A poker professional requires a specific set of skills to achieve success, including the ability to think quickly and a willingness to be patient. Of course a little luck is required too, but what really sets a poker player apart is the ability to maintain focus over considerable periods of time, avoiding rash decisions and remaining patient. What’s true of poker is true of many sports, and the skills required of great poker players are essential to the success of great sports players too.
It should come as no surprise then, that many iconic figures from the world of sport are now taking their places at the felt, often improving at a far greater rate than their fellow newcomers. Over recent years a dazzling array of world-famous sports stars have become involved in playing poker, including Rafa Nadal, Teddy Sheringham, Gianluigi Buffon, Shane Warne, Boris Becker and baseball hero Orel Hershiser.
Regarded as one of America’s most beloved sportsmen, Orel Hershiser became one of the most legendary pitchers in baseball through a glittering career which saw him play for several of the game’s top clubs, including the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and the Cleveland Indians. The ‘righty’ retired from professional baseball at the turn 2000, fittingly after completing the amazing goal of throwing a total of 2,000 strikeouts and achieving World Series victory with the LA Dodgers back in 1988.
In recent years, Hershiser has played, commentated on and analysed poker. Orel has successfully transferred the skills that set him apart on the field, and has resultantly become a serious player, far from just another celebrity drafted in to appearing at poker tournaments to boost ratings and add glamour. This success makes a lot of sense. Both baseball and poker are games of notable longevity, running for considerable periods of time without much action, before quickly heating up in a matter of minutes. Could there be anyone better qualified than Orel Hershiser to come out on top in a contest of endurance?
Back In 2008, Hershiser was invited to play at the National Heads-Up Championship purely on the basis of his fame, but proceeded to amaze everyone by beating former champions and making it all the way to the quarter-finals, where his run was finally ended by seasoned poker professional, Andy Bloch. Orel profited immensely from his success in the tournament, taking away $75,000 in prize money, as well as the confidence boost surely gained through beating some extremely skilled poker pros on the way to a 5th place major tournament finish. Spurred on by his success, Orel became a poker player on PokerStars playing under the name ‘O. Hershiser’.
It’s not just Orel that’s made the transition from baseball pro to poker contender, with Oakland A’s Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees both regularly taking to the felt as serious players. Clearly, Orel’s success is no coincidence.