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Rafael Nadal Used Online Poker to Keep From Going Crazy During Rehab

25/04/13 1:48 PM

World-class athletes are competitive by their very nature. But even a physically gifted and skilled athlete like professional tennis player Rafael Nadal can not sate his competitive appetite in a physical manner when he is forced to sit out with a seven month knee injury. As you can imagine, someone as competitive as Nadal, one of the top ranked men’s tennis players in the world, had to find another way to keep his competitive instincts fine-tuned while rehabbing, and Raffy as he is known to his fans turned to online poker.

Now that he is back playing tennis and is approaching his usual dominating clay-court form, he says he does not like to dwell on what he considers the “darkest days of his career.” But during the off-court moments of his recovery at home in Spain, Nadal said that he learned how to play online poker for the first time, and also worked on his golf game. In no uncertain terms, he said that playing online poker helped keep him from “going crazy.”

The 11 time grand slam winner and clay king of tennis stated unnecessarily that, “I’m a competitive person,” and that while playing golf helped him physically, the constant decision-making while playing online poker helped him keep his mental competitive edge. And since all great athletes these days have business managers who are always looking to make a buck, Nadal’s handlers even managed to convert the athlete’s total lack of previous poker knowledge into cash flow. Nadal signed a deal last year with online poker giant PokerStars as a sponsor.

In that regard he joins retired professional tennis player Boris Becker, and has already gone from absolute newbie and donkey to online poker tournament winner. He said that after he had a firm grip of the basics of the game, his first goal was to take down a tournament. Beating 47 other online players in a 10 euro ($13) buy-in tournament in January, it took Nadal just two hours to claim the first prize of 152 euros ($200). Obviously, to a multimillionaire professional athlete known around the world, the notoriety and financial benefit of winning such a small tournament meant nothing to him.

But he stated that for his own peace of mind and sanity, not only playing but winning helped give him the mental edge to continue learning how to play while also taking his mind off his physical recovery. It didn’t take him long after being told he would need months to rest his knees to realize he was going to need something to pass the time. He picked up online poker, his managers finagled the deal with PokerStars, and Nadal still enjoys playing. He said that online poker is fun and competitive, but you also need self-control, and must learn “times in which you can attack or defend.” Those are also necessary traits for professional tennis, a sport where Nadal is always a good bet.

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