The Real MVPs: Why You Might Find Sports Stars At The Poker Tables

Posted on December 13, 2016 - Last Updated on March 1, 2019

[toc]PartyPoker have recently announced Boris Becker, former tennis world number one and youngest-ever Wimbledon champion, as their latest brand ambassador.

Becker joins a host of famous poker players at the site, having previously been sponsored by online poker giant PokerStars. His is far from an unusual case.

Why do sports stars play poker?

Many famous sports stars, retired or active, are often found enjoying poker games, sometimes in the highest-stakes tournaments (after all, they can afford them!) around the world.

Poker has always had a place for mainstream sports stars with some gamble in their hearts, but it seems that often there are a lot of sports stars at the poker tables – more than you might expect.

Of course, sometimes this is just confirmation bias, as the media is more likely to report on a world-famous face playing poker than anyone else.

However, the competitiveness and strategy of poker might be the main reason we tend to see these people at the poker table and not wasting their fortunes on slot machines.

Poker provides an outlet for sports stars to use their urge to compete and showcase their tactics and intelligence without taking to the field.

The most famous poker-playing sports stars

As the most popular card game in the world, poker has attracted its fair share of famous faces including some of the greatest sports stars of their respective games.

Next time you play poker, you might find yourself face-to-face with one of these legends:

Most-decorated Olympian Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps has a ludicrously outstanding record in Olympic swimming events. He has a total of 28 medals, of which 23 are golds; this gives him the record for most golds and most total medals, being the most successful athlete of four consecutive Olympics.

Phelps is also very much at home on the felt as well as in the water. Phelps, like many Americans, is a big fan of poker and has played several major tournaments.

For example, here he is flopping top pair and turning trips at the featured table of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event:

Australian cricket superstar Shane Warne

Shane Warne is considered to be one of the greatest ever cricket bowlers, having played more than 140 test matches for Australia over the course of a 15-year career.

Since then, Warne has become a regular face at the poker tables and accumulated $93,000 in live tournament earnings.

Warne has said that he likes the idea of poker tournaments because “anyone can beat anyone” and claims that his biggest advantage at the tables comes from his opponents believing he is just another stupid sports player!

International football legend Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal national team captain and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, recipient of multiple FIFA Balloon d’Or awards, is almost unanimously considered to be the greatest or second-greatest (after Lionel Messi) footballer of all time.

Ronaldo is also currently the most famous face of PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site. He is regularly found playing poker in Spanish casinos as well as on, the site’s Spanish-facing poker room.

Image credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

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Matt Perry

A veteran of the online gambling industry, Matt Perry has worn a number of hats since he first began working in online poker and iGaming in 2007. He currently writes for a variety of publications focused on legal online gambling, and in the past has served as an editor, copywriter, content manager and reporter.

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