Just hours away from NBA free agency, veteran ball player Earl Barron is taking his mind off basketball by competing in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Barron finished last season with the Phoenix Suns after playing in the NBA D-League and the Chinese Basketball Association and although he's unsure where he'll end up next year, he told PokerListings he wouldn't trade his experiences in 2014 for anything.
For the last few summers we've seen Barron at the WSOP and he's made it clear he's a passionate poker player.
He's already snagged three WSOP cashes this year and he told PokerListings that he's growing as a poker player mainly by learning to avoid tilt.
“If you lose a big hand, it's part of the game,” explained Barron.
“You have to take the good with the bad, so the people who can take the bad and not go on tilt are the ones who will go far.
“So I'm trying to learn to take a breath, walk away from the table, move on with the next hand.
“It's just like basketball. You're not going to make every shot and you might make a bad play or a dumb foul but you got to move on and keep it moving.”
Watch the video below or keep reading for Barron's thoughts on poker, basketball and why competing at the WSOP is so important to him.
PokerListings.com: We know you love poker and love coming out here to the WSOP to play. What's your schedule like this year?
Earl Barron: I'm always having fun. Every time I come out here I have a blast win or lose.
I came out here the first week and played a few events. Now I'm out here again playing some more events and hopefully I can satellite into the Main Event and play that because last year I had a ball.
PL: You finished last season with the Phoenix Suns. What was that experience like for you?
It was a great year. I started out the year in the D-League and I went to China and when I came back I played one more game with the Bakersfield Jam and then got called up to the Suns for the rest of the season.
It was a great year and I learned a lot and met a lot of people. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
PL: You were playing for the Suns when Alex Len got injured right?
EB: Yeah that was tough because he had an injury in the pre-season right when I left to go to play in the D-League and he recovered from that and he was just getting back out there and had another light ankle sprain.
"I'll be laying off poker until next summer."
"I'll be laying off poker until next summer."
But he's a hard worker and I've been keeping up with him and I think he's ready. He'll be more than ready for next season.
PL: NBA free agency starts tonight. What does that mean for you?
EB: I just enjoy my time here and when I leave here I'll get back to work and start training a couple times a day and get on the court as much as possible.
I'll be laying off poker until next summer.
PL: Do you think you'll be back with the Suns next season?
EB: I don't know yet. Whatever happens happens. I just make sure I'm ready come training camp. That's all I do.
PL: There are lots of poker pros here who see guys like you as the stars and we're wondering if that goes both ways. Are there any poker pros that you look up to and respect?
EB: Some of them because you have to respect the grind aspect of poker, how many hours you have to put into it and getting coaches and studying and watching videos and everything.
Most people think you just sit down and play but there's more to it than that so you gotta respect them.
PL: Are there any particular players you really like?
EB: The usual ones everyone likes you know. I like Phil Ivey. I'm an Ivey fan.
PL: What's the most intimidating ball player you've played against and who's the most intimidating poker player you've played against?
EB: The most intimidating ball player has to be Yao Ming because of his size, seven-foot-five and 350-plus pounds.
Practicing with Shaq every day on the Suns is always intimidating and it's something I'll never forget.
Poker-wise, these days it's so tough. I can't remember the guy's name but last year I was playing with him and he was making the sickest calls.
One hand where I folded, he called and the guy just had air and I couldn't understand how he could know that. It's scary.
PL: You've traveled all over the world playing basketball and playing on the poker circuit is kind of the same.
Would you ever consider trying to make a living playing poker when you retire from ball?
"It's a game of swings. If you lose a few flops, lose a few flips, you're out of there."
EB: No. I can only sit down for so long and play poker before my legs and joints start getting fatigued. I can do it a week here or a week there but then I have to get back to training.
I'm a really active person and it's nice to come out here and sit for hours and hours and get that out of the way.
I know when I leave whether I win or lose, I'll go home knowing I had a good time and met some cool people.
PL: We've spoken to other pro athletes who say they get a big rush from poker, maybe more than the sport they play professionally. Is that true at all for you?
EB: Yeah it's very true because poker has so many swings and there are so many ups and downs.
You can make the worst call in the world and get lucky on the river and that can end up sending you to the final table.
One guy yesterday at Planet Hollywood had like 100,000 chips early, when everyone else only had like 10,000. He didn't even make it past like the final four tables.
It's a game of swings. If you lose a few flops, lose a few flips, you're out of there.
PL: What's the most important thing for you out here?
You must be a competitive guy so are you competing with yourself, like just trying to play the best you can?
EB: I just want to try to mix it up a bit and get as far as I can. I try not to get on tilt, that's one of the main things.
If you lose a big hand, it's part of the game. You have to take the good with the bad so the people who can take the bad and not go on tilt are the ones who will go far.
So I'm trying to learn to take a breath, walk away from the table, move on with the next hand.
It's just like basketball. You're not going to make every shot and you might make a bad play or a dumb foul but you got to move on and keep it moving.
PL: What would a deep run or a WSOP bracelet mean to you?
EB: It would be great. Last year I got pretty deep and lost a couple flips where if I would have won I definitely would have made the last 100.
This year I'm hoping to do the same, play good, run good, bluff a little here and there, try to steal a few chips but we'll see.