From the Turf to the Table

Rafael NadalHow some athletes are getting their competitive fix off the field

Considering that professional athletes have to stay as healthy as possible outside of training, it can be difficult for them to find fun activities that are both safe, and thrilling. Given their limitations, it’s not surprising that many are attracted to playing poker. The game is exciting, requires little physical demands, and provides them with an exciting outlet for their competitive spirit.

Thanks to some deep pockets, these athletes are laying their cards, and their wallets, out on the table.

Rafael Nadal

Even with his recent win of over €50,000 at the PokerStars European Poker Tour in Prague, Nadal still describes himself as a beginner. In a USA Today article covering his triumph during the tour in Prague, Nadal stated, “I had fun. I had a great experience here playing with friends, playing for a good cause, for charity.” Modesty aside, it’s seems Nadal isn’t far from being able to add “Professional Poker Player” under “US Open Winner” and “Olympic gold medalist” on his resume.

Sergio Garcia

Lately this PGA Tour champion has been hitting the felt more than the fairway. In January he participated in his third PCA Tournament. During an interview at the tour, he was quoted saying, “I am competitive, and I like to be as competitive as possible in anything I do. This is obviously no different and it’s fun.” Garcia finished with a personal best of 51st overall, winning a $35,000 pot.

Erica Schoenberg

Schoenberg took her poker hobby to the next level after a successful career as a professional beach volleyball player. It’s rumored that the blonde bombshell received her expert training from Andy Bloch, a former member of the famous MIT blackjack team. Schoenberg’s best finish to date was her $105K win in 2007 at the No Limit Hold’em Mandalay Bay Poker Championship.

Michael Phelps

Since retiring from swimming, Michael Phelps has been making appearances around the celebrity poker circuit, participating in The World Series of Poker tournament, and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament in 2013. However, Phelps may want to stick to the kiddie pool when it comes to gambling. In July of 2013, Betfair reported that thus far, the olympian’s earnings had been less than stellar. The article stated that Phelps’ poker career, “has yet to reach the dizzy heights of his sporting career. [At the time of writing], Phelps only has two cashes to his name, one for $5,213 and the other for $367.”

Allan Cooke

Professional BMX rider Allan Cooke uses his enjoyment of poker for the greater good. Back in 2000, Cooke and his brother Aaron, founded the Road 2 Recovery Foundation (ARF), a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to motocross and supercross riders that sustain career-ending injuries. Earlier this year, the two brothers hosted a No Limits Texas Hold’em tournament in Las Vegas to raise money and awareness for the organization. Fellow riders, as well as players and non-players alike attended the event, including professional poker players Maria Ho and Tiffany Michelle.

For many athletes, poker provides a win-win between them and their agents. The athletes have a fun hobby with friendly competition, and their management team can rest easy knowing their client is participating in an activity that doesn’t risk their physical health…

Now if only their financial planners had it so easy.

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