A surprising number of footballers have gone on to play pretty decent poker. And in some cases – they’ve really excelled. For example, Tomas Brolin, Teddy Sheringham, John Carew, Gerard Pique and Jan Molby have all appeared in different poker tournaments to good effect.
Most notable of these has been Tony Cascarino – the former striker who plied his trade at Gillingham, Millwall, Aston Villa, Celtic, Chelsea and Marseille amongst several others teams – along with the Republic of Ireland at international level. Tony came 14th in the London event of the European Poker Tour back in 2007, and won the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour in 2008
Even more successful is former Dutch player Jan Vang Sørensen. Known as Jan Vang Hansen in his playing days for Odense (he changed to his mother’s maiden name in later years) Jan has won two different bracelets at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) event – the pinnacle of world poker.
Reaching this kind of level at world poker really takes some doing. It’s all about strategy, judgement and consistency rather than luck. This is something non-players often don’t understand well. On the site established by poker professionals, Full Tilt Poker, the same players come out on top time and time again – almost regardless of which Texas holdem hands they’re dealt as this is a pastime where the cream always rises to the top given enough time.
So if we look down the current Gunners squad – which, if any players, have the potential to make it in professional poker once their playing days are over should they pursue such a career?
Mesut Ozil is an obvious good candidate. It’s almost impossible to tell what the Turkish-German player is thinking at any given time. This is a man who very much doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve as much as many others and always looks pretty cool. And with those eyes – he would be impossible to read so his bluffing would surely be superb!
You can’t really say the same about Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard is a determined player who shows his emotions and often goes up something of a side alley perhaps lacking a little focus now and again. Other players are more politically adept out and out team “percentage” players and, despite his undisputed brilliance, Santi should not take to the poker tables when his knees have had enough.
The same goes for Lukas Podolski. Everyone loves Lukas, but he’s too easy to read to excel at poker. In fact, though we all love him, it’s difficult to think of any Arsenal star from the current squad less well-suited to the world of high stakes poker.
Another straight “no” has to be Nicklas Bendtner. You’d know as soon as the cards were dealt what he was holding!
As for Arsene Wenger – well it’s a “definitely-maybe”! His poker face is second to none – but there are times when opponents have got right under his otherwise thick French skin – and no professional poker player can ever afford to let that happen!