It's the holy grail of poker - a big-moneyed, amateur poker player with a bottomless bankroll, an eye for the gamble and next-to-no sense of what's truly happening on the felt. In honor of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week guest blogger James Guill breaks down some of poker's biggest-ever donators in a five-part series we've dubbed #WhaleWeek. Next up: An off-the-poker-path trio that includes Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and Alex Rodriguez.
By James Guill
The world of professional gambling is often compared to the world of professional sports thanks to the adrenaline rushes you get gambling for large sums of money.
Given their competitive drive, generous salaries and large amounts of downtime, it's little surprise major sports figures can become some of gambling's biggest whales.
Charles Barkley is one of the more colorful characters in NBA history. Always brash and outspoken the 11-time all-star had a 17-year career split between the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets.
"Sir Charles" may be one of the biggest sports whales in the history of the game. Barkley once admitted to ESPN that he has dropped over $10 million gambling with his largest single loss $2.5 million during a six-hour blackjack session.
While, granted, not much of his $10 million in losses may have been at the poker tables but Barkley is known to play poker and uses his skills to benefit charity.
He's entered numerous charity poker events in the past including the $5,000 Ante-Up for Africa Charity Event at both the 2008 and 2009 World Series of Poker. Spike Lee can also vouch he's dropped a few dollars at the poker table.
Michael Jordan is considered by most to be the greatest basketball player of all-time. Winning three NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1991 to 1993, Jordan retired from the game after the murder of his father only to come back in 1995.
He went on to lead the Bulls to three more titles from 1996 through 1998.
His Airness definitely classifies as a celebrity whale. His gambling exploits caused major controversy during the early 1990s when it was revealed he had multi-million dollar losses in golf, baccarat and blackjack.
Jordan also likes to play high-stakes poker on occasion. As Spike Lee shares in the clip above, at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Jordan was reportedly more interested in gambling than in playing basketball.
After watching him virtually cripple two NBA franchises in the past decade from the front office, we also have little doubt Jordan was not the smartest player at the tables.
Love him or hate him Alex Rodriguez is certainly one of the most talented baseball players in Major League history.
A-Rod has put up impressive numbers throughout his career bu tunfortunately his link with performance enhancing drugs has resulted in a long-term ban from the game which he is currently appealing.
Connections with PEDs are not the only blemish on his record as MLB has long been keeping an eye on him due to his connection with gambling.
Rodriguez has long been connected to the world of underground high-stakes poker games in New York and Los Angeles. Major League Baseball has investigated his poker play on multiple occasions, most recently his involvement with an illegal New York poker ring run by Russian gangsters.
Rodriguez has been a participant in various underground poker games since 2007 and even Major League Baseball has warned him that participating in underground games could lead to trouble
Back in August the Federal government indicted 40 people connected with an underground game that was described as "poker on steroids." Rodriguez was one of the whales that the group catered too.
The group laundered over $100 million in the games, making one wonder just how high A-Rod was playing (and losing).
More of Poker's Biggest Whales:
- Poker's Greatest All-Time Whales: Guy Laliberté
- Poker's Greatest All-Time Whales: Andy Beal
- Poker's Greatest All-Time Whales: Riddle, Chagra and Karas
- Poker's Greatest All-Time Whales: Terrance Watanabe