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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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Ex-NFL stars use WSOP Main Event to keep competitive juices flowing

9 Jul 2016

By Gary Trask
LAS VEGAS -- For 15 seasons, Antoine Winfield made a pretty darn good living because of his quickness, playing a game that was all about speed. Not surprisingly, when the ex-NFL defensive back started to take poker more seriously upon retiring from football three years ago, he needed something to fill the void of all the dead time there is when competing in a tournament.

Former Minnesota Viking Antoine Winfield kills time in between hands at the WSOP by playing online chess with Adrian Peterson.

Former Minnesota Viking Antoine Winfield kills time in between hands at the WSOP by playing online chess with Adrian Peterson.

So, there he was on Saturday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino among 764 other players, sitting down for Day 1 of the World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event with his iPad in his lap, squaring off against former Minnesota Vikings teammate and perennial All Pro running back Adrian Peterson in a friendly game of online chess.

"Yeah, Adrian's my guy; there is he right here," the 39-year-old Winfield said with a hearty chuckle as he held up his iPad. "Look, poker is a slow game. You have to be patient and wait for good hands. When those hands don't come — and that seems to be happening a lot to me today — I like to stay active and play chess."

Aside from his three Pro Bowl appearances and trying to call checkmate on a future NFL Hall of Famer in between hands, Winfield, who lives in Houston and spends much of his free time coaching his three sons, does have a lot in common with the average poker player. Like many of the people in the Amazon Room this weekend, Winfield is a child of the "Moneymaker Effect," which helped launch the poker boom after the unknown accountant Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event in 2003.

"I remember watching him on TV and saying, 'Hell, if he can win it, so can I!'" said Winfield, who played five seasons for the Buffalo Bills after being drafted in the first round out of Ohio State in 1999, before signing with the Vikings as a free agent. "It's fun. I love it. I love the competition and I love meeting all the guys. I've been competitive all my life, and this is no different. You're competing against a huge field so it's hard to make it, but it's a lot of fun."

Five tables away inside the Rio on Saturday sat another retired NFL Pro Bowler and first-round pick, who also told us that poker helps him keep the competitive juices flowing. But it was apparent from watching them play and listening to them talk about the game that Richard Seymour is much more serious about his hobby.

Just like Winfield, Seymour looked like he was still in playing shape and was also playing in his third-career Main Event without a cash. But Seymour's demeanor was far different when discussing poker. While Winfield plays mostly just when he's in Vegas, Seymour enters multiple tournaments a year. Since 2014, he has accumulated more than $60,000 in earnings, including a $21,580 hit at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Championship in San Jose back in March when he finished 44th.

On Saturday, he seemed intent on getting into the money at the Main Event this time around.

Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour was playing in his third WSOP Main Event on Saturday.

Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour was playing in his third WSOP Main Event on Saturday.

"I'm light-years ahead of where my game was the last two times," said the 6-foot-6, 36-year-old Seymour, a seven-time Pro Bowler who was the sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft by the New England Patriots where he was part of three Super Bowl teams.

"I feel good about my game, I'll say that. I've worked at it. I've studied. I've read a lot of different books and I listen to a little bit of everybody. I just try to take in all the information I can and incorporate it into my philosophy and my style of play. I'm still a work in progress, but I like where I'm at."

Seymour, who made $99.6 million during his NFL career, plays strictly tournaments, no cash games. While he doesn't play as much as he would like since he and his wife live in the Atlanta area and have five kids ranging from 19 to 8 years old, he does make sure to schedule trips to an assortment of events around the country every so often.

"I really enjoy tournament poker because at the end of the day it's about being competitive, and as a competitor all I want is first place," he said. "Trust me, the money would be great, but that's not what I'm after and that's one of the reasons I don’t play cash games. Tournaments like this give me a chance to play against the best players in the world. So when you play against the best all of the time, you're going to gain that experience and get better. That's a nice consolation prize if I can't win it."
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