Before They Were Poker Players
Not every famous poker player was flipping burgers before acquiring riches through a game of cards. Some of them were quite successful in other arenas.
For instance, did you know that before he became one of poker's most famous figures, Doyle Brunson was an NBA-recruited basketball player? The Minneapolis Lakers (yes, Doyle is that old) were interested in Brunson. In high school, Brunson won the one-mile event at the Texas State Track Meet with a time of 4:43. A serious injury put a halt to Doyle's athletic ambitions and sparked an interest in another activity: poker.
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Before winning the WSOP Main Event in 1995, Dan Harrington was a champion backgammon player and chess master. He won the 1971 Massachusetts State Chess Championship. Howard Lederer was also a talented chess player in his younger years.
Justin Bonomo, David Williams, Dario Minieri, Brock Parker and several other sensational young poker players were all elite Magic: The Gathering players before turning to poker.
Jennifer Tilly is not just a hot older woman that plays poker. She's a very accomplished actress who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 1994 Woody Allen film Bullets Over Broadway. In 2005, not long after taking a serious interest in poker, Tilly won the Ladies' event at the WSOP over a field of 600 other women. Shannon Elizabeth, best known for her role as 'Nadia' in American Pie, is another actress that turned her focus to the poker world.
Chad Brown had some small roles in movies and television before becoming a professional poker player.
Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier and Johannes Strassmann, among others, were both top StarCraft players before transitioning into poker.
Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson earned a Ph.D. in computer science one year before he won the WSOP Main Event in 2000.
Before becoming one of the best high stakes cash game players in the world, Patrik Antonius was a professional tennis player and model.
Erick Lindgren was a decorated high school quarterback and MVP basketball player. He played basketball for a junior college before taking a serious interest in poker. Huck Seed is another poker player who enjoyed success as a basketball player; Seed made the 1987 Montana All-State team as a high schooler.
Greg Raymer and Mark Seif were both accomplished attorneys before focusing on poker. Seif actually assisted in the prosecution in the famous O.J. Simpson murder trial.
He didn't receive the nickname 'Magician' by accident; Antonio Esfandiari was just that, a professional magician, before becoming one of the most accomplished poker tournament players.
In high school, John Juanda was track star excelling in sprints as well as long distance races. He later earned an MBA before starting a poker career in 1997.
Before taking an active interest in high stakes tournaments and cash games, Guy Laliberte amassed a billion-dollar fortune by founding the entertainment company Cirque du Soleil.