Here in the U.S., poker is something of a national pastime. Perhaps we don’t all hit the casinos and play for actual money, but many of us do spend quite a lot of time at the kitchen table enjoying a home game with friends. So, it should come as no surprise that players of another national pastime would turn out to be quite good on the felt. Yes, we’re talking pro footballers who rock at poker, and while it might seem like an odd combination, it’s more common than you think.
Now, the game of choice for most players is, of course, Texas Hold ‘em. It’s the most popular version of poker played in the U.S., but there are also slightly different versions such as the recently released Split Hold ‘em. It takes quite a bit of practice to learn how to play properly and no small amount of intelligence. Yes, we know what you’re thinking, but contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of smart cookies in the NFL, and it does take quite a bit of brainpower to master poker to the level that these guys have reached.
Strangely though, there are few quarterbacks that play poker at such a level that we’ve even heard of them at a table. And while this would seem to be at odds with our earlier assertion that poker is a thinker’s game, who’s to say that running backs and wide receivers aren’t just as intelligent. Not us, that’s for sure.
So, who are the pros that can hold their own at the table? Emmitt Smith, the former Cowboys legend, has spent a lot of time at the tables playing and doing quite well at several celebrity and charity events. He even had a run at the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2010 but failed to make it past the first day. Fred Jackson of Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks fame is another running back who had a crack at poker and played on the Mid-States Poker Tour. He has yet to win an event, but he’s plugging away.
Wide receivers aren’t well represented on the poker circuit with Miles Austin and Sammy Watkins the only two notable names that we’ve seen at any tournaments. Watkins is notorious for skipping Buffalo Bills off-season training to play poker and has garnered a reputation as a man who loves his cards. Austin, on the other hand, heads up quite a few charity poker events and in 2014, made it to Day 3 of the WPT World Championship. No mean feat for a man who plays only for fun.
Perhaps the most successful though is Richard Seymour. The former Oakland Raider and New England Patriot has enjoyed a lot of success on the poker circuit since retiring back in 2012 and so far, has earned over $150,000 in winnings. While that might not sound like much compared to his NFL contracts, it shows that he is taking the game seriously. He told ESPN that although the game is still a hobby, he wants to one day make it to the final table at the World Series of Poker.
Of all the players that have taken to the tables since retiring from the NFL, our money is on Seymour to make it big. The guy has an incredible competitive streak and is taking the game seriously. He’s even played on the European Poker Tour and down in the Bahamas.
So, who’s next? Will we see Brady and Gronkowski in Vegas anytime soon? Or perhaps we’ll see James Harrison lighting up the World Series of Poker Main Event. We’d love to see that, so fingers crossed it happens.