Poker’s Top Basketball Fans: An NBA All-Star Special

By Matt Hansen
February 13, 2020

As another NBA season grinds its way into the All-Star Break, fans all over the world are coming together once again to celebrate as the league’s premier stars gather for the annual showcase of basketball festivities.

All-Star Weekend has traditionally been an opportunity for players to have some fun before things get more serious in the pursuit of an NBA title. This is just as true for the fans, who must soon come to terms with another losing season or prepare to get excited for a potential playoff run. As the summer draws nearer, some poker players may even need to start thinking about how their team playing in the NBA Playoffs might conflict with the WSOP schedule.

While poker is a global game, and professional players often regularly travel the world to compete in marquee tournament series, their ties to their hometowns remain strong, as do their connections to their local sports teams. Indeed, rooting for one’s hometown sports teams is the type of connection that usually lasts forever, and NBA teams can count famous poker players among their most loyal fans all over the league.

In that spirit, here’s our list of poker’s most loyal and diehard fans of each NBA team.


Atlanta Hawks

Josh Arieh

With nine cashes and three top 10 finishes at the 2019 World Series of Poker, Josh Arieh is coming off of one his best years since he placed third in the 2004 Main Event. When he is not playing poker, Arieh spends his leisure time at his home in Atlanta playing golf and scoring courtside seats for Hawks games.

Boston Celtics

Bernard Lee

For as long as he’s been a standout at the poker tables and on the media side of the poker industry, Bernard Lee has been a Celtics fan for even longer. The host of the popular Bernard Lee Poker Show (now part of the Cardplayer Lifestyle Podcast Family) has had season tickets to watch the Celtics play for over two decades, as rooting on the team has become a Lee family tradition.


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20th season as @celtics season tix holder! 20th Opening night! W/ my kids for the 3rd year in a row. #LetsGoCeltics

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Brooklyn Nets

Jared Jaffee

Hailing from Staten Island, New York probably made the transition from New Jersey to Brooklyn easy for longtime Nets fan and 2014 WSOP bracelet winner Jared Jaffee. After all, you don’t buy season tickets to watch a team unless you’re a truly passionate supporter.

Jared Jaffee

Image credit:

Charlotte Hornets

Chris Hunichen

Clayton, North Carolina native and Hornets fan Chris Hunichen quietly put together a banner year in 2019, taking in over $4.3 million in live tournament earnings and making a deep run to 54th in the WSOP Main Event. When Big Huni’s in the field, other players best watch out! His Hornets, however, didn’t fare as well, just missing the playoffs.

Chris Hunichen

Hunichen sporting a jersey of Hornets team owner Michael Jordan
Image credit: Neil Stoddart | PokerStars Blog

Chicago Bulls

Connor Drinan

Chicago native and Bulls fan Connor Drinan has an impressive live career with over $11 million in earnings, but for better or worse he’s become recognizable among casual poker fans for being on the losing end of that famous hand vs. Cary Katz at the 2014 Big One for One Drop.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Adam Friedman

Back-to-back reigning (and defending!) $10,000 WSOP Dealer’s Choice Champion Adam Friedman is originally from Gahanna, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. Prior to pursuing his career as a poker pro, the “LeBron James of Mixed Games” had just a short drive up Interstate 71 to see his Cavaliers.

Dallas Mavericks

Haralabos Voulgaris

In 2018, Marc Cuban hired Haralabos Voulgaris, high-stakes poker player and former legendary NBA bettor, to serve as the Director of Quantitative Research and Development for the Mavericks. Much like “Haralabob” is a force to be reckoned with at the felt, the Mavs have seen their fortunes turn positive since bringing the master statistician into their fold.

Denver Nuggets

Chance Kornuth

Originally from Denver, Chance Kornuth has over $7 million in live earnings and two WSOP gold bracelets to his name. An online poker legend and accomplished live poker pro, Kornuth left the University of Colorado-Boulder to pursue the game and has not looked back since. Like any passionate fan, Kornuth goes to great lengths to show support for his hometown NBA team, even while abroad.

Detroit Pistons

Ryan Riess

Life for a Detroit sports fan isn’t easy, but 2013 Main Event Champion Ryan Riess speaks his mind on behalf of all Pistons fans wanting to see a better world. Though better known for wearing an NFL Lions jersey, Riess is one of many long-suffering Pistons sports fans. Perhaps better times lie ahead…

Golden State Warriors

Phil Hellmuth

Wherever you find the Warriors, there is a good chance that superfan Phil Hellmuth is nearby keeping a close eye on the team. Whether it’s sitting courtside, jet setting with team owners Joe Lacob and Chamath Palihapitiya, or fraternizing with veteran stars like Draymond Green at the felt, Hellmuth’s white magic and #positivity are without a doubt the team’s secret weapons.

Houston Rockets

Phil Ivey

In the past, Phil Ivey has claimed both the Lakers and Rockets as his favorite NBA teams, but it’s hard to think about Ivey and the NBA without picturing him in his iconic Steve Francis jersey at the 2003 WSOP Main Event. All these years later, his elimination at the hands of Chris Moneymaker is still gripping poker TV.

Phil Ivey MasterClass: A Thorough Review

Indiana Pacers

Chad Eveslage

Look to the top of Indiana’s all-time money list and you’ll see part WSOP Main Event Champ John Cynn and Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton, but it seems they’re not necessarily Pacer fans. Look a little further down the list to fifth place and you’ll notice that, while currently based out of Florida, poker pro Chad Eveslage represented his hometown of Ramsey, Indiana well with eight cashes at the 2019 WSOP and has cobbled together a solid career resume boasting over $1.5 million in live tournament earnings.

Los Angeles Clippers

Bryce Yockey

The fourth place finisher in the 2019 $50,000 WSOP Poker Player’s Championship might best currently known as “the guy that this happened to”, but his terrific performance in that tournament was proof of what many of his professional poker playing peers already know: Yockey is a mixed games beast! Taking a bad beat of that nature, however, is something all longtime Clippers fans can relate to.

Los Angeles Lakers

Mike Matusow

Laker fans like native Los Angeleno Mike “The Mouth” Matusow know both what it takes to reach the winner’s circle as well as what it feels like to experience a drought. They’ve got a lot to be excited about in 2020, however, with the team featuring the one-two All-Star pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, poised to try and take Laker Nation to their 17th  NBA championship.

Memphis Grizzlies

Daniel Marcus

While not a household name in the poker world, Daniel Marcus is rising fast behind the scenes in the NBA. The former financial analyst has served a number of front office roles in the Grizzlies organization, and is currently the manager of their G-League team, the Memphis Hustle. Marcus won a WSOP Circuit ring in 2012.

Daniel Marcus

Image courtesy:

Miami Heat

Jason Mercier

The Heat have a lot of celebrity fans, but how many of them have won WSOP gold bracelets in three different variations of poker and another one in H.O.R.S.E.? Jason Mercier stands alone. As he’s gotten married and become a dad in recent years, family is now Jason’s #1 priority, poker and rooting on his favorite sports teams are still a solid #2.

Milwaukee Bucks

Chad Holloway

Giannis Antetokounmpo has the entire state of Wisconsin taking notice of NBA basketball for the first time in a while, and the veteran poker journalist/WSOP gold bracelet winner (and occasional Cardplayer Lifestyle contributor) is catching Bucks fever. Holloway is currently PokerNews’ Head of Live Poker Reporting USA, and usually seen Brewers gear. We may start seeing more Bucks gear on Chad as they make a run at the title this year.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Blake Bohn

Minnesota Poker Hall of Famer Blake Bohn is a legend of the Mid-States Poker Tour and devoted Minnesota sports fan. Much like the Timberwolves, Bohn is beloved in his home state both for his success at the felt as well as for doing his part to promote the game.

Blake Bohn Wolves retweet

New Orleans Pelicans

Ben Mintz

Ben Mintz is a pro poker player from Louisiana as well as a local radio host with a daily show on 100.7 “The Ticket.” He has a little over $600K in live tournament earnings and a WSOP Circuit ring to his credit. Much like the Pelicans, if Mintz can string together some notable wins, many more people will begin paying more attention to this competitor.

New York Knicks

Ryan Depaulo

Ryan Depaulo might not be poker’s most famous Knicks fan, but he certainly qualifies as the loudest. A nominee for the 2019 Global Poker Award for People’s Choice Poker Personality, Depaulo burst onto the scene at the 2019 WSOP Colossus, where he notched a very strong third place finish while wearing an Amare Stoudamire jersey. Depaulo vlogs regularly out of New York City.

Ryan Depaulo

Image credit: Tomas Stacha, for PokerNews

Oklahoma City Thunder

Ben Lamb

Ben Lamb talked about his love of ping pong and the Thunder in this 2012 interview after he gained notoriety as a member of the November Nine in 2011. Since then, Lamb has only gotten better, picking up over $11 million in winnings and making another WSOP Main Event final table in 2017.

Orlando Magic

Tristan Wade

Wade is a Florida native and pro poker player with over $1.7 million in lifetime live earnings, including a bracelet win at the WSOP Europe in 2011 and a Circuit ring win in 2014 in his home state. He’s also been an honest and humble fan of the Orlando Magic for well over a decade now.

Philadelphia 76ers

Joe McKeehen

North Wales, Pennsylvania native Joe McKeehen made certain the world remembered him as the biggest Sixers fan in poker by wearing a black Allen Iverson jersey while winning the 2015 WSOP Main Event.

Phoenix Suns

Earl Barron

After a long career playing professional basketball in the NBA (including two separate stints with the Suns) and all over the world, the 7-foot center is spending his retirement in Arizona where he has been making his mark on the local poker scene. Barron has approximately $150,000 in career poker earnings and can be seen most summers looking to add some WSOP gold to go alongside his 2006 NBA Championship ring.

Portland Trail Blazers

Kao Saechao

With over $1 million in live earnings and having made a memorable run all the way to 16th place in the 2018 WSOP Main Event, Kao Saechao is certainly one of Oregon’s top tier poker pros.

Sacramento Kings

J.C. Tran

J.C. Tran has long been a big name in the poker world, and has always been tremendously proud of his Sacramento hometown. The two-time WSOP bracelet winner has over $13 million in lifetime live poker tournament earnings and can regularly be seen on social media and poker broadcasts sporting the gear of and discussing his favorite NBA team.

San Antonio Spurs

Jeff Platt*

Alright, we’ll give this one an asterisk. While poker broadcaster Jeff Platt’s favorite NBA team is actually the Mavericks, we can’t help but associate him with the Spurs. Prior to becoming one of poker’s most popular hosts, Platt covered the Spurs as a reporter for a local TV station. He has always spoken highly of the organization and regularly enjoys telling the story of what it was like to have interviewed the team’s head coach Gregg Popovich.

Toronto Raptors

Daniel Negreanu

The 2019 NBA Finals between the Raptors and Warriors was the perfect opportunity for Daniel Negreanu to stoke the flames of his rivalry with Phil Hellmuth. The Toronto native now resides in Las Vegas, where he is a fixture at Golden Knights NHL games, but he’ll always be a fan of his teams from the Great White North.

Utah Jazz

Jared Griener

With eight cashes at the 2019 WSOP and a near-miss third place finish at the WPT Masters of Poker in August, Jared Griener recently passed $2 million mark in live tournament earnings. This poker pro currently residing in Huntington Beach, California grew up in Provo, Utah rooting for the Jazz, and his support for the team hasn’t waned since.

Washington Wizards

Norman Chad

While he might not claim the Wizards as his own, it would be hard to believe that Norman Chad doesn’t have a place in his heart for the long-suffering D.C. basketball team. Prior to becoming Washington, D.C.’s best known sportswriter and award winning poker broadcaster, Chad spent his college years working at Bullets (R.I.P.) games for a company that transmitted sportswriters’ stories back to their newspapers.



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Matt Hansen poker author
Written By.

Matt Hansen

Matt is a Sixth Grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada. His teaching career began in Chicago and he moved to Las Vegas in the summer of 2018. Matt learned poker as a college student at Southern Illinois University in 2003, where he spent most of his time playing online at […]


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