Michael Phelps’ Olympic career is now officially over and many are wondering if he may turn his attention to poker to fuel his competitive spirit. It seems he may have already done that – even during one of the most iconic moments of Rio games.
In an interview with NBC TODAY Show’s Billy Bush, Phelps confessed that while South African rival Chad le Clos was doing his best to get in the head of Phelps prior to their 200-meter butterfly semi-final meeting, the most decorated Olympian in history was, among other things, playing Open Face Chinese on his phone.
“Texting sometimes. I was playing Pineapple, it’s a card game, and I was changing music,” said Phelps. Pineapple is an OFC app that is popular with a number of top poker pros including Shaun Deeb, Jason Mercier and Phil Hellmuth.
Phelps went on to finish second in the semi-final, one spot ahead of le Clos, on his way to winning his 20th career gold medal while le Clos did not hit the podium.
Phelps is no stranger to the world of poker. During the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, Phelps gave an interview to the Baltimore Sun where he indicated his desire to play on poker’s biggest stage.
“I think it would be cool to play in the World Series of Poker,” Phelps said. “My game is a little off right now, so I’ll have to start improving it a little bit. But I think that would be cool, and it would be cool to meet some of those poker guys.”
He recorded his first live tournament cash in October 2008, making the final table of a $1,500 buy-in WSOP Circuit event in Las Vegas.
In September 2012, not longer after his first retirement following a successful London Olympics, he won allegedly won $100,000 in a cash game at Caesars Palace and soon found himself getting tabloid attention. Phelps went on to deny the big score but he didn’t stop playing poker.
In January 2013 Phelps entered his first $10,000 buy-in poker tournament when he played the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event. Later that summer he went on to play in his first WSOP event, a $5,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event. He failed to cash in either event.
Phelps also has a number of friends in poker, most notably former roommate Jeff Gross who has been in Rio to cheer on Phelps during his final Olympics. He’s also been known to pal around with the likes of and Antonio Esfandiari and is clearly a fan of the world of poker. In 2012 he sent a good luck message to fellow Marylander Tony Gregg.
— Michael Phelps (@MichaelPhelps) August 15, 2012
Phelps’ Hendon Mob profile lists three cashes but the most recent one is a $1,123 score on August 11 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. It’s highly unlikely that cash belongs to the Olympian, given that Phelps was in Rio, finishing second in the 200 meter individual medley semi-final. His only two cashes are the WSOP Circuit Main Event in 2008 and a 104th place finish in a WSOP Daily Deepstack. His total winnings are $5,580.