The superstars of the poker world are the WSOP pros. This elite group of poker players enjoy a level of popularity that was only previously reached by professional athletes and rock stars; they are asked for autographs wherever they go, followed religiously by a horde of devotees, and have a huge presence in the media both online and off. Their names can sell products and make or break tournaments, and their clout extends throughout their industry.
Why are these professionals so popular?
To many people it might seem strange that World Series of Poker professionals are so popular today, but that is only if you are not looking at them as equivalent to athletes. Sure, many if not most of the superstars on the poker circuit have no resemblance to pro athletes; many are out of shape, many look like you or me. What these experts do have is exposure as well as skill, both of which are also important to other celebrities.
When poker first started to be broadcast over the TV, people began paying attention. Not only did many people feel intrigued by the skill level involved in the game, but they also began to take note of the large prize pots offered at the big tournaments. This kind of exposure inevitably brings on fame, and if a player looked like a shark on the tube, he or she could gain a following.
There are two different reasons that I can see for the popularity of the poker professional. You might argue that many WSOP pros are very amiable and entertaining people, but really most of us are. What sets these veterans apart is that they have something that other people feel they can learn from them. Almost everyone has played poker, it’s easier to take up than baseball. And like baseball, there are thousands of people all over the world who posses some level of skill at the game (maybe even more people can play poker than can play baseball!). With that skill comes the belief that they really could match with the best and make a living at the game.
The other reason is pure, old fashioned fun. Poker can be as entertaining as any other sport, and some people just love to watch the pros play.
What is a World Series of Poker Professional?
Some of the most well known names on the WSOP circuit have never taken the title in the WSOP main event, so that alone is not a good way to judge who is a pro and who is not. Instead, professionals are those who can make a living playing poker without doing anything else.
As with any sport, there are regular pros and there are the elite. The world’s best poker players have great showings in the WSOP year after year, not only in the Main Event but in the other games as well. Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth are great examples of this (although Hellmuth has won the Main Event once). Both are WSOP pros who are well respected for their level of play by other pros and by the poker playing public. Their advice is sought and their moves carefully watched by every amateur phenom hoping to make it to the big TV show.