Ever since the whispers of Michael Phelps being a poker player surfaced through the media, numerous news outlets and bloggers have taken the story and ran with it. I myself have definitely been guilty of getting caught up in the Phelps/poker hysteria although I had some reservations over how serious he really was about the game of poker (see here).
And now there is a very real possibility that I may be eating my words as rumors are swirling about Phelps. The winner of eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps’ next venture may be to become one of the celebrity players for Doyles Room according to some very recent news.
Supposedly he has been hangin with Doyle Brunson and his son Todd Brunson in Las Vegas recently and he’s been getting plenty of poker tutelage in the process. Doyle recently said of Phelps, “What a great feeling it must be to be 23 years old and on top of the world. What a nice kid! He had a bunch of his friends from home with him and they were the guests of the Palms Hotel and Casino. I got a call that he was an avid poker fan and wanted to meet me, Todd, and Hoyt Corkins. Jennifer Harman and her husband Marco were also there.”
He added to his praise of the amazing swimmer by saying, “Phelps and some of his friends wanted books so I took Super System 1 and 2 to them and they asked all kinds of poker questions. Michael said all he wanted to do in life, was to eat, swim and play poker. We went up to his suite to hang out for a while. His suite had a basketball court, swimming pool, workout room, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. It must have been 15-20 thousand square feet, the nicest one I’ve ever seen.”
Afterwards it’s been rumored that old Doyle encouraged Phelps to check out some of the fine strip clubs that the city of Las Vegas has to offer too. Judging from pictures that have surfaced on the Internet, Michael took his advice. All of this has got me thinking that Doyle’s courtship of Michael Phelps may very well have the record-breaking Olympian on his side.
Ever since we hit the 21st century, it seems that the days of mobsters and organized crime is slowly losing relevancy. The vast majority of gambling outfits nowadays are run by legitimate companies, the Godfather movies are rarely spoken of anymore and, save for a few video games out there, the whole organized crime thing is kind of fading away. It seems that nowadays, poker players and other gamblers no longer have to worry about shady mob-run outfits.
However, a grim reminder of the fact that there are still remnants of organized crime out there in the gambling world might have possibly resurfaced when an Indiana locksmith admitted to being involved in an explosion that ripped apart the office of video poker machine maker C&S Coin Operated Amusements.
The Indiana locksmith’s name is Kyle Knight and he claims to have been the explosives supplier to the two men who set off the bomb that destroyed the C&S office. Sam Volpendesto and Mark Polchan are the two guys in question and they supposedly have ties to the Chicago mafia. According to Knight, these two bragged of having mafia ties and set the bomb off to deliver the message that the mob controls the gambling game in Chicago.
Of course Volpendesto and Polchan’s lawyer denied that his men had mafia ties but Knight’s testimony definitely indicates otherwise. It also indicates that there is a possibility that the mafia is still doing whatever it can to hang onto its fleeting presence in the gambling and poker world. And according to the prosecutors in the case, this presence in the West Chicago suburbs adds up to about $13 million every year.
Now I certainly don’t know for sure whether or not Knight is telling the truth but, assuming he is right and lives through the case, this could develop into a huge story.
I’ll be the first to admit that I, like many other people in the poker world, was excited when Michael Phelps made mention of wanting to play in the World Series of Poker (see my post here). I thought to myself, “This is great, one of the most famous Olympic athletes ever is interested in our game of poker.” But looking back on all of the other stuff that he said in hindsight, I’m starting to wonder how serious he really was about this statement.
Now I don’t doubt that he plays the game as many have attested to this but I do remember some of his comments made during the Olympics. One of Phelps’ first statements after his incredible feats in China was that he wanted to hang out with Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Next up, he was an avid Young Jeezy fan and said he wouldn’t mind meeting him either. Then came the comments on his poker desires and this set many in the game in a frenzy.
Even some of the biggest organizations in the business got extremely excited over Phelps such as the APT which had bigwig Jeff Mann send Phelps a wordy letter that had such gems as the following comments designed to woo him:
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! Some have campaigned for poker to become an Olympic sport. The fact that you are a ‘human dolphin’ doesn’t mean you will necessary get a gold medal for Texas Hold’em!
Way to quote human dolphin twice! Anyways, I know that ever since medal number 8 was Phelps for the claiming, tons of offers have been thrown his way from Hollywood and others despite what Jeff Mann’s letter indicates. I just hope that all of the courting the poker world is currently doing isn’t going to turn Phelps off from playing poker in the future if he is interested. Unfortunately, I think organizations like the APT may as their behavior reminds me of an overzealous guy chasing a girl all over who shows even the slightest interest in him.