A poker enthusiast, Luongo took a seat on Day 1a of the 2012 $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event amidst rampant speculation he will be traded from the Vancouver Canucks.
“To be honest with you this was a good change of scenery for me to get my mind off it a little bit and do something that I love,” he said.
The 33-year-old goalie started playing cards when he was a kid and developed his passion over the years.
“During the NHL lockout in 2004-05 I had a lot of time on my hands,” explained Luongo.
“I started playing more and reading books about it. I also started playing online. I was fascinated and wanted to learn as much as I could.”
Last year Luongo signed with British Columbia’s regulated online poker site PlayNow.com as an ambassador. This summer PlayNow.com offered Luongo the chance to play the WSOP Main Event and he jumped at the opportunity.
“I’m so excited to play,” he said. “This has been a dream of mine for many, many years.”
Luongo: Almost Every NHL Team Plays Poker
Luongo is not alone in the hockey world when it comes to poker.
Former Vancouver Canucks player Mats Sundin enjoyed the game and was actually signed by PokerStars at one point. Luongo suggested nearly every NHL team has a game going.
That doesn’t mean every hockey player is good, however.
“There are a lot of fishy NHL players,” said Luongo. “I think a lot of hockey players don’t have the patience to wait for a hand and want to play a lot of pots.
Not all hockey players are clueless when it comes to cards, however, and Luongo mentioned teammates Alex Burrows and Kevin Bieksa as being particularly good.
Luongo also said there were a few similarities between poker and goaltending.
“As a goaltender, you have to have a tremendous amount of focus at all times and you need to have that when you’re playing poker,” he said. “You can’t have lapses or it will cost you.”
The timing of the Main Event presented a unique challenge for Luongo considering NHL free agency began July 1 and there is rampant speculation about where the gold-medal winning goaltender will land.
Despite the situation, Luongo appeared relaxed at the table.
“Obviously it is a nerve-wracking time for me as far as that part of hockey is concerned but I'm not really nervous," he said.
Luongo was one of over 1,000 poker players who joined the action on Day 1a of the 2012 WSOP Main Event. At the point this article was published, just as Level 2 expired, Luongo was still alive in the tournament with close to his starting stack.