For a professional rugby player, things get rough all the time and the physicality of the game demands not only skill and practice, but also resilience and self-control. A wise man once said that football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen. These players prove it all the time, by avoiding brutal contacts when possible and by sticking to the rules and game etiquette when things don’t go as planned.
It comes as no surprise that many of them decided to put their skills to the test at the poker tables, an arena that is not as different as it seems from the one familiar to them. You still need to stay in control all the time and there is plenty of adversity to overcome and some of the best rugby players proved to be equally good at poker. England, France and New Zealand are some of the best nations in rugby and each of them is well represented at the poker tables.
Mike Tindall used to be a remarkable player until he got sidelined with an injury that forced him off the pitch and brought his promising career to an untimely conclusion. This didn’t shatter his morale though and Mike quickly found solace at the poker tables, with his first big tournament being the British Open Poker. He silenced all critics and people who doubted his poker abilities by finishing 3rd and since then he has been a regular at poker tables, while participating in several charity tournaments.
France’s Sebastien Chabal is no stranger to poker and has been particularly active in charity tournaments, raising a lot of money for the ones in need. He is also one of the few rugby players who doesn’t hesitate to play online poker, where he is just as successful.
Last but definitely not least, New Zealand is represented at the top level by Dylan Hartley who has been playing poker since 2011. His poker career started at the same time as Tindall’s and even though the English player prevailed in their first contest, Dylan closed the gap.
These are only a handful of rugby players turned poker pros, but there are hundreds more who are competitive on both the rugby pitch and poker felt. It is no coincidence that they succeed, since both games require similar mental qualities and we can safely assume that even more rugby players will be making this transition in the upcoming years.