Poker at 38,000 Feet? Normal for the Golden State Warriors


The game of poker has been played on virtually every surface that you can imagine. The plushest casinos in the world, the tabletops of the Average Joe’s home, even underwater (has poker been played in outer space yet?). One place that would seem perfect for a game of poker is on an aircraft and, it appears, that the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Golden State Warriors are upholding their end of the deal, so to speak.

Stars Curry, Green Lead the Way

According to reports from the Mercury News’ Wes Goldberg, it is the stars of the Warriors that have pushed the poker game in the past. It originally started with another game that Goldberg says is big on long flights in the NBA, a game called Bourré (if you are interested, here’s the rules of the game), that were orchestrated by Curry. Green, then a rookie in Goldberg’s report, jumped into the game with Curry and teammates David Lee and Andrew Bogut.

As the years have gone on, the game has morphed into a poker game, apparently with some pretty serious stakes on the table. Many of the teammates of the two men commented in the story that they stayed away from the games, with the now-retired Shaun Livingston stating, “I pay taxes, so I didn’t really feel like paying another tax on top.” They also have been known to keep players at the tables, even after the Warriors team airplane has landed and the players are disembarking.

Poker is a prominent part of the Warriors franchise. The Warriors Community Foundation hosts a yearly poker tournament as a fundraiser in San Francisco. Players and coaches battle it out with prominent members of the community, all for a good cause, and Poker Hall of Famer Phil Hellmuth has been the host for many of these events. It was noted by many of the Warriors players that Curry and Green – maybe because of their practice sessions on the plane – earn their way to the final table of these charitable events.

Just Another Step in Poker’s Mainstream Movement

These types of stories have become commonplace in today’s world. Poker, once relegated to smoky backrooms and “underground” games, is now as entrenched in society as hot dogs, apple pie and check-raising your grandma. It’s been a long trip, mind you, but poker has its tentacles into all aspects of society.

Poker has been seen in the halls of government, with former President Harry Truman enjoying a good game of poker – even to the point of having his own Presidential poker chip set. That was carried on by former President Richard Nixon, who is alleged to have funded his first run for Congress through his winnings in poker. General Dwight Eisenhower and President Barack Obama also were known for holding a weekly poker game to break tensions with members of the other party during their lives in DC.

Athletes have also been eager to step to the felt, perhaps because the competition allows them to get their juices flowing. PokerStars has used this connection quite frequently to promote its product, with tennis legends Rafael Nadal and Boris Becker and soccer star Ronaldo signing on as “ambassadors” for the site. Highly decorated Olympian Michael Phelps has enjoyed some time on the felt and three-time Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour is (or was, prior to the COVID pandemic) a familiar face on the tournament poker circuit; he has earned over $650,000 in his very short (seven year) time on the tables.

So, is it surprising that athletes pass the time on road trips by playing poker? Not in the least! It may be more surprising (or maybe we weren’t told about it?) that they didn’t play a lot of cards prior to the mid-2000s poker “boom.”





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