Football and poker are two highly competitive industries. It takes some serious dedication for footballers to hone their craft and make it in the big time of the Premier League. When players retire, they lose the thrill of competition; the challenge of outsmarting and outperforming others. That’s one of the main reasons why retired Premier League players look to other pursuits to try and plug this gap.
Poker is an excellent alternative. First and foremost, the biggest multi-table tournaments and cash games carry a sense of prestige, akin to playing at the top level of English football. Secondly, there is the challenge of trying to be the best. With hundreds – sometimes thousands – of poker players to outlast in tournaments, it’s a gruelling test of skill and endurance in equal measure.
Several former Premier League stars have turned their hand – pardon the pun – to poker through the years. Below, we’ll explore their performances in the poker scene after hanging up their boots.
Gerard Pique happened to be one of the world’s best defenders in his prime. The Spanish international moved to Manchester United from Barcelona in 2004, spending four years with the Red Devils under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. Pique played several games for United in the 2007/08 EPL season before being lured back to his home city in a £5 million deal.
Pique retired from the game in 2022 after 397 senior appearances for the Catalan giants, having also made over a century of appearances for the Spanish national team. Away from football, one of Pique’s biggest passions is poker. Pique happens to be 40th in Spain’s all-time money list in poker, with almost $739,000 in live poker earnings. His best return came at an EPT Barcelona event, finishing runner-up in a $25,000-entry event for a cool $392,515 prize.
Former England, Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham United striker Teddy Sheringham made a successful transition between football and poker. He’s still a respected figure in the world of football, regularly giving his opinions on Tottenham in the Premier League, and, at the time of writing, Sheringham is 466th on England’s all-time money list, with total live earnings of almost $330,000.
Sheringham’s biggest poker winnings came at the 2010 European Poker Tour (EPT). The EPT is one of the longest-standing circuits on the poker scene, with legs staged across Europe throughout the calendar year. In 2023, the EPT ventured as far afield as Cyprus for the first time, staged at the five-star Merit Royal Diamond Hotel Casino & Spa resort. Sheringham’s best cash in the EPT, however, was in the Portuguese resort of Vilamoura. He went on to make the final table of the Main Event here, finishing fifth and taking a payout of $118,346.
Ukrainian football legend Andriy Shevchenko enjoyed an illustrious club and international football career. Shevchenko averaged more than a goal every other game for his native Dynamo Kyiv, as well as Italian giants AC Milan. His move to Premier League side Chelsea was rather less prolific, as he scored just nine goals in 48 appearances before returning to Milan on loan 12 months later.
Shevchenko has turned his hand to management since his retirement, coaching the Ukrainian national team for five years before resigning from his position in 2021. He also had a 12-month spell with Serie A outfit, Genoa. Shevchenko has also proven himself to be a handy poker player in his downtime. He’s appeared in several World Series of Poker (WSOP) online events, even locking horns in a heads-up contest with two-time WSOP bracelet winner, Yuri Dzivielevski.
Tony Cascarino plied his trade in the top flight of English football in the early 1990s, after earning his stripes with Gillingham and Millwall further down the leagues. The Republic of Ireland international appeared for Chelsea in the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season and in the following 1993-94 campaign, scoring eight goals in 40 games.
Since retiring in 2000, Cascarino has enjoyed a long career as a pundit on television and prominent radio stations like talkSPORT. He’s also been a player on the UK poker scene. In 2007, he cashed at the Main Event of the EPT London, narrowly missing out on a final table appearance but taking home $44,883.
Looking at the current generation of professional football stars, who do you think has got what it takes to crack the game of poker once they hang up their boots?