For those watching the 2008 Summer Olympics from Beijing – and even those who tried to avoid it – one competitor made an incredible impact on the sports world by breaking a long-standing world record. Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in swimming, and he took center stage as everyone wanted to know how he did it and what he would do next. And among his future plans? Play some poker.
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Phelps said, “I think it would be cool to play in the World Series of Poker. My game is a little off right now, so I’ll have to start improving it a little bit. But I think that would be cool, and it would be cool to meet some of those poker guys.”
Enter the offers from various poker tours. One source has indicated a representative from the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship has extended an invitation to Phelps to participate in the 2009 competition. No word on his response or whether the request included a sponsorship exemption to bypass the $20,000 buy-in.
One invitation that was confirmed to have been sent was one from Jeff Mann, a representative of the Asian Poker Tour (APT). Prior to the APT stop that got underway on August 27th with a guaranteed $1.5 million prize pool, the letter to Phelps was published.
The note began by congratulating Phelps on his Olympic successes, and then offered to fly him to Macau, pay for accommodations, and buy him into the APT main event. It continued:
“Some have said you are a ‘human dolphin’ but we’re keen to know if history’s greatest swimmer is really a fish. You may have feet that can reach angles others cannot to give you the ultimate swimming technique but just you wait until you’ve got sharks like Vegas poker legend Doyle Brunson chasing you. We’ll see how fast you really are then when they smell blood – get some flippers on those size 14’s!
“Don’t bring your goggles, bring a pair of sunglasses – dive in at the deep end and we would love it if you showed us your hand. You’ve almost certainly got more chance of making good money from our $1,500,000 prize pool than securing any commercial deals! Your homecoming to a delirious country can wait. Go all-in Michael! We’ll even get some special one-on-one lessons for you from poker’s greatest players. If it makes you happier we’ll even bring in Mark Spitz too and you can play heads-up!”
According to all reports from Macau, Phelps did not accept the offer to play in the APT. As for future tournaments, the media has eyes and ears on the Olympic swimmer to see if he will truly ante up.