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Olympian Michael Phelps Splashes Around in WSOP $10k Tag-Team
The 2017 World Series of Poker began in earnest on Wednesday with world-famous swimmer Michael Phelps diving into the $10k buy-in tag-team event.
Phelps has a long history as a poker aficionado but this is the first time since 2013 that Phelps has taken part in an official WSOP event.
The 28-time Olympic medalist winner joined up with seasoned poker pros Antonio Esfandiari, Brian Rast and Jeff Gross to compete in the team-based tournament.
Gross and Phelps are long-time friends and were actually roommates before Phelps rose to Olympic fame. Gross had no doubts when it came to Phelps’ abilities at the table.
“Mike knows how to play,” said Gross. “He’s played for a long time. I actually met him at a poker table in 2006.”
$10k Tag-Team Debuts at WSOP
The $10k tag-team event is a new addition to this year’s WSOP schedule. There are no scheduled breaks in the event and players must swap out every time they want to use the bathroom or take a breather.
Every player on the team must play at least one orbit but other than that it’s up to the team’s discretion who plays when.
Some of the other notable teams include Phil Hellmuth/Brandon Cantu/Andy Frankenberger and Mizrachi brothers team.
Team Rast/Esfandiari/Gross/Phelps is definitely one of the heavyweights, however, with nearly $50m in lifetime live tournament earnings.
Phelps is less experienced than the rest of the crew but Gross was confident he would be able to pull his weight.
“We didn’t really go over any strategy or anything,” he said.
“I trust him. He knows what he’s doing.”
Gross got the idea to invite Phelps after playing the $1k tag-team event last year with Esfandiari and Rast.
“It was really fun last year,” said Gross. “I thought it was a great idea. Mike couldn’t do that year because he had Olympic training.”
Phelps became a father last year and has a number of post-Olympic commitments so it was difficult to get him on the squad this year.
“As soon as I saw the schedule I thought it would be fun to invite him,” said Gross. “He said, ‘Sweet. Yeah I’d love to do it. I hope I can.’”
Phelps a Last-Minute Addition to the Team
Phelps participation in the event was up in the air up until a week ago but enough space opened up in his schedule to play.
Not much time, however, as Phelps will fly out tomorrow to an event in Denver. He might return for the final table if the rest of his team can power their way there.
Regardless of where they finish, Gross was just happy to have his long-time friend along for the ride.
“Mike and I lived together for seven years so we got to hang out all the time,” he said.
“Now we both have families so it’s a bit different. It’s fun to have him here to hang out and play some poker.”
Here’s a collection of photos of Phelps playing on Day 1 of the $10k tag-team tournament: