From Sports Pros To Poker Fanatics

poker22In what way can we compare poker to football? Or rugby, or baseball, or any game which involves getting a pep talk from your team coach, running across a field until your body aches and hearing the excited cheers of your loyal fans? None of the above seems to share any obvious similarities with the game that involves betting on cards at a felt table. Nonetheless, it would seem the satisfaction from playing poker and games such as bandar q online is very comparable to that of physical sports. The growing number of athletes who are taking up poker, either recreationally or professionally, are clear evidence of that.

Rafael Nadal joined Team PokerStars in 2012 after damaging his knee and having to take a break from his career. Ever since, he’s been playing in the biggest online poker rooms and once won a €15,200 prize in a €10 investment freeze-out tournament. Danish Jan Vang Sørensen retired from football at the age of 30, also because of a knee injury, since earning himself two WSOP bracelets and over $2 million USD from the game.

Former Manchester United Striker Teddy Sheringham began playing poker toward the end of his career, finishing 14th place at the WSOP main event in 2002. FC Barcelona’s Neymar Jr. apparently plays poker everyday and even named his dog after the game. Poker pro Andre Akkari claims the football player likes poker more than he does. Joining Neymar Jr. as a Brand Ambassador to PokerStar is Cristiano Ronaldo, another footballer enthusiastic about the world’s favourite card game.

Then there’s three-time Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour, who used to play poker with his fellow Raiders and now competes in the WSOP, playing against high-stake pros such as Jason Koon and Ryan Riess. Explaining why he’s attracted to the game, he tells “I think it’s that combination of mental warfare and the competitiveness, and obviously being an ex-athlete, it fits right in in terms of what I enjoy.”

While more and more people enjoy playing Wheel of Fortune games online casually from the comfort of home, the list of sport stars who have developed a love for poker goes on. But why? Out of all side occupations and retirement hobbies – why does poker seem to attract the most famous names in football, rugby and baseball? Not only just because there are nice incentives like playing double bonus poker for increased cash prizes, it goes a little deeper than that for the athletes that don’t need anymore money.

Let’s start with considering the nature of poker. Increasingly, people are beginning to realise that poker is a game of skill, not luck. Of course, the cards you’re dealt play a major role in gaining that upper hand (literally), but a study published by Huffington Post indicates that it’s possible to roughly predict the outcome of poker tournaments based on the skillsets of players, just like we can roughly predict the outcomes of Major League Baseball games based on our knowledge of the teams. The study draws from a wealth of data collected at the 2010 World Series of Poker, during which “players assumed to be skilled earned 30 percent on their investment, compared to all other players, who lost 15 percent.”

Even if you’re not a major sports professional, the appeal of poker as a skill game should be obvious. With online platforms like offering excellent places to check out some virtual poker and cash out big payouts, celebrity sports professionals flocking to poker should come as no surprise, especially when those sites promote poker as a skill game. Of course, those sports professionals don’t always know where to go to play the best games of poker, so you may even have an advantage over them if you visit the site!

The suggestion that poker is a game of skill rather than luck has huge implications for its legality, where poker’s categorisation as a gambling activity has it criminalized by the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It also explains, however, why sports players are enjoying great success at the card table. Successful athletes must demonstrate a strategic and sharp mindset on the field, along with a knack for calculated risk-taking. Though not resulting in as much perspiration, poker requires as much concentration and competitive drive as any other major sport. In other words – poker offers the same adrenaline rush as football or rugby but without the same physical exertion.

Perhaps poker’s slow pace and quieter atmosphere is refreshing for athletes, who rarely face their opponents in such a personal manner on the field. Whereas in team sports they have to focus on the collective effort, poker allows players to focus on themselves and succeed as individuals – a significantly different type of challenge than that faced when playing in teams. It’s not at all surprising, therefore, that football stars not only enjoy poker, but are usually very good at it.

Obviously, not every ex-athlete-turned-poker-ambassador has earned his title as such from poker skill alone. Many ‘poker purists’ would argue football figures should keep to their own sport and leave the poker limelight for actual poker pros. Yet the fact of the matter is that poker needs these renowned faces to promote and legitimize the game. Of course, it’s not just poker that many well-known figures play. A lot of celebrities have also been known to play other casino games, such as slot machines for example. One of the most popular slot games is Construction Cash. Perhaps more people would be accustomed to a game like that, it’s believed to be much easier than poker. A recognisable and reputable sports icon will popularize, or at least normalize, what is still seen to many as a socially unsuitable pastime.

The relationship between poker and football is definitely strange but will no doubt continue to grow over the coming years – and who’s to say that’s a bad thing? There’s nothing like an ace kicker at the table!