The surprising connections between poker and skydiving
One of the fantastic things about skydiving is that it’s a great equalizer. From lawyers and construction workers to engineers and waiters, skydiving is an inclusive activity that has engaged a diverse range of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Even poker players have experienced the unique thrill that comes with jumping from an aircraft and free falling thousands of feet in the air, only to land safely with a well-timed tug of the parachute. Although the two sports couldn’t be any more different, skydiving and poker do share one thing in common. Both skydiving and poker started out as niche activities that eventually gained well-deserved mainstream acceptance as recreational endeavors and competitive sports.
Anyway, there are quite a few professional poker players who have been captivated by the rush of skydiving. Thomas Wahlroos is a Finnish poker pro who also happens to be an avid and proficient skydiver in his own right. Indeed, Wahlroos has performed as many as 20 jumps in a single day; he currently has more than a thousand jumps to his name. Naturally, Wahlroos has successfully taken his passion for skydiving to the world of poker. Wahlroos managed to convince fellow poker pros Phil Laak, Michael Binger, and Amnon Filippi in a casual skydiving getaway north of Las Vegas a few days before the $25,000 tournament at the 2007 Partypoker WPT Five Star World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. (Interestingly, Wahlroos would finish in 7th place at the same tournament after famously eliminating poker legend Phill Hellmuth in a crowd-pleasing performance.) With the generous guidance of the professionals at Skydive Mesquite, Wahlroos, Laaak, Binger, and Filippi safely went free falling for approximately 45 seconds at 10,000 to 11,000 feet. While Wahlroos no longer plays poker for a living these days, he has certainly kept himself pretty busy as the head of Norway-based investing company Spontel. The enigmatic Wahlroos occasionally competes in both online and live poker tournaments in the Grand Casino Helsinki – and yes, he’s still a fairly active skydiver.
New York-based poker semi-pro Cory Albertson made his first skydiving jump in the summer of 2004 and was instantly hooked. Albertson was so determined to be a licensed skydiver that he played a lot of online poker games to save up enough money to go through an Advanced Freefall (AFF) certification course in Florida. In the two years that followed, Albertson completed 151 jumps in different locations across the U.S.