After Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker, the game of poker exploded worldwide. Players from all walks of life decided to try and jump on the bandwagon. Some did so for money while others realized that the game would be a way to keep themselves in the public eye. Many pro and former pro athletes were among those that became part of the poker crazy, including tennis players. Here is a look at a couple tennis stars who have taken up poker successfully.
Boris Becker is among the most famous tennis stars to have transitioned over to poker. The six-time Grand Slam champion signed a contract with online site PokerStars to become a sponsored player. His sponsorship was more for his status as a celebrity and less for his poker, but that does not mean he is a slouch at the tables.
Becker was the former Tennis pro at European Poker Tour in 2008 that shocked fans when he made the final table of a EPT preliminary event. Just a year later, he proved that he has game in poker when he made the money of the $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship event. Overall, Becker has around $72,776 in live tournament cashes. Becker spends numerous hours each week at the tables of PokerStars and gets regular pointers from pros Patrik Antonius and David Benyamine, both of which gave up professional tennis to play poker full time.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov may be the most successful tennis player to take up the game of poker. The former World #1 and two-time Grand Slam title holder holder has several impressive finishes in tournaments. He won an Omaha Hi-Lo title in 2004 at the Korona Russian Poker Championships and followed that up by placing 3rd in the $5,000 Main Event of that same series. Later that year, he finished 3rd at the Pacific Poker UK Open and took home $100,000.
His highest profile finish is his 9th place finish at the 2005 World Series of Poker $1,500 Seven Card Stud event. He just missed the final table but still had a strong showing against a field of 472 stud specialists and top pros. So far, Kafelnikov has $147,145 in tournament winnings. Kafelnikov admits that he does not play poker to win huge accolades or even the money. He enjoys the challenge and the game is a change of pace from his hectic life as both a Russian TV commentator and player on the ATP Champions Tour.