The first Saturday at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) saw a wave of more than 5,500 players on Day 1C of the $500 Housewarming event. As the tournament played out at Bally’s / Paris on the Las Vegas Strip, one player stood out among the pros and weekend warriors.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell is a 14-year NFL veteran drafted out of the University of Miami and has played for the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Baltimore Ravens. With NFL mini-camps getting underway league-wide before training camps start in July, Campbell managed to make a trip to Las Vegas to play his first WSOP event since 2019.
“I really didn’t expect to win today, I really just wanted to play and get some experience,” Campbell said after being eliminated from the Housewarming. “I don’t play enough to be really good like that. I just wanted some reps and it was fun to go out there and compete.”
Bad Beat in the Housewarming
Campbell was eliminated late in the day in 2,405th place from the overall 20,080-entrant field which was the fourth-largest field in WSOP history. In the small big blind with ace-queen, Campbell moved all-in over a cutoff raise from Qinghai Pan who had king-deuce suited. Pan called the additional amount of chips and when he turned a flush, Campbell was eliminated.
“I want him to call me with that hand,” Campbell said on being a three-to-one favorite when the money went into the middle. “Statistically, I’m winning the majority of the time. I got my money in good, and it would have been way better if I won the hand. But in this tournament, you need a little bit of luck, and that’s just the game.”
It was Campbell’s fifth-lifetime cash according to The Hendon Mob, and his second WSOP cash following a 338th-place finish in Event #37 at the 2019 WSOP.
“I’m going to try and play in two more tournaments,” Campbell said about his plans for the rest of the WSOP. “It’s like the Super Bowl for me as I don’t get to play that much. I wish I could just sit here and play for a couple of weeks and play every tournament as that would be fun.”
Baltimore Ravens Eyeing Super Bowl
Campbell was traded from the Jaguars to the Ravens prior to the 2020 season, and in April this year, he re-signed on a two-year deal worth $12.5 million. Playing out of the tough AFC North division, the Ravens are standing behind their dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson who is hoping to lead them back to the Super Bowl where they tasted victory in 2012 and 2000.
“I think it’s going to be a great year,” Campbell said on his thoughts on Baltimore heading into the season. “One of the biggest reasons I came back was that I believe the team is in a really good place for us to have an opportunity to win. And that’s where it starts. Do you have a chance to win? When you don’t have a real chance to win, it’s hard. It’s not as fun.”
Campbell will have eyes on some of the best quarterbacks in the league this season as he faces off against Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson throughout the 2022 season. He’ll be hoping to get to the quarterback at least 6.5 more times in his career so he can enter the 100-sack club where only 39 players are currently members.
Of Campbell’s accolades which include an All-Pro selection and multiple Pro Bowl selections with the Cardinals and Jaguars, there is one award that resonates above them all; being awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2019.
“The Pro Bowls and All-Pros are amazing, but being awarded something that has the history that the Walter Payton Man of the Year has with all the greats that have won the award before. Getting an award for helping people, that’s what I think this world is all about.”
“It’s such a blessing to be able to inspire people enough where my peers and the voters thought that I was worthy of that,” Campbell said after being recognized for establishing the Charles R. Campbell Foundation to enhance the community through the teaching of critical life skills to young people. “It’s a gift from them.”
“Everybody that plays this game wants to be a champion,” Campbell said about wanting to win a Super Bowl. “You know you’re a champion at heart, but you have to get it on paper. I just want to go out there and have a chance to compete for a Super Bowl again.”
Poker to Follow Retirement
When time expires on Campbell’s illustrious NFL career he will be setting his sight on the poker tables.
“Poker does that for me,” Campbell said about how he will get his thrill as a competitor once he has retired. “I plan to play a lot more poker when I retire because it’s a good feeling, a good thrill. It gives me that competitive spirit. It’s the gratification, the results.”
Throughout his 14-year NFL career, Campbell’s focus was always on being the best football player he could as poker remained a hobby.
“I never spent time to be good at poker. I just enjoyed it, Campbell said on how he approaches the game. “When I retire, I plan on putting in a lot more effort to be really good at poker.”
On the football field, Campbell chased down quarterbacks and strived to win Super Bowls. On the poker felt, he dreams just as big with his eyes set on poker’s Vince Lombardi trophy; a gold bracelet in the WSOP Main Event.
“I want to win the WSOP Main Event. It’s a tough thing that very few people have done, but I feel like why not? If it can be done, why not me? Just to win a bracelet would be cool. It’s really just about getting the reps, getting the experience. Like anything else, it takes time to be good at it, and eventually, I plan to be a pretty good poker player.”
Before Campbell turns all of his attention to winning a Super Bowl for the Baltimore Ravens, he will have one more shot at winning a WSOP bracelet when he returns to Las Vegas for Event #37: $1,500 MILLIONAIRE Maker.
Whether he hoists the Vince Lombardi trophy or not, Campbell has had a tremendous football career and will have a poker career waiting in the wings when he hangs up his cleats. Campbell’s pride and joy will always be his esteemed Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, but he will happily make some room on the top shelf of his trophy case if he wins a WSOP bracelet, or the Lombardi Trophy.
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