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How Phil Tufnell got into poker

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

There have been many sports stars who have turned their hand to poker. One of them is Phil Tufnell, the former England and Middlesex cricketer. He’s not just played in poker tournaments but has also released a DVD that helps others learn how to play and, hopefully, win.

When you think about it, cricketers becoming good at poker isn’t surprising. It’s all to do with the travelling and the hours spent in a changing room hoping for the rain to stop that helps them.

The weather in England is as unpredictable as a close T20 match. There’s the occasional sunny day but plenty of others with the rain interrupting the latest cricket matches. It’s frustrating for the fans sheltering from the rain – but better news if you can spend the time learning how to play card games.

Phil Tufnell spent many an hour sitting in a changing room, but it’s not always been cricket on his mind. Whether to play the next hand or try to bluff his way to victory with a pair of threes were more likely thoughts.

Phil Tufnell is a rather jolly character, and a laugh never seems too far away. Keeping a poker face and not giving away his emotions is therefore challenging to successfully achieve. He must have somehow managed to learn it, though, as he’s not an easy player to beat.

The way we play poker has seen many changes this century. Rather than just being sat around a table with the occasional glance to see if the rain has stopped, we have the internet, and Phil Tufnell was clearly a fan. As internet gaming became widespread, he got into playing regular online poker when sites like PartyPoker became popular.

This was ideal for players who hadn’t mastered their poker face, as the game could be played online, and the others couldn’t see you. Phil Tufnell could have had four Aces and be smiling like a Cheshire cat!

There are similarities between cricket and poker. Concentration is essential in both games because losing it can be costly. Tufnell would have spent much of the time on the cricket field, trying his best to field the ball. Nothing might happen for ages, and then he’d come to bowl and take a couple of wickets to change the game. It’s like that in poker, as you rarely play any hands and suddenly win some big ones.

What is it about spin bowlers that makes them so good at poker? The late Shane Warne also turned his hand to poker and had great success in tournaments. Phil Tufnell hasn’t been so successful, but he’s found another way to make money from the game.

After his hugely successful playing career ended, Tufnell seamlessly moved into the broadcasting world. He became a regular on ‘Test Match Special’, a captain on ‘A Question of Sport’, appeared on ‘The One Show’ and even won ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.’

With online poker growing in popularity and late-night television tournaments, many new players were attracted to the game. Poker does take a while to get used to, and even the top professionals say they’re still learning new things about the game.

It was inevitable, perhaps, that Phil Tufnell would be a choice to host a DVD about how to play poker. His ‘Win at Poker with Phil Tufnell’ DVD has proved to be a big hit with those who have seen and enjoyed it.

Also featured were top poker players of the day, including Barney Boatman, Gary ‘The Choirboy’ Jones, Greg ‘Fossilman’ Raymer and the late ‘Mad’ Marty Wilson. They were on hand to give the viewers valuable tips on turning hands into winners and beating opponents.

Once the basics had been explained, the DVD included a six-player game of No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, the most popular version of the game.

While Warne and footballers such as Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo are deadly serious about poker, not so Tufnell. He has had some success playing the game, but when he sits at the poker table, it’s more “for enjoyment and a bit of a laugh”.

You can just imagine Tufnell sharing a joke or two with his friends around a poker table. However, like any sportsman, he most likely wants to win any game he plays.

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