The traits that define a skilled poker player are manifold, whether you’re the type of player that does “many folds” or not! Some folks like to sit silently at the table’s edge, a sun-visor covering their eyes like a tennis player lost on the way to the Wimbledon bathrooms. A peaked cap casts a shadow on a brow, reaching just above the mouth, lips pursed tight together; nothing given away. For others, poker is a game of bravado and posture. To sit at the head of the table and be heard, always the first and last voice echoing around the casino, always noticed whether hated or loved. Take Phil Hellmuth and his Gatling gun mouth, for example.
We’ve rounded up 5 famous folk who we think have what it takes to crush the game. Read on…
In Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ The Bard wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on” but on the Twelfth Night of five-tabling tournaments until 5AM, “Music be the loud sound that keeps my temporary narcolepsy at bay.” How long can you go for? How long can you push yourself for while retaining your mental fortitude? Poker tournaments can drag on until the wee hours and in certain tournament types, you win yourself entry to the next game. The gift of insomnia; the gift that never stops giving! So, you ask, who can handle the pressure? Former vine-swinging Mowgli boy/archaeologist’s assistant Shia LaBeouf! Best known for his starring roles in the Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ series of “films”, Shia is also an endurance athlete. Shia’s capacity to endure extreme exhaustion can be measured not only by his participation in the LA Marathon but also from his various art exhibitions where he sits still for hours on end. Let me see, there was the one where he sat down with a bag on his head to let everyone know he wasn’t famous anymore, the one where he sat down with a coat on and watched every film he has acted in back-to-back and oh, of course, the one where he stood in an elevator for 24 hours. When you feel those anvils atop your eyebrows, pulling the lids down over your eyes and Shia is sitting across from you, smelling of Red Bull and looking wide awake….
Cajones, moxie, spirit, hot-bloodedness, brass balls – no matter what way you phrase it, you’ve still gotta have nuts. Even the most conservative of poker players would be considered risk takers in any other avenue of life. There are many thousands of famous people who have this trait in spades. It’s not for everyone to stand in front of ten cameras and a whole film crew, including Barry who takes the coffee orders and Trinee who books the transport to and from set, and act like you have just discovered your home planet was destroyed by robots! This kind of bravery is different from a lack of embarrassment though. It’s all well and good to feel comfortable pouring out your emotions in front of strangers but it’s another thing entirely to go all in while bluffing. My pick for this category is Conor McGregor, the self-proclaimed King of Dublin.The sporting hopes of an entire nation, still reeling from the death (suspected murder) of the Celtic Tiger, resting on his shoulder’s alone and does he feel the pressure? No sir. At least not visibly. Conor struts to the cage with less anxiety than I feel just having to talk to someone on the phone! When the chips are down, you have to have your wits about you with lashings of confidence, maybe even a little dollop of arrogance thrown in for good measure. Conor is known for having the best hands in the business and when it comes to poker, that’s a winning formula.
Think at this exact second while I type these words how many people are in a dark room, face and shoulders illuminated by the warm glow of a laptop screen, grinding away at low-stakes tables trying to break even. Now on top of that, think of all the high level players battling it out in tournaments, playing to the last for their share of the loot. How does one stick out? How do you go from sitting with your Acer netbook placed on top of a washing machine in lieu of a table to fraternizing with the poker elite at the WSOP? Social Media of course! The skills pay the bills but a flair for capturing the minds of the public will get you far. Businesses and individuals alike are now seeing the benefits of an active social media page. In this modern era of espresso-length attention spans and the need for everything to ‘go viral’, an online presence is a must! Now, social media presence isn’t really a personality trait so let’s call it ‘the ability to sell oneself.’ In my mind when I came up with these arbitrary categories, I had Stephen Fry in mind as a big social media influencer, not to mention his advanced, almost computer-like brain. Then I remembered seeing an article claiming he gave up on Twitter and maybe humanity in general. Much to my surprise there were many people above him on the prestigious list of ‘Celebrities with the Most Twitter Followers.’ Katy Perry sits at the peak of Twitter mountain with a whopping 96.5 MILLION FOLLOWERS! Given that she already woke up in Vegas on one occasion, she could be within walking distance of the WSOP. Even if Katy couldn’t tell a Jack from a Hack, when your TwitterArmy is 24 times the population of Ireland, the organizers of any event will be glad to have you at the felt!
Carl Sagan is best known for his scientific television program Cosmos, where he guided viewers through the entire history of the universe and man’s place within it. Cosmos was life-changing at the time of airing, doubtless inspiring many young science enthusiasts to take the plunge and study the subject formally. Cosmos covered everything, from the cold, hard scientific facts of creation and the formation of our universe, to the more outlandish hippy theories and fringe-science. There’s no aspect of Carl Sagan’s boundless intelligence that doesn’t translate well to poker, a game that rewards smarts and patience. There are two different types of poker players: those who play by gut feeling and instinct and those that apply the maths. I like to think Carl Sagan, were he alive with us today, would have been a mix of both, playing a cerebral game while humanity’s ‘big questions’ floated around his brain at light speed! All gushing aside, make sure Sagan is patted down for mics or communication technology, aliens could be hovering above the Bellagio using advanced tech to see his opponent’s cards and report back.
Wim Hof is the final entry on this list of hypothetical poker greats. Maybe not as well-known as the others, but don’t let that discourage you reading up on this guy. Hof has an X-Man like superpower. He is able to use simple breathing techniques to regulate his body temperature at will. I don’t mean that Wim Hof can dip his toes in a scalding bath for ten seconds at the behest of a drunken friend, I mean Wim Hof can climb Mount Everest wearing sandals and shorts. This guy’s legit. Now I don’t know whether his methods work for everyone or this power is his alone, but discipline is the name of the game. When you’re dealing with sub-zero temperatures, one must be completely in control of their body and mind with laser-like focus. It’s that same monk-like patience and the ability to tune out all external stimulus that would see Hof have excellent success in Poker. If this guy can sit still for hours in temperatures that polar bears need hats for, while I need to psych myself up in the mirror before stepping into a cold shower, imagine how long he can patiently sit for in a warm casino with his drinks being topped up!?
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