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Former MLB All-Star swings for fences at BetMGM Poker Championship

Jason Kipnis had reputation for being a hard-charging, tough-as-nails player during his 10-year Major League Baseball career.

He’s the same way at the poker table.

“I’m either going to be the chip leader,” Kipnis said Friday, “or at the Adele concert.”

The two-time All-Star second baseman is part of the field for the $3,500 buy-in BetMGM Poker Championship that takes place at Aria. The tournament features a $3 million guaranteed prize pool with more than 200 online qualifiers from BetMGM Poker entered.

The final starting flight for the BetMGM Poker Championship is Saturday, and Monday’s final table is set to be streamed on the subscription video service PokerGO.

Last year’s event drew 1,026 entries, triple the size of the inaugural event in 2022. Online poker grinder Leo Taffe captured the $560,442 first prize.

Kipnis, who played in regular poker home games as a teenager in Northbrook, Illinois, during the poker boom of the early 2000s, finished in 107th place for $6,534.

“There’s a mental aspect that definitely translates,” Kipnis said. “Your heart’s racing, stuff’s going, and you don’t know if you’re going to make it one time around (the table). Just like baseball, the poker slows down.”

Kipnis was a second-round draft pick out of Arizona State in 2009 and debuted with Cleveland two years later. He batted .260 with a .333 on-base percentage, 126 home runs, 545 RBIs and 136 stolen bases in 1,165 career games with Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs.

Kipnis’ best season came in 2016 when he hit .275 with 23 home runs, 82 RBIs and 15 steals to help Cleveland reach the World Series. In Game 7 against the Cubs, he scored from second base on a wild pitch on a memorable play. Cleveland went on to lose 8-7 in 10 innings, giving the Cubs their first World Series championship since 1908.

“That’s me doing everything I can to be successful in this game, and that’s being ready for every opportunity,” Kipnis said. “I had success by finding where I could have an impact, what works for me, being ready for the opportunity when it arose and recognizing that opportunity. I would like to say that epitomizes me as a player.”

Kipnis played in 59 games the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate in 2021 before he retired. He dabbles in sports media with regular appearances on the “Foul Territory” baseball podcast, which recorded Friday at Mandalay Bay.

“I like getting into the media side,” Kipnis said. “I didn’t know how much I wanted to do it, so this is a perfect way to dip my toes into that pond and see how much I like it, if I want to do it more, if it’s for me, if it’s not for me. But right now I’m having a lot of fun.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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