The Golden State Warriors, better at poker than basketball?

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 01/13/2021

The Golden State Warriors have had a poor season. The team suffered a string of injuries and got the short end of a few player trades, leaving them on the sidelines. Most of the NBA went down to Disney World to isolate at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. But the Warriors didn’t, so they have had plenty of time to practice their free throws.

When the team have downtime, one of the ways they maintain team spirit is with a series of grueling card games, reports Wes Goldberg for the Mercury News. Sometimes these games would last for whole flights, carrying on even as the non-players on the team disembarked. The game has been running for ten years. Players come and go, seasons pass with wins and losses, but the hands keep getting dealt.

Unfortunately, COVID restrictions have nixed the game. Players can do a certain amount of practice, but team briefings take place by video call. The space for swapping pots and stories over the baize has been put on pause.

Poker warriors

The game started out in 2012 when Draymond Green and Stephen Curry were still relatively new to the team. Back then the game was bourré, a Louisiana-French trick-taking game reminiscent of euchre.

Green and Curry remain the backbone of the game. But there are new players in the rotation too. Not only for players, directors of basketball ops Johnnie West and Klay Thompson have also won and lost. In Thompson’s case mostly the latter according to Shaun Livingston, who left the Warriors in 2019.

Since the early days of bourré, the game had developed into high stakes poker, a more popular and gambling-friendly game. And Green and Curry aren’t playing to unwind. They take it seriously. For them, the competition at the card table is just a continuation of the competition on the court. But this time, they’re working to beat their own team.

“I’m probably the wrong person to talk to because I was never a part of those games,” said Livingston, who left the Warriors in 2019. “I pay taxes, so I didn’t really feel like paying another tax on top of the ones I already pay.”

He isn’t the only one. For every avid card player on the team, there’s someone who looks at those doll-eyed sharks and balks at taking a swim.

Kent Bazemore, on a rookie’s salary said, “I never once sat at that table or even thought about sitting at that table. It was open invitation. The thing is, once you get in, you can’t get out.”

After the season they’ve had, Curry and Green might want to look at switching games permanently.

Featured image source: Flickr by Caitlin Childs