Recent years have seen a global boom in the popularity of poker both with players taking part at leading online poker operators and also in live tournaments. In fact so great has its profile become that there have even been calls from some quarters for it to be re-classified as a sport. It certainly does include many features of a sport and this could be why so many professional sports people are also drawn to it.
They come from a wide range of fields including the NBA as well as the NFL. For American football players it seems to offer a relaxing, but still competitive, piece of downtime away from the pressures, and physical demands, of the challenging world of gridiron.
One of the most successful ex-NFL players in the poker arena to date has been Calais Campbell. The ex-defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals enjoyed his first taste of success back in 2013 when he came 3rd in an event at the Venetian Casino picking up a $2,600 prize in the process. Two years later he was also in the prize money at an event held at the same venue. Last year he was also one of the record number of entrants at the 2016 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas where he took part in event number 4, the $1,000 Top-Up Turbo No Limit Hold’em. While he didn’t do fantastically well he did enjoy the notable success of busting the 2013 Main Event champion Ryan Reiss.
Another NFL player who has done well around the poker table is Richard Seymour. The New England Patriots player is no stranger to the big event, having taken part in no less than three Super Bowls over his career. His greatest single success to date came at the 2016 World Poker Tour Bay 101 event when he came 44th picking up $21,580 in prize money. He was also a major presence at last year’s WSOP where he made it through to day 2 of the $10,000 Buy-In No Limit Hold’em event. Then, when his day was done, he even joined the rest of the commentary team so he may even have a bright future on the other side of the camera.
The third player with a penchant for poker is the ex-Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings player Antoine Winfield. He too was at the 2016 WSOP but didn’t get very far in the Main Event, failing to reach day 2. He enjoyed much more success in event no. 56, a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em game which netted him a $2,391 prize. Between hands he was also seen to be playing online chess with fellow NFL player Adrian Peterson – so maybe he’s planning to become a chess master too.
As to why sports people in general are attracted to poker as a game, the sports psychologist Jeni Heinemann has observed that “it’s essential for their emotional wellbeing that they find an outlet for their drive and love of performance”.
So it may not be too long before we see any one of these players topping off a very successful football career with an equally impressive rise to the very top of poker too.