There is no shortage of celebrities who enjoy playing poker, and often for high stakes. The obvious reason that some people would attribute to this is that, well, they’re celebrities and they have a certain amount of disposable income. In other cases, it might be because there is a lucrative endorsement out there from a poker company, and who would turn that down? Sports stars including Cristiano Ronaldo have taken that plunge in recent years, and have helped to give an added touch of glamor to both online and land-based casino play.
The key question in all of this is: why poker? No matter how much money you have in the bank, there are always going to be more than enough ways to spend it. So it’s not a simple case of looking for something to do with your huge pile of excess cash. There has to be something in particular about the game of poker that appeals to sports stars at the top of their game – or those who have recently retired and are looking for another way to use their time. Below, we’re going to look at a few of the reasons poker appeals to sporting legends.
It’s a test of nerve
Most games in a casino happen to you, one way or another. In Baccarat, your involvement in the game ends the moment you place a bet. In Roulette, you watch someone else drop a ball and you hope things go your way. Even in Blackjack, your efforts are limited to a brief window of betting, sticking, twisting and splitting. In Poker, you are involved. Your decisions can actively influence those of your fellow players. If you’re good enough at Poker, you can make a bad hand seem good enough to make other players fold. All of this takes a lot of nerve. The kind of nerve that means you can take a penalty in a packed stadium; that makes people run to non gamstop casinos to back you to score in a World Cup final.
People underestimate you
If you’re Neymar Jr, you’re used to being a marked man on the pitch. Quite literally; teams will assign defenders to keep you in check, even if it leaves them short elsewhere. When you’re the best in the world at your chosen sport, people make it their business to make your job harder.
The late, great cricketer Shane Warne took up poker in a serious way after he retired from the game where he made his name. When asked what he liked about playing poker, he was clear on one thing: people assumed he was stupid, and lacked the strategic ability to play poker well. He made money from being underestimated – for possibly the first time in decades, people thought he wouldn’t be very good. He was.
They’re comfortable with ups and downs
It’s extremely rare that a player, or a team, is so good at their chosen sport that they never face adversity. The biggest games have swings of momentum that can go back and forth several times in one contest. You can go from being comfortably ahead to fighting for survival in a matter of a few minutes. A sports professional needs to be able to handle these shifts and not lose heart and confidence when they’re down. This is something they can bring to the poker table. They may not have played in the finals of the World Series of Poker, but they have a transferable skill that helps them go toe to toe with people who have. For a lot of sports stars, poker is an outlet for that competitive spirit.
Being a great sports professional does not mean that you’ll automatically be an ace when it comes to the poker table. In fact, the knowledge that they are battling against the odds is an attraction for many of the stars who do make the move to playing at a high level. But when it comes to winning at poker there is definitely something to be said for some of the qualities that have been useful in winning Super Bowls and World Cups.