10 famous athletes who are also poker stars

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Poker may be one of the most popular card games to ever played, but there’s a reason it’s enjoyed by millions of people all over the world in different formats. It’s fun and sociable, it can be played in the privacy of your home, amidst the excitement of a casino or online for virtual money instead. According to Topline Findings published by Poker Players Research, about 7million people play poker for real money at least once a month.

Some people make a living as professional pokers players, and there’s a certain glamour associated to being that good at the game. Good players bring their A-game when it comes to controlling their emotions, getting others to believe their bluff and reading other player’s hands.

But poker professionals aren’t always just good at poker. The notoriety of the game attracts individuals from all walks of life – and athletes are no exception. You might ask why many sports stars flock to the poker table after their high-impact nine to five?  Poker doesn’t take much of a physical toll, but it’s still fiercely competitive and mentally challenging. In fact, it puts such little strain on their bodies that for athletes, it is one of the few forms of professional competition that they can take part in during their athletic careers.

Many athletes prefer cash-game poker, which is a private game and can’t be identified using tracking software. On the other hand, tournament results can be tracked, and we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 famous athletes who aren’t just pro’s at scoring goals, they’ve dedicated a lot of time to learning the ins and outs of poker and the many terms within the game.

Paul Pierce

He’s not just another NBA legend. Pierce may have moved on from the glory of being NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 2008, or achieving status as one of only three players to have scored more than 20,000 career points with the Boston Celtics, but he’s still playing for high stakes even after hanging up his sneakers.

Pierce is well-known for the Pot-Limit Omaha games he plays in Vegas, and in 2014 he made a semi-deep run in the Main Event, in a bid to win $10 million. He didn’t win, but he did make it all the way to Day 3.

Gerard Pique

Pique is widely considered to be one of the best defenders in the world, and still plays in his prime as centre-back for Barcelona. His knack for winning doesn’t just stop at football though; he was one of the leaders in the 44th Annual WSOP Main Event and won $56k when he finished third in a game at the EPT Barcelona in 2011.

Tony Cascarino

He went from professional footballer winning two World Cups, to semi-professional poker player. Cascarino has gone from strength-to-strength on the felt since winning the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour Grand Final. Although he was a short stack, he captured the title when he hit runner runner hearts holding ace-two of hearts on a T-J-8 flop vs the T-9 hearts that his opponent had.

Richard Seymour

It seems winning three Superbowl rings wasn’t enough for Seymour during his 12-year NFL stint with the New England Patriots. Since retiring, he’s a regular fixture at most of the high roller poker events all over the world.

In July 2019, he had his best run yet at the WSOP Main Event. He cashed in at 131st place for $59,295, finishing in the 100-162 range.

Fatima Moreira de Melo

Former Olympic Dutch field hockey player, Fatima Moreira De Melo is actually one of the most successful former athletes turned poker players. She has over $550,000 in live tournament earnings! Up until very recently, she was also signed as the Team Pro of the biggest online poker site in the world, PokerStars.

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima

Another PokerStars favourite, Ronaldo signed up to be one of its sports stars after creating a stir in the poker world. He’s easily one of the greatest footballers of all time, with two world cup victories for Brazil part of his many trophies.

After football, Ronaldo’s friendship with Brazilian poker professional Andre Akkari helped him form an interest in the game. He then went on to surprise everyone with a deep run in the 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $10,00 buy-in Main Event, finishing in 26th place for a nice payout of $42,180.

These are just some of the stars that have made it in poker. There are many more athletes who play the game exceptionally well – take Michael Phelps and Neymar Jr. for example. You can read more about their poker careers here.

Although poker is a mental game, it is a game of skills, much like sports. Next time you’re spectating a tournament, keep your eyes peeled and you may just spot one of these famous faces sitting at the table.

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