Players Fall In Love with Sports All Over Again in 2018

There has always been a strong overlap between poker and sports. If a poker room has televisions, you can be certain some sort of game will be on at all times, while some of the world’s most famous athletes have taken part in the World Series of Poker and other big events.

Poker Sports 2018

The Vegas Golden Knights captivated Las Vegas during their first season, with poker players lining up to support the NHL expansion franchise. (Image: Juan Ocampo/NHLI/Getty)

That relationship played out again in 2018, as the poker world found itself enthralled with some of the biggest sporting events of the year. From championship runs to prop bets, from upsets to controversies, poker players needed sexy takes on nearly everything that happened in sports over the last year.

Golden Knights Nearly Strike Gold

When Las Vegas got its first major professional sports team, everybody knew that it would only be a matter of time before the city — not to mention that the local poker community — rallied behind them. But few could have known that the Vegas Golden Knights would become a phenomenon in their very first season.

The Golden Knights made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Washington Capitals. On the way, they got some major support from expert poker players. Most prominent among them was Negreanu, a season ticket holder who aided in the effort to bring NHL hockey to Las Vegas.

Marc-Andre Fleury deserves consideration for Conn Smythe winner whether he wins the next round or not. 4 shut outs. 4.

— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) May 7, 2018

NFL Season Draws Strong Reactions

The Golden Knights may have raised hockey’s profile in Las Vegas, but when it comes to American sports, soccer is still king. Loads of poker players are both fans and bettors when it comes to the NFL, and that has resulted in strong reactions to a number of the most memorable moments during the 2018 season.

For Example, there was the shocking 27-6 win by the Buffalo Bills over the Minnesota Vikings back in September. Buffalo won despite coming to the match as a 17-point underdog, causing chaos at sportsbooks and crushing most of the area in a survivor pool organized by one Phil Hellmuth.

So much for my “Survivor pool!” Over 1100 Entrants from Poker Players at $300 a pop, 550 out already. I had six entrees, my last five selections are on Minnesota. In fact, 75% of the picks from the pool are on Minn! #Poof #UpInSmoke #DidntSeeBuffaloComing #16PointFavorites

— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) September 23, 2018

Poker Twitter sometimes mirrored the rest of social networking, getting wrapped up in the craziest games of the year. One of the prime examples came in November, when the Los Angeles Rams beat the Kansas City Chiefs in a 54-51 Monday Night Football shootout that most, such as Doug Polk, counted one of the most exciting games they had ever witnessed.

This might be the greatest football game of all time

— Doug Polk (@DougPolkPoker) November 20, 2018

Monday Night Football frequently attracted plenty of attention from players. In an October conflict between The Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, many poker pros criticized the time management abilities of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, such as Josh Arieh.

Also, nobody talking about SF throwing on 3rd n 3 with 1:10 left and GB with no timeouts. You have to run there https://t.co/YT5UsFern4

— Joshua Arieh (@golferjosh) October 16, 2018

Poker Players Involved in Sports Challenges

However, the poker world did more than just get excited about sports in 2018. Sometimes, players threw themselves directly into the action — or at least announced plans to do so.

Among the more intriguing examples came in July, when Antonio Esfandiari announced that he would be battling Kevin Hart in a boxing match next year. The planned bout was apparently caused by a prop bet, with Esfandiari getting 35-1 odds from Hart on account of the comic athleticism and previous boxing experience.

Hellmuth also found success in regards to sports prop bets. In early December, the Poker Brat won $23,000 when he not only managed to return one out of 20 serves delivered to him by a tennis pro, but actually managed to score a point.

The moment of truth: my $23,000 return of serve, and point! [We discuss running it back] $7,000 I could not return 1-in-20 80 MPH serves from a pro + $16,000-to-my-$2,000 I could not score a point..Hello $23,000! #SlopCounts #Lucky #UnForcedErrorCounts #GoingWClutchShot pic.twitter.com/PiOlRCSXLw

— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) December 6, 2018

There were also signs in 2018 that the poker world was getting some respect from characters in professional sports. Mark Cuban hired professional gambler and poker player Haralabos Voulgaris as the manager of quantitative research and development for the Dallas Mavericks, a sign that the innovative owner sees value in the way that poker players and sports bettors work to find advantages.

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