Anna Benson could find herself getting plenty of face time on ESPN in the coming year. Not during baseball games, but more likely during one of the network's ubiquitous poker broadcasts.
The wife of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Kris Benson has been polishing her game by playing nearly every day, whether online, on her cell phone or even live and in person. She also recently signed a deal to endorse and promote a fledgling poker Web site.
"I'm still a young little poker player. I've got a long ways to go," Benson said. "It is a thrill to me. They call it a sport now, so it's kind of cool for me to come in and be my own type of an athlete.
"I'm hoping to really amass an empire with this poker. I love to give money away to charities, to change people's lives."
Benson appeals to two groups of consumers: those who read magazines such as Maxim and FHM, and those who follow professional sports.
Benson signed a multiyear deal with Golden Spirit Poker, a company that renamed itself from Golden Spirit Mining and refocused on online gaming. She will link to the Golden Spirit site from her personal Web site, as well as have a site named for her which redirects to Golden Spirit's main site.
She plans to play her first official hand on the site Thursday night. The site lists other casino games as "coming soon," but sports gambling will not be available.
Rich Levin, spokesman for the commissioner's office, declined to comment on Benson's affiliation with Golden Spirit.
Kris Benson was recently traded to Baltimore by the New York Mets. Anna Benson had made comments critical of her husband's teammate, Carlos Delgado, and upset some in the Mets organization by wearing a racy Santa costume to the team's holiday party.
Several months before the World Series of Poker in July, Benson became interested in the game. She entered the series, was eliminated after a few days, but plans to return to Las Vegas this summer a better player.
"I'm going to get schooled on how to play by some of these big-time pros," Benson said. "I want to play well. I'm not trying to do this as a joke, I'm dead serious about playing. I'm not like some bimbo sitting down at a table."