Rafael Nadal wins tournaments. That’s just what he does. The self-professed “poker rookie” won his first live poker tournament — the EPT Charity Challenge in Prague, Czech Republic.
Since signing an endorsement deal with PokerStars in June 2012, Nadal has been honing his poker skills in conjunction with various advertising campaigns and fan promotions. But the charity tournament in Prague was his first opportunity to play through a live tournament with a table of relative strangers. The table consisted of “sports legends and poker heroes”, including Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, Ukrainian soccer star Andriy Shevchenko, three-time Olympic champion Alberto Tomba, Dutch Olympic field hockey gold medalist Fatima Moreira de Melo and the No. 1 poker player in the world Daniel Negreanu.
“I really enjoy playing tournaments because you can use strategy and you need to wait for your moment,” Nadal said. “I don’t know if there are similarities [between poker and tennis], but there is a tour, there are a lot of people that play, that practice, that get ready for these big events.
“And the people who don’t understand about this game only think that it’s about luck. I thought that a few years ago, but now I know it’s more about knowing how to play. At the end, the best players are the winners almost every time.”
You can read the play-by-play of the table’s action here. According to the PokerStars Blog analysis, Nadal had a tough draw and found himself down in the chip-count early, only to storm back and knock out Negreanu. How he did that, I couldn’t tell you (my card game of choice is Go Fish). Nadal then outlasted Moreira de Melo in heads-up play to take home the trophy.
“He [Nadal] came in really solid, and he didn’t make any mistakes,” Negreanu said. “And then he knew when to make the adjustment, to play more aggressively, and he did.”
Yup. That sounds like the Rafa we know, no?