RIP Ultimate Warrior: A Reminder Why I Play Poker

the ultimate warrior
What can pro-wrestling teach us about why we love poker?

Why do you play poker? It’s a simple question, but one to which the answer is often long-forgotten.

The death of wrestling legend The Ultimate Warrior was a wake up call for me. Our laptop screens are laden with death of every manner of celebrity, but this one stuck in my craw.

On April 1st 1990, 67,678 people crammed into the Skydome in Toronto, Ontario to watch the first-ever Wrestlemania held outside of the US. Over in the UK I was a 15-year-old kid sat in front of my TV watching it all unfold.

It was Wrestlemania VI and the main event was billed as Champion versus Champion: The WWF Champion Hulk Hogan going up against the Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior.

This was well before the days of pay-per-view screwed things up for everyone and my house was full of my mates all waiting to see who would come out on top.

“It’s bloody fixed,” said my Dad.

He pulled out that line every time I watched wrestling. Only this time it was different. I knew the match was fixed, but for the first time in my memory I couldn’t work out who was going to win.

Every instinct in my body said that it was going to be Hulk Hogan. Hulkamania was still running wild. He was still tearing t-shirts all over the world and threatening to take your head off with his pythons.

Then the Warrior managed to avoid the Hulk's infamous leg drop. Even my Dad sat up in his chair and started to pay attention.

Who wrote this script? This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Anything's Possible in Wrestling or Poker

When the Warrior won I was ecstatic. Not because I was a Warrior fan, but because the face of wrestling had been changed forever. Good guys could square off against good guys, bad guys could square off against bad guys, and it suddenly became a lot tougher to predict the winner.

It also appealed to my love of the underdog.

Phil Ivey
Poker is unique because sometimes you can beat the best.

If the Warrior can avoid Hulk’s leg drop, anything was possible.

That's why I fell in love with poker.

I can beat Phil Ivey heads-up. I know I can and he knows I can. In what other sport, or game in the world, can that truth exist?

It’s also a game that allows people like me to sit alongside big celebrities like Don Cheadle, Shannon Elizabeth and Michael Phelps.

It’s the biggest ice breaker and human being leveler of all time. It creates room for everyone’s dreams, and crushes and delivers in equal measure.

Wrestling and Poker Fans All Respond to Compelling Characters.

When replying to my Dad’s woodpecking opinion that wrestling was fixed, I always try to explain to him that watching wrestling was like watching a soap opera. It didn’t matter to me that the story lines were already scripted. What mattered to me were the characters. I tuned in because I found these genetic freaks absorbing.

This is another reason I fell in love with poker.

Mike Matusow
Poker fans love compelling characters.

I could write a bloody good sitcom about my local poker game. Once again there is no other event on earth that could gather so many different characters together. All seated around a single table, chewing the fat and playing cards. None.

If it wasn’t for poker, I would never have met half of my friends. I am not ashamed to admit that some of the friends I have today, I would never have seen dead with in the past. Poker pushed past my snobbery. It kicked my prejudice and tainted views of people into the gutter.

I learned to see the best in people. Poker helped me do that.

“Live strong, act bold, be brave. Nothing’s too hard to do, ALWAYS BELIEVE.”

Those are the words of The Ultimate Warriors wife Dana. Wise words. Inspirational words. Words that give me hope, and words that remind me of the answer to the question.

So why do you play poker?

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