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Paul Pierce: “Athletes Aren't Considered Great Poker Players. I'll Change That”
While NBA free agency rolls on in the background, former Boston Celtic Paul Pierce is busy making a deep run in the $10,000 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event.
If he wins the whole thing - and its $10m first-place prize - he says we can expect to see a change in how athletes are perceived as poker players.
“It would be an unbelievable feeling to get my picture here on the poker wall of fame,” said Pierce on a break at the Rio in Vegas, referring to the gallery of WSOP bracelet winners that sits behind the poker room stage.
“Most athletes aren't really considered great poker players but I'm going to change that in the near future,” said Pierce.
Win Could Be Game Changer for Celebs, Athletes
Pierce has been playing poker for the last decade and says if he can one day win a WSOP bracelet it could have a similar effect to what we saw in 2003.
That was the year an accountant from Tennessee named Chris Moneymaker won the world championship and helped spark the poker boom.
“I think you're going to see more actors, more celebrities, more athletes if you see a guy like me win it,” said Pierce.
“Sort of like the Chris Moneymaker story. If you look at how he came out of nowhere and won the tournament then it influenced a lot of other people to do the same thing.”
Pierce Calm and Collected in Poker's Marquee Event
Pierce is much more than just a recreational poker player and in the roughly 45 minutes PokerListings.com observed him at the table it was clear Pierce was relaxed and in control.
He wasn't always so calm and collected at the table, however.
“I do it take it seriously. I've been playing for the last 10 years, playing online, playing some cash games and tournaments so my game has gotten better over the years.
“But I remember the first time I played when I got in a big pot my heart started racing. When you first start the adrenaline really flows but now I know what I want to do out there and I'm calm and I can pace myself.”
The big question hovering over Paul Pierce has nothing to do with poker, though.
Pierce played the first 15 years of his career with the Boston Celtics but was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013. Now a free agent, the sports world is waiting to hear where he - and a couple of other very big names in basketball - will be playing next year.
“It's free agency time now so just kind of waiting it out for the next couple weeks until LeBron and Melo figure it out, so come on guys let's go!”
At the dinner break on Day 3 at the Rio, Pierce is currently sitting on 223,000 in chips and looking strong to make it to Day 4. Check our live updates for more. Watch the full video below.