There have been many links between football and poker over the years which attracts many world-class players to trade their boots for bets during the off-season. Whether their love for poker stems from the extreme mental challenge, the thrill of the game, or just pure fun, fans of both sides have enjoyed following these players both on the pitch and at the poker tables.
Here are some of the world’s most famous footballers who have been known to dabble in highly-competitive poker games.
#1 Gerard Piqué (Spain)
The FC Barcelona defender is considered one of the greatest defensive players of his generation and has been known for his impressive poker skills at numerous live tournaments. He made an appearance at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona in 2011, 2013, 2016, and most recently in 2019, where he finished 2nd for €352,950, making this his best live cash. He was joined by fellow teammate Arturo Vidal who also ran deep and finished in 5th place.
Piqué clearly enjoys poker. In a 2016 interview with Pokernews, he said that playing poker and soccer gives him the “same feeling in your stomach, a little bit of nerves,” because in poker and soccer “you know how to play, but you never know how the cards will be, so you have to adapt to each situation”.
#2 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Undoubtedly one of the best football players of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo reveals another hidden talent, Poker. The Manchester United star forward became a member of Team PokerStars in May 2015.
“Although football is my world, poker has always been my game. I’m very excited to join the team. I started playing poker a few years ago, and I love the competition, strategy and fun. I’m looking forward to taking my game to the online and live poker tables and meeting my fans head to head.”
This football legend has been spotted several times playing pot-limit Omaha sessions against his friends, including Patrik Antonius and Daniel Cates. He even went heads-up against Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul in a charity event and won. A prominent philanthropist, Ronaldo often donates his tournament winnings to various charities.
#3 Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
Gianluigi Buffon, sometimes referred to as “Gigi” is a legendary Italian footballer who spends part of his free time playing poker. He started out as an unknown online player but things changed when he scored some notable victories in online tournaments. Gigi’s passion for poker stems from his love for competition and as his game improved he also caught the eye of PokerStars.
In 2010, PokerStars invited him to become part of Team Pokerstars alongside Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker. He also became the brand ambassador for PokerStars Italian market and was seen at live and online events for the European Poker Tour.
For online poker aficionados, you may have a chance of playing against him some day. Buffon is known to prefer online tournaments and is often seen playing online poker under his football nickname “Gigi Buffon”.
#4 Neymar Jr (Brazil)
Neymar has been serving as a longtime celebrity representative for PokerStars. Through PokerStars, the Brazilian has competed in various poker events around the world, including the 2018 Brazilian Series of Poker, where he placed sixth, walking away with $21,072 in winnings.
In 2018, while his teammates at Paris Saint-Germain were busy winning their seventh Ligue 1 title, the football superstar was seen playing poker online. Though, to be fair, Neymar was recuperating from the surgery on the fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Recently, Neymar was seen competing in the 2022 $10,000 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Limit Hold’em Championship but was knocked out on Day 1. However, he did manage to cash in on Event #41: $1,000 Super Turbo Bounty No-Limit Hold’em when he finished at 49th place for $3,959 in prize money.
#5 Max Bennet Kruse (German)
Kruse is a German professional footballer who currently plays as a forward for VfL Wolfsburg. He is an avid poker player and is one of the most active professional footballers currently in the poker scene.
Most recently, Kruse was at the 2022 World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. He was spotted at the final table of Event #29: $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw but was the first to be eliminated. In 2021, he had his highest cash winnings when he finished 5th place in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em – Heads Up Championship ONLINE (Event #15) for $62,156.
#6 Teddy Sherringham (England)
Edward Paul “Teddy” Sheringham was an ex-forward, who in his 24-year career, had played for famous football clubs such as the Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Westham United.
As one of the major football players, Sheringham’s appearance in the poker world did not go unnoticed. Ever since his retirement in 2008, he has been seen playing in major poker tournaments around the world and making a name for himself, with his all-time winnings being at $329,475.
In the 2009 £10,000 WSOPE Main Event, he finished 14th place for $66,738, and in the $10,000 WSOP World Championship in 2012, he received $28,530 for coming in at 388th place. Sherringham’s biggest cash was in the 2010 European Poker Tour (EPT), when he finished 5th in the €5,000 EPT Main Event for $118,346.
#7 Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)
Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko is a Ukrainian football manager who used to play as a striker for Dynamo Kyiv. Shevchenko has participated in online poker tournaments, including the WSOP Online Bracelet Events, where in Event #79: $25,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold’em, he went heads-up against two-time WSOP bracelet winner Yuri Dzivielevski. Check out the video below for the highlights.
Shevchenko has also played in several charity matches against former sporting stars and celebrities such as Rafael Nadal, Neymar, Ronaldo, and Daniel Negreanu.
#8 Tony Cascarino (Ireland)
Anthony Guy Cascarino is a former professional footballer who played as a striker for various British and French clubs. Since his retirement, Cascarino has been playing poker more seriously and eventually turned semi-professional. In his autobiography “Full Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino”, he talked about his love of gambling, particularly in poker.
Since 2004, Cascarino has 23 cashes from various tournaments, with a total live earnings of $595,809. His biggest cash to date was from the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour, where he played in the £3,000 Main Event and outlasted everyone for $283,412.
Play poker with some of your favorite footballers at Natural8, Asia’s largest online poker room geared towards recreational players. A skin on the reputable GGPoker Network, Natural8 is fully licensed and authorised. Anyone can join for free, and there are no hidden fees. On top of the $120 million guaranteed prize pool for tournaments every month, Natural8 also offers players extra incentives in the form of monthly promotions and cashback programs.