Over the years, as the wages of sports stars has increased, sportsmen and sportswomen have become more closely associated with gambling. When it was the pinnacle venue of world boxing, Las Vegas helped to merge the biggest sportsmen in the world with poker pros in casinos to create a playground for millionaires.
Tennis players Boris Becker and Rafael Nadal are also known for their love of poker and represent a distinct generational split. Becker, who retired in 1999, has been a regular at live tournaments in Europe whereas the still active Nadal hasn’t featured at a live poker tournament and instead plays online poker. Among the most affluent of all sports stars are footballers. Their huge contracts and massive transfer fees enable them to be associated with casinos, gambling, and poker.
We may not be able to see all of the sportsmen who love poker at live tournaments due to the increasingly popular online casinos appealing to the lifestyle of sports stars. The convenience of the best UK online casinos means that gambling can fit into their hectic schedules while still providing the competition and thrills that they seek. So, these are the top footballers who have proven their skill as poker players.
The star-studded poker event in Barcelona
In 2018, the European Poker Tour hosted a €25,000 buy-in charity game for sports stars and poker pros alike. Being hosted at Casino Barcelona, it should come as no surprise that the event saw many Barcelona stars play poker as well as summon a former star player back to Cataluña.
At the event, the now Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar brought along teammate Giovani Lo Celso and met up with Barcelona players Arthur Melo, Luis Suarez, and Ivan Rakitic to play for Project Institute. Of all of the footballers in attendance, though, Gerard Pique was the most notorious.
Pique came into the event having played at many European Poker Tour events in Barcelona, which includes his fifth-place finish at the 2017 edition for €129,350. At the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event, Pique was among the leaders until he fell off of the pace to make way for the poker pros. He’s undoubtedly refined his play at online casinos by playing in the online poker rooms since.
Other footballers who are also poker players
Other famous poker-playing footballers include Ronaldo, who won $42,180 at an event in the Bahamas, Teddy Sheringham, who boasts $300,000 in career poker winnings, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar, coached by poker pro Vanessa Selbst, defeated Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul at a charity poker event in 2016. Another top-class footballer who caught the poker bug is Gianluigi Buffon. The Italian goalkeeper isn’t one for the live events, but he does play online poker under the nickname ‘gigibuffon’.
Whether it’s at online casinos or in the halls of a famous Las Vegas venue, sports stars will always be drawn to the thrills of gambling. It just so happens that there are a fair few footballers who can hold their own as poker players.