In basketball you can't go one-on-one with Kobe Bryant no matter how much you pay. You can't take shots on World Cup goalie Jens Lehmann and you'll never have the chance to receive Roger Clemen's fastball.
But in poker there's always the possibility you could go toe-to-toe with one of the world's best. Hell, you might even win.
Even being a spectator at the WSOP is a little bit different than any other sporting event. Quite often, the big name professionals will banter with the fans.
Anyone that doubts just how close you can get to the pros should take a trip to the Rio. Within 15 minutes you could see the likes of Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Jennifer Harmon and many other top tier players. Most likely you'll see them up close and personal, too. It's just the way things work.
Perhaps that's because in the end the player's don't really differentiate. They could be talking to a huge fan of poker who'll never take part in the game, or they could be talking to their next opponent. I don't think it really makes a difference to them.
You know how in major leagues sports all the athlete's wives and family sit in special boxes? In poker you're usually standing right next to them as they cheer their loved one on.
The cool thing is that most of the players don't seem to mind their relatively new celebrity status. The fact remains that if a poker player is getting publicity and keeping his or her face out there, they have a better chance of getting sponsorship deals, which can support them during the times they aren't hitting any cards.
It's hard to deny the allure of that sheer accessibility. Especially these days, where guys like Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker and many others have shown the world that you don't need to be born playing poker to be successful at it.
Perhaps the reason many of the pros seem to deal so well with fans is because deep down they are just fans of the game of poker themselves. The relationship between the players and the fans is fascinating, and because of it, I don't think the game of poker is going to slow down anytime soon.