Rafael Nadal Set to Play First Live Poker Tournament

Rafael Nadal is a native of Majorca, Spain, and one of the top-ranked professional tennis players in the world. And as of 2012, he became a member of Team PokerStars SportStars as a budding poker player who sought a new challenge in a competitive game. While tennis remains Nadal’s top priority, he has been improving his poker game – both live and online – and seeks to test those skills in his first live tournament.

EPT Prague will set the stage for Nadal’s poker tournament debut. He plans to play a charity tournament at the December PokerStars festival on the European Poker Tour. There are even rumors he could also be convinced to play the EPT Main Event.

Tennis Legend and Gold Medalist

Still in his 20s, the man known as Rafa is already a legend in most professional tennis circles. He turned pro by the age of 15 and won the 2005 Grand Slam at the French Open only four years later. He has claimed that Grand Slam title many more times from 2006 through 2008 and 2010 through 2013. As the first player to win that title eight times, Nadal set one of many records that he still holds in the tennis world, including an Olympic gold medal for Spain in 2008.

The young Nadal is no stranger to major accomplishments and always strives for higher achievements. A testament to that dedication was when he worked through a recent injury and returned to the tennis courts much sooner than doctors or competitors had expected. His perseverance, resilience, and tenacity are qualities that translate well to poker.

Amateur Poker Player

In the summer of 2012, PokerStars announced its sponsorship of Nadal. It was possibly one of the biggest celebrity sponsorships ever to occur in the world of poker. It didn’t take him long to begin testing his skills online at PokerStars under the screen name “Rafa Nadal.” Though his time on the tennis circuit often keeps him away from the online poker tables, he has found the time to play on occasion. But the world, especially those in poker, has been looking forward to his live debut.

Preparing for a Debut

Nadal took a sneak peak at the live tournament scene in May 2013 when he stopped by the PokerStars room at Casino Gran Madrid to look around and talk to Team PokerStars Pro Juan Manuel Pastor. Nadal’s upcoming appearance at the EPT in the Czech Republic will include a live tournament. At the Hilton Prague Hotel, he will play in the December 12 charity tournament.

The tennis pro has been training with poker coach Alfonso Cardalda, who claims that Nadal takes his poker game very seriously. Nadal told PokerStars of his love affair with poker: “It’s no secret that I love the competition and that’s what I like about poker. It’s a game of skill that requires mental strength and the ability to out-think your opponents and in that way there are similarities to tennis. I have been playing online poker for almost 18 months and now I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing my first live tournament.”

Rest assured, those who are unable to be in Prague will be able to catch the action from reporters and bloggers who will be there to document Nadal’s debut live poker experience.

Jennifer Newell
Written by
Jennifer Newell
Jennifer Newell has been writing about the poker industry for nearly eight years. She became interested in writing about the game and its players while working in the accounting department at the World Poker Tour in Los Angeles. Since then, she quit the office job, became a freelance writer, and moved to Las Vegas. She is also working on several crime novels, enjoys cooking, and talks way too much about her two dogs.

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