A cricket magazine might not be the first place you’d expect to see a report of the World Series of Poker, but when the subject matter is Shane Warne it’s perhaps not quite as surprising.
To those who don’t follow cricket, Warne is regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the game. Warne was a devastating spin bowler, whose capricious leg-breaks claimed 708 test wickets across 15 years playing for Australia. Dubbed “The King of Spin”, Warne cultivated a reputation for excellence on the field and a little notoriety off it, making regular appearances on the front and back pages of various tabloids.
Retiring from the International game in 2007, Warne, like so many former athletes, turned to poker as a means of satisfying his competitive urges. This summer he was once more in Las Vegas for the WSOP main event, watched from the Brasilia Room rail by his wife Liz Hurley. Standing out a little, she, in turn, was watched by several hundred Brasilia room players.
The article in The Cricketer, by Andrew Miller, recounts Warne’s experiences in Las Vegas (he was eliminated on the first day) while looking back on his cricketing days. In a telling sign of Warne’s commitment to poker the 43-year-old admits, in the limo on the way to the tournament, that he’s just keen to get started. “This is the same buzz I used to get from playing cricket,” he says.
While sponsored by an online poker site, Warne not in it for the publicity, but, it seems, because of an inherent love of the game. The concept of defeat doesn’t rest well and so poker comes first, so much so that in 2009 his four day run in the main event (he would finish a handful of places off the money), made him miss the first test of the Ashes in Cardiff, where he was due to commentate.
“Poker is his passion and his pleasure and, increasingly, a prism through which the character of one of the world’s greatest sportsmen can be viewed,” writes Miller, who also manages to capture the essence of poker, stripping down to its most basic parts before comparing it with cricket.
“It is not hard to see why Warne is hooked,” he writes. “In poker, as in spin bowling, the mind-games can be gladiatorial. Whereas the skill of a fast bowler is backed up by the threat of physical violence, even the wiliest of spinners have only their own wits to call upon. The pitch may help, just as a poker player can be aided by the cards that are dealt as the betting progresses, but ultimately each had is a battle of conviction: the projection of a belief that the cards you hold are better than those of your opponent and that at the crucial moment your skill will either maximise your winnings or – just as importantly – cut your losses.”
Conviction, skill and maximising opportunities. Again poker shows, in analogy form, its capacity to reach the places other sports and games cannot reach. We can expect to see Warne at the poker tables for some time yet.
Read the full article in The Cricketer magazine.