All pro athletes know that their competitive fire isn’t extinguished easily. Unsurprisingly, most retired athletes seek an outlet for that competitiveness. Some have taken up angling, like former MLB outfielder Shane Victorino. Others have transitioned to coaching, like NFL legend Deion Sanders. On the other hand, quite a few have chosen poker because it allows them to still compete in person as well as being an avenue for high earnings. Below are four legendary athletes who have taken up poker.
Richard Seymour (Football)
Seymour is one of the NFL’s greatest linemen. He is a three-time Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots, and finished his career with five All-Pro selections. He also made seven Pro Bowl appearances, was named in the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team, and was inducted into the Patriots’ Hall of Fame.
Retirement in 2012 has given Seymour more time to pursue his favorite hobby: poker. It became a second career, with Seymour using poker to satisfy his competitiveness. “Once you’re done playing football you still have a competitive drive,” Seymour explains. “Poker is an outlet for me…” Turns out, the former player is just as good in poker, with career winnings of over $600,000.
Michael Phelps (Swimming)
Phelps has no equal in swimming. His 28 Olympic medals — 23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze — are a world record, as is his 8-gold-haul in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On top of those, he is a 27-time world champion and 16-time Pan-Pacific champ.
In retirement, Phelps has focused on philanthropy. He also has more time to play poker, something he has been doing since the late 2000s. By 2012, The Baltimore Bullet was already playing weekly $25,000 poker games, with Doyle Brunson as his mentor. Even today, Phelps continues to play with high stakes, competing in tournaments like the World Series of Poker.
Allen Iverson (Basketball)
The Answer is arguably the greatest sub-six feet scorer basketball has ever seen, averaging 26.7 points per game throughout his Hall of Fame career. He won the 2001 MVP award, was voted an All-Star 11 times, and got 6 All-NBA nods (3 First Team, 3 Second Team). Then, in 2016, Iverson headlined that year’s Naismith Hall of Fame class.
Nowadays, Iverson stays busy as one of the most successful former athletes playing poker. Iverson’s competitiveness on the felt is evident in a 2021 Poker Kings video with poker G.O.A.T. Phil Ivey, whom The Answer challenges to a Double Or Nothing (see above video). Iverson also participated in last February’s mobile-only WPT Spring Festival Main Event.
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (Soccer)
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or simply “Ronaldo,” is a soccer legend, having helped his native Brazil to two World Cups (in 1994 and 2002), two Copa América Championships (1997 and 1999), and a bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Additionally, O Fenômeno (“The Phenomenon”) won the FIFA World Player of the Year award three times, and the Ballon d’Or twice.
Ronaldo first learned the game from a friend, André Akkari. He gradually got better — enough to make the card game a second career. In fact, he won over $42,000 in the 2015 Caribbean Adventure event, pushing his live earnings from playing poker to around $45,700.