16 Famous Poker-Playing Sports Stars – Part 2

October 17, 2017

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In the first part of this article we looked at 6 different sport stars who have turned to poker either during or after their glittering sporting career. Big names on the list included an Olympic champion swimmer, one of the best cricketers the world has ever seen, and one of the best-known tennis stars of the 80’s and 90’s.

There are still plenty of big names to get through though as we continue our run through of 16 famous poker-playing sports stars.

Ronaldo – Footballer

“I really don’t play football anymore, even with friends, but when I play poker, I’m very competitive. Every time I play, I want to go far. I want to win.”

The twice world player of the year, Ronaldo is considered to be one of the best strikers in football history. Breaking through at just 17 years old, Ronaldo was already a World Cup winner before he could legally buy a beer in his home country of Brazil, and 8 years later would go on to lift the World Cup again scoring both goals in the final against Germany.

Ronaldo became a member of PokerStars two years after retiring from top flight football in 2013, and later that year battled Rafael Nadal in a charity event. Ronaldo made his first entrance on the tour in 2015 picking up over $40,000 in the process, and also appeared on the poker TV show Shark Cage in the same year.

“I always look to give my best in everything, in football and in life. Poker is another challenge that excites me,” Ronaldo said upon joining PokerStars in 2013.

Ronaldo may be one of the most famous names in football history, but his attention these days is fully on poker where he’s attempting to rule the world once again.

Global Poker Index Stats:

  • Tournament placings – 2
  • Total winnings – $45,760
  • Biggest win – $42,180
  • Highest finish – 7th

Sergio Garcia – Golfer

“I started playing when a friend of mine introduced me to it. I was watching the World Series of Poker coverage, and I was always intrigued by how much I could relate it to golf. Patience, strategy, focus. There are many elements the two games have in common. So, I started playing poker and enjoyed it a lot.”

Sergio Garcia is one of golfs most loved characters. The charismatic Spaniard, who’s still a regular on the PGA and European golfing tours, won his first ever major tournament in 2017 securing the acclaimed Masters green jacket in a dramatic playoff over Justin Rose.

Garcia was introduced to the game of poker in 2008, and now uses it as an escapism from his golfing career. In 2012 Garcia played in his first poker tournament in the Bahamas pocketing a cool $35,000 in the process.

“I’m a competitive person and I find the best competition in live tournaments. That’s where I’m at my best. Just as in golf you need a lot of patience in tournaments. You have to be able to fold a lot of hands, even good ones if necessary. I enjoy challenges. That’s why I play,” said Garcia in 2016.

Sergio Garcia is now an ambassador for PokerStars, and has secured some good finishes in his short poker career so far.

Global Poker Index Stats:

  • Tournament placings – 6
  • Total winnings – $42,590
  • Biggest win – $35,000
  • Highest finish – 3rd

Roberto Luongo – Ice Hockey Player

“I’m a competitor. That’s what I love most about poker, it’s about trying to outlast the other guy. It all ties in to being an athlete, being competitive and beating the other guy.”

Since the turn of the century, Roberto Luongo has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the NHL, and has won two gold medals with Canada at the Winter Olympic Games. He also holds the record for most saves in a single season recording 2,303 stops in 2003/04.

Luongo, who was born in Canada but grew up in an Italian family, began playing poker and card games from a young age, but only really started taking it seriously during the 2004/05 NHL season lockout when he had plenty of time on his hands for extracurricular activities.

“I loved to play cards when I was younger. After Moneymaker came out [the autobiography from 2005], it was on TV a lot, and I really started getting into it. Once I started liking the game and playing online I bought some books and my love for the game kept growing and growing,” said Luongo.

Luongo is sponsored by PlayNow.com and has his own competition every year in British Columbia, Canada called the Roberto Luongo Charity Poker Classic.

Global Poker Index Stats:

  • Tournament placings – 2
  • Total winnings – $25,990
  • Biggest win – $19,227
  • Highest finish – 2nd

Tito Ortiz – Martial Arts Fighter

“When I play it’s automatic. I’m not thinking twice. I’m not thinking about it, because when you think about it it’s already too late, people are going to know what you’ve got. In fighting it’s the same thing. If you think about it, it’s already too late. That little window has already passed you. That’s the huge correlation: repetition.”

Tito Ortiz is a mixed martial arts legend who’s a member of the acclaimed UFC Hall of Fame. Former light heavyweight champion of the world, Ortiz defended his title on 5 separate occasions and holds the record for most fights in UFC history.

Ortiz only retired from MMA in 2017, but has been on the poker celebrity scene for a while participating in the TV show Shark Cage back in 2015, and is a big online player on PokerStars.net.

“The training [for MMA] has to be about 80% physical and the rest is completely mental. To correlate this with poker, I play a lot of online poker, I play a lot of poker, and it’s just repetition. You see the hands coming, you see the percentages of hands you can win and hands you can lose, and it’s the same thing in fighting,” said Ortiz in 2015.

Despite playing poker for a number of years, Ortiz has only one recorded tournament placing finishing 22nd in Panama in March 2017.

Global Poker Index Stats:

  • Tournament placings – 1
  • Total winnings – $16,080
  • Biggest win – $16,080
  • Highest finish – 22nd

Carl Froch – Boxer

“Boxing is 36 minutes across 12 three-minute rounds, football is 90 minutes, but poker? You can’t make a mistake. You’ve got to keep your energy up. Keeping your cool and maintaining focus for that period of time is so hard.”

Carl Froch is a former 4-time super middleweight world champion boxer whose record stood at 35 fights, 33 wins, and 2 losses. Along with his world championship belts, Froch was also voted world fighter of the year in 2012, and was considered to be able to take a punch as well as anyone in his era.

Froch’s fling with poker started as a teenager in pubs in and around the Nottingham area in England, but started taking the sport a bit more seriously after retiring from boxing in 2015.

“If you’re coming to play a tournament, you’ve got to be coming here to win. To win it, it’s all in the preparation. You’ve got to sleep, eat the right foods and be prepared. It’s key in poker, but it’s what I find the most difficult,” said Froch in 2017.

Carl Froch became the ambassador for Party Poker in 2015, and is a big player on the online PartyPoker platform.

Global Poker Index Stats:

  • Tournament placings – 2
  • Total winnings – $5,937
  • Biggest win – $5,508
  • Highest finish – 1st

The big names just don’t stop coming! It’s really surprising to see so many household names making the list. But, we are not finished yet! There are still another 5 sporting superstars turned wannabe poker pro’s to come.

In the final part of this article we have not just one but TWO World Cup winning sportsmen, and one of the finest snooker players ever to grace the green baize. Here’s the third and final part of the series.


Author: Will H.

Will has been a part of the nitty-gritty world of gambling for over 10 years now in one shape or another, and though he mainly works in the background at Casino Circle, his vast experience and insight is always fascinating to read and listen to.


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