From Pitching to Bluffing

Former MLB pitcher Orel Hershiser’s move to poker

Guest Blogger

Despite the big difference in their physical activity levels, baseball and poker are actually two sports that have many things in common. Both games have extended periods of inactivity before the onset of intense action. Position matters a lot in both sports, as this dictates how you’ll play your way through the game. And as with baseball, talent can get you somewhere in poker, but you would still need to win numerous coin flips at the end to become the world champion.

It’s no wonder why former Major League Baseball pitcher Orel Hershiser has ventured into the rousing card sport. Hershiser, given the pet name “Bulldog” by former coach Tommy Lasorda for his aggressive pitching style, is considered one of the best pitchers in the history of the big leagues. He won the World Series MVP honors and led the Los Angeles Dodgers into the 1998 World Series.

Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure 2010Though Hershiser occasionally dabbled in card games with his Dodgers teammates while traveling, he found his passion for poker only after retiring from baseball and becoming a baseball analyst for ESPN. Post-retirement, Hershiser frequently travelled to Las Vegas and eventually made a habit of going over to the Bellagio to play cards. As a self-confessed aging athlete, Hershiser believes that poker provides him a channel for his determined nature, as it’s a sport he could be great at even without exerting as much physical effort as he did in baseball. As Hershiser grew old and felt his body couldn’t cut it as an athlete anymore, he had a hard time finding activities that could get his adrenaline flowing. But the beauty of poker is just that: although physical activity is limited, it’s still an adrenaline-filled sport.

Starting out as a break-even player, Hershiser gradually grew resolute in his goal of evolving his game and becoming a genuine pro. This led to him meeting and becoming fast friends with professional poker player Mark Gregorich who just this year won 7th place in the LA Poker Classic event of the partypoker-sponsored World Poker Tour in Los Angeles. Hershiser found a kindred spirit in Gregorich who had his same mannerisms and down-to-earth quality, which probably helped him learn the ropes of the sport more easily.

Today, Orel Hershiser is a reputable poker pro, with over $90,000 in live tournament earnings. Above all things he has learned from playing, Hershiser advises that pressure should always be handled well and never be a roadblock to success. According to him, it’s just as easy to win a high-stakes game as it is to win a low-stakes one, further adding: “When you learn it’s the same pitch, the same hand, the same pot every time, that is when you’ll be yourself. And when you are being yourself, you are at your best.”