While finishing fourth may have become a significant motivator for clubs in the Premier League, most individual players love nothing more than lifting trophies. This is a result of the inherent winning mentality that is engrained in most elite-level athletes, and the competitive edge that separates the greats from mere mortals.
With this in mind, it’s little wonder that footballers also like to win away from the pitch, with many having chanced their arm and won big at the casino. Some have achieved this during a high stakes night out with their teammates, while others have also generated regular returns by gambling both on and offline.
In this article, we’ll look at five footballers who’ve won big at the casino, and explore the unique circumstances behind their move into the gambling realm.
Jan Vang Sorensen
Let’s start with the most obscure name on the list, with Jan Vang Sorensen having only enjoyed a modest playing career at Danish League side Odense.
Not only this, but his career was also cut short by injury at the tender age of 30, forcing him to seek out an alternative source of income.
This turned out to be the making of Sorensen, however, as he turned to the world of poker and casino gameplay and slowly established himself as a successful professional.
In fact, he’s earned more than $2 million playing poker since he retired from football, which we’d wager is more than he made during his entire playing career. He’s also earned 2 World Series of Poker bracelets during his time, and an impressive 12 money finishes throughout his career.
It’s also interesting to note that Sorensen is believed to have first dabbled in online poker while on the road with Odense, as he began to hone his skills and lay the foundations for his future career path.
This just goes to show how accessible a career as a professional poker player is in the digital age, and Sorensen is not the only player to have followed this path in recent years.
In many ways, Gerard Pique is the archetypal modern day footballer. Not only is he a cultured centre half who has plied his trade in more than one country, for example, but he’s also married to the Colombian popstar Shakira and lives a lifestyle that most of us can only dream of.
Pique also has a passion for poker, with this pastime first coming to fore following Spain’s elimination from the 2014 World Cup. At this time, the Barcelona defender was spotted competing in the World Series of Poker, but it appears as though his affiliation with gambling started long before then.
In fact, Pique won an impressive 40,950 euros while competing in the forerunner to the Pokerstars Championship back in 2011, while he also won 21,150 euros and 31,700 euros during 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Last year, Pique enjoyed his most successful tournament to date, taking home 129,350 euros after coming fifth in a No Limit Hold’em event at Casino Barcelona. This was part of the Pokerstars Championship Barcelona, as such is the Spaniard’s pedigree that it was no surprise to see him performing so well in such exalted company.
In total, Pique has earned $275,640 from his poker exploits to date, placing him 6,974 on the all-time money list. Intriguingly, he’s actually as high as 75th on the Spanish money list, and this represents a significant achievement by anyone’s standards.
At face value, it should come as no surprise to see the talented Brazilian forward Neymar featuring prominently on our list.
After all, the PSG striker served as a Pokerstars ambassador for nearly two years between 2015 and 2017, while he also makes no secret of his love for online poker across his Twitter and Instagram feeds.
He’s also a regular frequenter of bricks-and-mortar casinos in Monte Carlo and Las Vegas, where he loves nothing more than participating in high stakes games and spending some of his estimated $31 million wealth.
Interestingly, Neymar also earned the distinction of drawing the best possible hand (a royal flush) at a poker tournament back in 2015, landing a whopping 17,810 euros in the process. He proudly showed off his winning hand on Instagram, even though this amount barely represents 1% of the Brazilian’s annual earnings.
Neymar also celebrated PSG’s recent title triumph by playing a high stakes poker game online, as he recovered from a broken foot back in his homeland. So, while his teammates were thrashing Monaco 7-1 to seal their fifth title in six years, the Brazilian had one eye on the game and another on his winnings.
While Sheringham remains best known for his exploits as a striker for Tottenham, Manchester United and England, while he also turned out for Millwall, Nottingham Forest and West Ham during a long and illustrious career.
The cultured former number 10 also had a love for online gambling, and he quickly developed a penchant for poker towards the end of his playing career.
He even turned professional after finally hanging up his boots, before enjoying an extremely successful career that has yielded total winnings in excess of $280,000.
Although Sheringham did not win any titles during his career, his biggest win came in September 2010, when he placed fifth at the Vilamoura Main Event on the European Poker Tour in Portugal. For his troubles, he pocketed around 93,000 euros ($119,425), and this helped to establish him as a serious contender who should never be discounted.
Sheringham also won $28,530 at the 43rd Annual World Series of Poker in 2012, placing 388th in an extremely competitive field. Overall, he has managed to earn an impressive $92,455 across all World Series of Poker iterations that he has participated in, although a coveted bracelet continued to elude him during these tournaments.
All in all, Sheringham managed to earn considerable success during a relatively short professional poker career, with his performances on the European Tour especially memorable.