The Premier League is the most exciting football league globally, packed with world-class stars performing at the peak of their abilities.
At the recent Euro 2020 tournament, 152 of the players picked for squads play in England, 54 more than the next highest (Germany) and accounting for almost a quarter of all players at the competition. There is no doubt that England is the home of football.
It is also a keen poker-playing country, and whilst the US hosts some of the top tournaments in the world, often big stars turn their hand to the game once they finish playing. Some of those competitors make a big success of their life after the game, especially around the poker tables. Football is a game that shares many traits with the popular card game, making it a natural transition for many. For instance, there is plenty of poker terminology to learn, as there is with football, and once you grasp the language, you become a better player. You must also be adaptable on the football field and around the poker felt, with a keen sense of dealing with pressure. What situation could deliver more pressure than performing in the world’s best football league? Maybe a hand for big money around a poker table?
Also, footballers tend to have lots of spare time after training or on long away trips, and some find their way into cards as a method of passing the time. That is certainly how the first of our former Premier League players, who now enjoy a game of poker, got into the card game.
Teddy Sheringham was a star at Euro 96 for England but is perhaps best known for his exploits with Manchester United. In the 1999 Champions League Final, he helped his team snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a late equalizer, quickly followed by a goal from the current boss at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Sheringham also appeared for Millwall, Spurs, West Ham and Nottingham Forest but won three Premier League titles whilst at Old Trafford. In his autobiography, he admits to becoming a fan of poker on bus trips to away fixtures, and after leaving the game, he did very well in tournaments. In 2010, he made the final table in the €5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event in the EPT Vilamoura, finishing fifth.
Ian Bishop encapsulates everything fascinating about the English game: he is a character that fans love to talk about. Much of his top-flight football came whilst playing for West Ham, but he also enjoyed two spells with Manchester City long before the trophies started piling up. He later moved to the US, where he bought a Harley Davison and began to live a remarkable life. That life even took him to the MGM Grand for a World Series Main Event, although he was quickly busted out after going all-in on three fours against a straight. Luckily, he entered another tournament the next day and won £30,000 ($42,000).
Pique is best known for his 13 years at Barcelona, where he has won La Liga eight times and the Champions League on three occasions. People often forget that he spent a handful of years at Manchester United as a young player, lifting the Premier League title and the Champions League in 2008. However, he appeared just 13 times in that memorable season and quickly got on a plane back to Spain. He gambled on a move to England, but ultimately his big win came doing what he knew best, playing for Blaugrana. He is a well-known poker player now, and along with teammate Arturo Vidal, he won almost €500k ($597k) at a single-day tournament in Spain in 2019.
Poker might not require the physical dexterity that a game of football demands, but the similarities in terms of concentration, understanding and nerve are apparent for all to see. That aside, it also helps to have a bit of disposable income to buy into the bigger games, which certainly suits today’s modern footballer!