There is little doubt in anyone's mind that poker is the world’s most established card game. It is not only an option favored by many who engage professionally in skill-based gambling but ranks as a popular social pastime that many like to play for fun only.
While WSOP tournaments are still very much an in thing, they do not garner as many eyeballs as they did in the mid-2000s. That said, online activity is currently at a five-year high, with thousands of sports and poker bookmakers available on the World Wide Web. So, while this game may not be at its peak, it is far from the depths of obscurity, still enjoying its moment in the sun following its 2000s boom period.
Active and retired sporting legends love poker because, unlike casino-style entertainment, it is not entirely luck-based. Skill plays a massive factor in in-game results, as evident by the same group of individuals making it to WSOP main events each year. Below, we analyze the poker careers of three athletes that have made their marks in different sports. These are Hall of Famers of their respective sports that get a kick of the high-stakes action and the adrenaline-inducing experience that only poker can offer.
Paul Pierce is a Boston Celtics icon who helped lead one of the NBA’s most recognizable franchises to a title in 2008, with the help of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. He earned the Finals MVP accolade that year and is only one of three Celtics players to net over 20,000 career points. He averaged 19.7 points per game throughout his fifteen seasons in the NBA.
When it comes to poker, Pierce’s game of choice is Pot-Limit Omaha. His favorite gambling destination is Vegas, where he has been sighted at the city’s casinos multiple times, participating in Pot-Limit cash games. In 2013, he took part in the World Series of Poker’s Pot-Limit Omaha tournament. After doing well for much of the first day, he got eliminated the following one by professional Nadar Kakhmazov. Pierce is still very much an active player. In 2021, ESPN ended his broadcasting contract due to comments he made at a waitress during a live-streamed poker game.
Gerard Piqué is a center-back that most football fans consider one of the best defenders of his generation. He began his career in Manchester United, where after getting little playing time, he moved to Real Zaragoza. He settled in Barcelona in 2008, where he still plays. Piqué was an essential cog in the Spain squad that won the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euro.
Piqué’s poker exploits have gotten documented throughout the world. Many online sites put his total cash earnings in the neighborhood of $670,000. He mainly plays No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em at European gambling establishments but has also participated in televised tournaments. In 2019, Piqué took second place in the EPT Barcelona Single-Day High-Roller Event, winning a prize of $400,000.
In the late-1980s and early-1990s, Boris Becker ruled the tennis scene, appearing in seven Wimbledon finals and claiming six Grand Slam trophies. In recent years, he has made headlines due to his various business ventures, coaching ATP’s number one player, Novak Djokovic, and as an avid poker player.
Becker has a long poker history. In the late-2000s, he appeared as a member of the PokerStars celebrity team and dabbled in amateur and pro tournaments throughout Europe and Las Vegas. His listed career earnings stand at $111,000, and his 49th place finish at the 2013 EPT Main Event in Berlin remains his tournament career-high moment. Becker is now a PartyPoker ambassador.