict.
Many top sports personalities are incredibly competitive, and it’s what gives them an edge in matches. And it may come as no surprise that those with competing personalities can’t just turn it off. Poker is an outlet for them to play competitively. The tournaments are ranked and provide an opportunity for ultra-competitive players to test their mettle against other players.
Sports psychologist Jeni Heinemann even goes so far as so that athletes favor taking up a competitive secondary career or hobby as it’s “essential for their emotional welling” due to the stress of high-level competitions.
It’s A Game of Skill and Luck
No matter how good you are at Poker, you may still be beaten by blind luck, and that appeals to many fans of the game. It suggests there’s always a chance that even if you’re the underdog, that everything’s stacked against you, there’s a chance you’ll win. For competitive players, tournaments put everyone on equal footing where anyone can beat anyone.
It’s Not Just for Men
Like it or not, competitive sports divide men and women, there are some exceptions such as mixed doubles tennis games, but those are in the minority. Poker tears down that divide and allows both men and women to compete against each other.
Fatima Moreira de Melo helped Holland win Gold in the 2008 Olympics, and since retiring she’s been playing Poker and amassed over $420,000 in live tournament winnings. They are proving that anyone can take part in it and the sport can be inclusive for everyone, no matter their sex or physical ability.
The Psychological Game
Sizing up your opponents, identifying the different playing styles, accepting challenges and calling bluffs are all part of the game. Keeping cool under pressure is also vital, and many athletes liken the psychological side of Poker to playing competitive sports. You need a cool head, and the ability to read your opponent(s) to come out on top. You can try it yourself on poker on sites such as 888poker.com where you can find what type of poker player you are.
The number of legendary sports stars who not only took up Poker but found success in tournaments is pretty long and extensive. Here are some of the most notable ones:
The Brazillian Footballer Ronaldo has claimed footballer of the year three times, two World Cups, and two European Footballer of the year awards. He’s known as one of the greatest football players of all time and has scored over 200 goals during his career.
After he retired from football, he learned how to play Poker from his new friend Andre Akkari, a poker pro.
PokerStars was quick to sign up Ronaldo as an Ambassador, and he managed to show off his skills by finishing 26th in the 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, landing a $42,180 payout.
The legendary German tennis star Boris Becker had a remarkable career which started when he turned pro at the young age of 17. He claimed the Wimbledon title before his 18th birthday and went on to win six Grand Slam trophies, including winnings totaling over $25 million.
After retiring from tennis, Boris took up Poker and his most notable win was during the Diamond World Poker Championship in 2009 where he finished in 40th place and took home over $40,000.
Gerard may not be as well-known as Ronaldo, but he’s claimed one World Cup title playing for Spain and several Champions League titles. Plus, he’s married to Shakira.
He’s also an avid Poker player and takes part in the EPT Barcelona poker series. His biggest win so far happened in 2017 when he finished fifth and won $152,467.