The ball player-turned-TV analyst moved to Las Vegas not long ago and has been a regular at the Red Rock poker room ever since. He recently inked a small sponsorship deal with Freddy Deeb to advance to the final eight.
PL.com chatted with the baseball legend-turned-rounder on a break today to find out his history with the game and whether he sees a future in it for himself.
Looks like you are pretty good at this poker thing Orel?
I've been an avid poker player for the past three years, but since I moved to Vegas it's gotten a lot more serious, because I get more reps. When you get more reps you get better.
Reps huh? Spoken like a true ball player...
Yes. But the best thing that happened is I befriended a few pros and they've given me a few tips to kind of experiment with and figure out what the game is all about.
As far as this heads-up is concerned I have zero reps at this so it was a crash course. T.J. Cloutier come in and I said "Hey T.J." I was just more myself.
Sounds like you are developing some more confidence out there, especially after a couple of big wins?
No I don't think it gives you any more confidence because what I know about this game other people have taught me. It's not my own yet and I think confidence comes when you possess it yourself. I have confidence in the other games that I play in around town. I don't like to sit at a table I don't feel confident at. But these tables right here, you are forced to sit at with your opponent. It doesn't matter whether you are confident or comfortable or not.
So what do you play around town?
I play $2/$5 No-Limit and I really just play for entertainment. The money is just a way of keeping score. It's not at a level that's going to make or break my life. It's just keeping score and keeping track of whether you are a winning or losing player.
Do you plan on trying to make a name for yourself in the poker world and playing some of the big tournaments like the WPT or WSOP?
I think what you do all depends on what the poker world thinks of you, not what you think of yourself. If you are willing to keep putting up the entry fees out of your own pocket, then you can decide if you are a good player or a bad player and lose a whole lot of money in the process. I'd rather not do that. I'd rather the poker world decide if I'm worth investing in and then go from there.
The people at PokerStars.net got behind me because they heard I won a tournament at Bellagio on a freeroll. They brought in a lot of their VIPs and 20 baseball people in an 80-person tournament and I won that. Then they heard that I was playing at Red Rock and I think rumor has gotten around that I've gotten a lot better since I moved here. So with the name and living here, maybe there will be a shot at doing more things.
Sounds like you are willing to earn it though, rather than try to get by on name recognition alone.
Yes, because I think it's embarrassing to just get a free ride and then go out there and embarrass the company.
Well Orel, you certainly haven't embarrassed anybody this week, except maybe those pros who took you a little lightly. Good luck in the next round.
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Orel danced his way into Sunday's top eight with a victory over Freddy Deeb in his last match of the night and will face Andy Bloch in the elite eight. No matter what happens, his deep run here at Caesars has been impressive and there's no doubt this won't be the last time we see this baseball great on the felt.