Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps Might Be Sorry He Mentioned Poker

by , Aug 24, 2008 | 11:10 am

The swimmer who stunned the world by setting a new record with his eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing made a statement in one of his post-amazing-feat interviews. Michael Phelps told the Baltimore Sun, “I think it would be cool to play in the World Series of Poker. My game is a little off right now, so I’ll have to start improving it a little bit. But I think that would be cool, and it would be cool to meet some of those poker guys.”

Oh yeah?

Within days, Poker Shrink reported that Phelps was officially invited to play in the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Championship. And shortly thereafter, it was the Asian Poker Tour, which is gearing up for its Macau stop scheduled for this week. A representative from the APT wrote an open letter to Phelps, which was posted on 4Flush, with sentences like, “Some have said you are a ‘human dolphin’ but we’re keen to know if history’s greatest swimmer is really a fish. You may have feet that can reach angles others cannot to give you the ultimate swimming technique but just you wait until you’ve got sharks like Vegas poker legend Doyle Brunson chasing you. We’ll see how fast you really are then when they smell blood – get some flippers on those size 14′s!” (Really? Fish and shark references? *Sigh.*)

Most likely, offers from Visa are taking precedence over poker tournaments for Phelps, but it will be interesting to see if he takes anyone up on their offers. My money would be on the NBC Heads-Up Championship, but I imagine the guy just wants to go home and have a beer right about now. If he accepts an offer to play in a poker tournament, it would be absolutely huge for the game…


  • Kevin Mathers

    He’s more likely to appear in something like the NBC Headsup event (which will be towards the end of his break from training) than a WSOP event, which will be around the time of the US Swimming Championships in July.

  • http://pokerati.com/about-us/#danm DanM

    You know, I couldn’t help but get excited when I heard how big of a poker geek he is, too. But then I saw how many offers were being thrown at him at once … I couldn’t help but think, yo dudes, chill a bit! That guy is having so much thrown at him right now — if you thought the WSOP main event was cut-throat with sponsorship brokerings, can you imagine what it’s been like “off the felt” at the Olympics, where so many more millions are at stake?

    Phelps has said how he thinks its funny everyone who is coming out of the woodwork, including old schoolmates who used to bully him, now wanting to be his friend (on MySpace or otherwise). I think the poker-biz probably put itself in the same camp. Just my gut feeling.

    Perhaps if PokerStars sent Orel Hersheiser as an emmissary that would work. Or, if Stars/Tilt/Party/etc. were smart, they’d offer deals to Phelps swim-team mates whose names we don’t know. Surely there’s an American bronze medalist somewhere, right? Get those guys because they are probably being overlooked all over the place, and then Phelps would be like, yo, whatdafug, you guys are playing in the World Series? I wanna play in the World Series, too! Hook me up!

  • http://pokerisgame.com PokerIsGame

    I don’t know why, but I’m more thinking Phelps is going to choose the NBC Heads-Up Championship 2009. I think he has a tight graphic of training and stuff, and as Kevin mentioned, it will be around the time of US Swimming Championship. Or maybe he will attend both of them? Lets really hope he picks the second option :)

  • http://pokerati.com/about-us/#danm DanM

    ***it would be absolutely huge for the game…***

    btw, Jen, are you sure about that? aren’t you kinda overstating it just a bit? We’ve had lots of really big celebrities play poker before, after all. I think it would be nice for the game, and maybe extra-neato … but I don’t think there’s a human being on the planet save for maybe the Pope who would be absolutely huge for the game without actually winning something.

    i could be wrong, of course. michael phelps is clearly bigger than montel williams.

  • http://www.thegreendietblog.com Lisa

    Jen – is he the new Mekhi Phifer? ;o)

  • http://pokerati.com/?author=117 California Jen

    Dan, I don’t think I’m overstating… All eyes are going to be on Phelps for the next 6 months to a year, looking to see the history-maker do something else interesting besides commercials. If he sits down at a poker table on a big network like NBC – or ESPN – it will be big news.

    Lisa, no! No one will replace Mekhi… :)

  • http://pokerdoodle.com Gabe

    It would be huge for the game if he were a douche like Jaime Gold and ended up winning then having a split deal that he delayed in paying out.

  • http://pokerati.com/about-us/#danm DanM

    OK, I’m buyin’ it, Jen … good points. In general I think the more non-poker-pro celebs in the poker mix the better … it’s one of the appeals of the WSOP and other tourneys is that you can get so close and, if at a table with them, have a more quality interaction than you would in just about any other case.

    But I’m still sayin’ that one guy — no matter how big — won’t be any sort of poker messiah. At least not until he actually wins something big.