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Around the WSOP: Former NBA star Tony Parker fitting right in at Main Event

5 November 2021

Tony Parker may be new to the $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event, but the NBA All-Star and 2007 NBA Finals MVP is, by no means, a stranger to the game of poker.

That was clearly evident as the former San Antonio Spurs four-time world champion sat at the secondary featured table today under the bright lights of the world’s most prestigious poker tournament, chasing the coveted Main Event bracelet. Parker, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black jeans and black sneakers, was calm, cool, congenial and collected throughout his first experience in the Main Event, something that will come as no surprise to anyone who watched him closely during his decorated 20-year professional basketball career.

“Oh, I’m not nervous, not at all,” Parker told Casino City during a break in Friday’s action, the second of six Main Event starting flights. “I’m a very patient player. Patient and composed. That’s how I like to think I was on the basketball court and that’s how I am at the poker table.”

The fit 39-year-old French American, who looks like he could still play an everyday NBA schedule, retired in 2019 after playing 17 seasons with the Spurs and one with the Charlotte Hornets. Parker, who helped kick off the Day 1B festivities by taking care of the “Shuffle Up and Deal” honors, said this was his maiden voyage into the Main Event because when it’s typically played in the summer he was always busy playing hoop with his French National Team or at the Olympics.

Parker, a six-time NBA All-Star who had his No. 9 retired by the Spurs, said he’s been playing poker for 20 years and spent a lot of time during his 17 seasons with San Antonio chasing pots and flipping flops. When asked which of his teammates were the best poker players, Parker said, without hesitation, “Timmy,” referring to NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, while adding Michael Finley also knew his way around the felt.

“But they’re not as good as me,” he said with a wide smile. “That’s because I played more than them. I’ve played a lot of poker over the years. I used to set up tournaments all the time in San Antonio. I love the game, I really do.”

But why would a 39-year-old former NBA star who earned nearly $170 million in salary alone during his career want to grind it out at the poker table for 10 hours a day?

His answer was much like many of the other professional athletes — such as Michael Phelps, Paul Pierce and Richard Seymour — who have traveled to Las Vegas over the years to pony up $10,000 and chase Main Event glory.

“Because I love the competition. I love the adrenaline, the pressure, everything about it,” said Parker, who is a majority owner of ASVEL Basket in LNB Pro A, a professional basketball league in France. “And I love the fact that I can play against the best in the world.”

He most certainly did that on Friday afternoon when long-time pro Brian Rast, known as one of the best cash games players in the world with more than $22 million in tournament earnings, sat down directly to his left at the table.

“I’m hanging in there, playing my game, feeling things out,” said Parker, who still had a decent stack during the early evening hours on Friday. “I’m confident in my ability.”

* * *

Speaking of Rast, last week, the 39-year-old became the 27th player in WSOP history to capture five or more gold bracelets when he took down the $3,000 Six-Max No Limit Event and the first-place prize of $474,102.


After accepting the fifth bracelet for his jewelry box, Rast, who brought his father on stage for the ceremony, spoke about what the past year has been like and how much he’s missed playing poker.

“Over the last year and a half, I played the least amount of poker than I have since I started playing 19 years,” said Rast, a Colorado native who has made 11 WSOP final tables and also has two WSOP Poker Player’s Championships on his resume. “There was a little hole in all of our lives last year (without the WSOP) because we missed the tradition, so it’s nice to come back to the felt and compete...For me, it’s less about the money than ever before.”

* * *

Bumped into Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the WSOP, in the hallway on Friday and he basically confirmed that this will indeed be the last time the WSOP will be held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino after a 17-year run at the property that sits about a half-mile off the Las Vegas Strip.

“That’s been reported pretty accurately, so, yeah, we’ll likely be moving to the Strip for 2022,” he said. “We’ll be having an announcement very shortly.”

The rumors about a move for the WSOP to the Las Vegas Strip began back in September 2019 when Caesars Entertainment sold the Rio to real estate investment firm Imperial Companies for $516.3 million. The most likely landing spot for the WSOP may be a combination between Bally’s – Las Vegas and Paris Las Vegas, which are joined together and sit on the center of the Strip.

Stewart also acknowledged that next year’s WSOP will be back to its familiar summer schedule after being moved to the fall this year because of the pandemic.

“The players were excited to have the event return this year, no matter when we played it,” he said. “A lot of them really like the fall weather because it’s not as hot as the summer and the fact that there are so many other activities going on this time of year.

“But at the same time, timing has to be the No. 1 consideration. A lot of people like having the WSOP during their summer vacation. We want to make it as easy as possible for folks to play and for our temporary staffers to be able to work. I think long-term, the summer is probably the best window for the WSOP.”

* * *


The Rio is certainly doing its best to take advantage of the fall WSOP schedule and the fact that it is running at the same time as football season here in the U.S.

A temporary sportsbook has been set up in one of the ballroom areas near the rooms that host WSOP events, complete with couches, eight big-screen TVs, odds screens and dedicated betting windows.

It’s a much more convenient spot for players, fans and, yes, media, to catch some of the games and place wagers, rather than walking all the way to the other side of the property where the Rio race and sportsbook resides, which, by the way, is one of the worst sportsbooks in Las Vegas.

Around the WSOP: Former NBA star Tony Parker fitting right in at Main Event is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT