Most poker fans remember Bernard Lee for his deep run in the 2005 World Series of Poker main event, or for his regular reporting and columns on ESPN, the Boston Herald, and even Card Player Magazine. But the two-time WSOP Circuit winner showed off some of his other skills last week at the 2023 National Senior Games, taking on the country’s best in the National Pickleball Championship.
The event, held in Pittsburgh, attracted over 1,500 pickleball players, with the 53-year-old Lee competing in the youngest age division of 50-54. Despite being in one of the toughest brackets, Lee had no issues getting to the finals by winning all of the games in his matches.
You can watch Lee in action below.
He was poised to cruise to the championship, winning the first of three games in the finals, before a calf injury threatened his title chances. His daughter, acting as his trainer, was concerned, but Lee wanted to continue playing.
“I told her that she would have to cut off my leg to prevent me from playing,” Lee stated. “I was basically playing on one leg after the injury. I decided to just go for my shots and try to end the points as quickly as possible.”
Fortunately for Lee, the shots landed and the match was his.
“I’m tremendously thankful to take home to gold and the 2023 National Championship.”
Lee is relatively new to pickleball, having just started playing a couple years ago, but quickly found that he had a knack for it. When he’s not playing or reporting on poker, he plays pickleball for Team Engage.
Pickleball combines many elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. The sport was invented in 1965, but has seen a surge in new players in recent years, being named the fastest growing sport in the U.S. for the last two years.
Professional pickleball teams have drawn investments from the likes of Drew Brees and LeBron James. Some sportsbooks are even working towards offering professional pickleball betting in the near future.