Poker is one of the most popular card games going, and the best part about it is that you compete against others. Sure, you need a certain amount of luck to succeed, but you also need to outwit your opponents and coerce them into betting money against you.
You need to be calm, collected, tactical, and optimistic, while also being unpredictable in the eyes of your foes and able to go big when needed. So, with that in mind, here are some of the top sporting stars who would make great poker players, based on their showings in their respective sports.
Jose Mourinho, football manager
What a machine the Manchester United manager would be at the poker table. Throughout his managerial career, he’s used press conferences to influence the opposition’s manager, with his antics coined as the ‘Mourinho Mind Tricks’.
It’s clear that he’s a tactical genius both with his players on the pitch as well as his actions off of it, but what would make him a truly lethal poker player would be his ability to accept a loss as part of a bigger game.
By way of example, it was picked up that, particularly when he was the Real Madrid manager, Mourinho would instruct his players that were going to be suspended after another booking to pick up another yellow card to avoid them being suspended for the final, and just miss the second-leg of an earlier tie.
The Portuguese wizard is always playing the long game, with every move made having a purpose further down the line. Some of the hardest poker players to face are those willing to take losses.
Roger Federer, tennis player
One of the greatest tennis players of all time, Roger Federer is still going strong on the court. After suffering from knee issues and missing out in a few Grand Slam finals, it looked to be all over for the Swiss.
But, lo and behold, Federer bounced back in 2017 by winning his fifth Australian Open and eighth Wimbledon. He can come back from near-certain defeat stronger than ever, which would be a scary trait in a poker player.
To add to that, Federer is simply impossible to read and is unshakable mentally, which was best described by one of his former opponents, David Goffin: "What is very frightening is his attitude. When he was down, I thought he's going to show something with his face, he's going to have a shake in his lips. Nothing. Poker face.”
The fact is that he can’t be shaken; Federer will play any contest with complete focus to its completion. In poker terms, that means that he won’t miss a beat, and even if he is hit by adversity, he has the right mindset to build his way back in.
Pekka Rinne, ice hockey goalie
Goaltender for the Nashville Predators in the NHL, Pekka Rinne is the most composed, level-headed, and ever-optimistic players in one of the hardest positions in all sports. As an ice hockey goalie, Rinne must endure 90 mph shots, gigantic skaters clattering into him, and the need to save well over 90 percent of the shots sent his way in each game just to be worthy of playing.
What makes Rinne different from the other ice hockey goalies is his focus. He won’t celebrate until the end of a game, if then, and is in the exact right position for any potential shot coming in the vast majority of the time, knowing which players will shoot from where. His immense focus and lack of emotion while in play would make him a deadly and near-unreadable poker opponent.
Natalie Sciver, cricketer
In the women’s cricket World Cup final, Anya Shrubsole received the wealth of the praise thanks to the six wickets she took on the attack to effectively win the game. England’s innings wasn’t great, but with them winning by just nine runs, every run counted.
Of the batswomen, one stood out the most as she put in a great shift to hold back the onslaught laid on by India’s bowlers. Natalie Sciver was steely eyed and composed, bringing in 51 runs for the flailing Three Lions.
Sciver showed her ability to play the long game in the most high-pressured innings of cricket despite team-mates crumbling around her, and she never even batted an eye. Earlier in the tournament, she was even able to pop some surprise skill moves with what has since been known as the ‘Natmeg’.
So, she can be cool and collected and pull out some surprises when needed. Thus, Sciver would be able to stay in control of her poker play and go big when the opportunity presents itself.
Aaron Rodgers, American football quarterback
American football is all about tactics, and choosing the right play to overcome the set up of your opponent in each down. The quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, is well known to be one of the best in the NFL, being able to unleash huge passes to send his wide receivers into the end zone.
His play-by-play tactical knowledge would naturally give him an edge in the hand-by-hand style of poker, but it’s his huge clutch plays that would put him over the top; and that is why the Packers are so well priced at 7/1 in the Super Bowl betting markets.
Over the span of 13 months between 2015 and 2016, Rodgers fired in three Haily Marys to score game winning touchdowns from between 60 and 67 yards back of the end zone
These gigantic clutch plays, going all-in at the death, has proven to be a forte of Rodgers and would make for some huge rounds of poker.
Tyson Fury, retired boxer
Tyson Fury, currently retired and seeking reinstatement, was well known for being loud-mouthed and opinionated outside of the ring, with his stunts before fights being used to either prove some point or mess with his opponent’s head.
This was epitomised by the time he dressed up as Batman and battled the Joker at a press conference before his fight with Wladimir Klitschko. He’s unpredictable and quite fearsome when he gets going, but that is merely a mask for the other side of his character.
The gigantic Englishman is actually a masterful tactician. When he fought Wladimir Klitschko, everyone thought that the Ukrainian’s skill, clinical jab, and ability to control the ring would beat the brawler, but Fury came in with a plan of his own.
Ditching his usual brawler techniques, Fury went on the back foot and used his extra reach to keep Klitschko at bay before punishing him when the opportunity presented itself. If Fury were to play poker with those defensive strategies behind his brash bravado, he could fool a lot of poker players on his way to victory.
Sergio Ramos, footballer
The Spanish right-back turned centre-back has, for a very long time, been among the best defenders in the football world. He’s clear-thinking when an attacker is running at him, decisive in his tackling, and composed enough to collect the ball and keep it in possession. He’s also a fierce competitor, able to shrug off the biggest forwards or climb above towering defenders to head the ball.
Ramos’ defensive game is superb, and the same traits that make him a great defender on the football pitch would also make him a hard to beat poker player, who’s always focussed and never willing to give away any more than he has to.
However, Ramos does have a dark side to his play, often going too far on the big occasions, losing his cool, and getting sent off – already received five red cards against Barcelona alone. So that side of him may force him to try to out-duel certain poker opponent who has had one up on him, causing silly mistakes to be made. But, if the red mist can be kept in check, Ramos would make for a strong and composed poker player.
These sports stars excel in their field, and could quite possibly transfer their elite skills and traits to the game of poker, and pull away with winnings from the card table.