The Importance of a level playing field for White Belts and Title Holders alike
With the way poker has rebranded itself as a game that can be enjoyed by anyone, it no longer remains the sole purview of older gentlemen with money to burn. It has now become a game that people from all over the world and from different backgrounds can excel at.
Many professional poker players also happen to be serious martial arts enthusiasts, with pros like Kara Scott and Ronnie Bardah being dedicated Muay Thai practitioners while striking it big at the World Series of Poker. Contrary to popular belief, practitioners of combat sports actually benefit from their training by staying cool under fire and learning how to gauge the best possible way to respond to a particular situation. This training remains just as invaluable whether it’s during the early qualifiers or when people are already at the finals table.
Bardah, a 30 year old resident of Brockton, Massachusetts, took up the sport as a push towards a healthier lifestyle after dealing with several health conditions plaguing him since the 2010 WSOP.
“I went to Thailand to really detox and get everything out of my system,” Bardah states in an interview with Bluff.com. “I was in Thailand for two and a half months just wanting to get my (expletive) kicked by the best Muay Thai kick boxers in the world. That’s what I did. I learned a lot from them. It’s all about respect in Thailand and in Muay Thai.”
For fans who were around for the early days of the World Series of Poker, An Tran might just qualify as one of the oldest professional poker players who started with a serious background in martial arts. Tran was a South Vietnam Green beret who became a formal resident of the United States in 1975, where he placed his military training to use by opening a martial arts school in Houston, Texas. He began playing poker professionally in 1980 and was able to hit it big when he landed in the Finals table of the WSOP in 1987.
While Tran had to endure the grueling qualifiers to get to the main event, skilled, casual players now have a shot at qualifying for the professional circuit in the comfort of their own homes. Betfair has partnered with the WSOP for several years to provide qualifying events for armchair poker players and to increase accessibility for the tournament.
While the playing field has become significantly more level, nothing will ever replace good old fashioned training. People looking to take a break from hitting the punching bag to hitting cards have around a year’s worth of practice before the next WSOP tournament rolls around to get a chance in the spotlight.