Is This Poker’s Greatest World Cup Themed XI?

By Ian John
December 12, 2022
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No doubt you will already know that the FIFA World Cup is now at the semifinal stage in Qatar with just four teams out of the 32 that reached the finals left with a chance of winning the top prize.

Those teams are Croatia who face Argentina in the first semi-final, while in the second France will face the surprise package from the World Cup in Morocco, the first African side to ever reach the semifinals of the soccer showpiece event.

So in recognition of the fact that this is an exciting point of the World Cup, we’ve decided to do something a little different.

What we have done is put together a genuine football-themed team, comprising of soccer stars who have made a splash, big or small, in the world of poker.

Many budding poker stars begin their careers online, on sites like bet365 Poker, which offers an extensive range of games to enjoy and experience and build up your poker skills.

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There’s certainly cases where some of the soccer stars listed below found their feet in online tournaments, before progressing onto mixing it with top poker professionals in a number of different local, national or even international tournaments.

So, who gets into our Poker-themed Soccer XI? Let’s take a look at some of the stellar names below, starting with a true legend of the game.

All-Time Poker-Playing Soccer Team

We have adopted a 3-4-3 formation for this team as it best fits the players that we have available

Goalkeeper – Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)

  • International Caps – 176 (0 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $0

Buffon has played Poker for at least 10 years, if not considerably longer and has been a PokerStars ambassador previously. While he does not play in live tournaments, other than charity events, Buffon is known to enjoy playing online.

Left Centre Back – John Arne-Riise (Norway)

  • International Caps – 110 (16 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $18,661

The former Norwegian international enjoyed a fine career making his name in the Premier League with Liverpool and he has also competed in the Main Event at the World Series of Poker in 2016 and has managed to land a modest return on his playing since then.

Right Centre Back – Gerard Pique (Spain)

  • International Caps – 102 (5 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $668,155

The former Spain and Barcelona centre back has recently retired from football and that may well free up more time for him to follow what has been a successful second career at the poker table. With over $668,000 in career live earnings, he finished second in a €25,000 high roller event in 2019 picking up €352,950.

Centre Back – Lothar Matthaus (Germany)

  • International Caps – 150 (23 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $0

Although best remembered as a midfielder, I’ve opted to put Matthaus in a more defensive role, where he played in the later years of his career. Matthaus doesn’t have any official earnings in live poker, but it is well established that he is a huge fan of the game and enjoys playing recreationally.

Right Midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

  • International Caps – 196 (118 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $0 (Unofficially, he is believed to have won over $30,000 online)

One of the greatest players ever, Cristiano Ronaldo is a former PokerStars ambassador, and while he has not made too many appearances in live events, he is believed to have won well over $30,000 in events online, as well as playing in online high-stakes games against poker pros and other sports stars.

Defensive Centre Midfield – Jan Molby (Denmark)

  • International Caps – 33 (2 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $14,723

The likeable “Great Dane” was one of the most recognisable performers for Liverpool in the late 80s and 90s. Powerfully built with sublime technique, he also played for Ajax and the Danish national team and as a poker player he has earned $14,723 in earnings, the majority coming from a $9,723 live cash.

Attacking Midfield – Teddy Sheringham (England)

  • International Caps – 14 (4 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $329,475

Half of the famed Sheringham and Shearer partnership for England at Euro 1996, Teddy played for a host of top clubs in his career notably Tottenham, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and West Ham. Upon retiring he made an EPT Main Event final table in Vilamoura, earning €93,121 for finishing 5th out of a field of 384.

Left Midfield – Neymar Jr. (Brazil)

  • International Caps – 51 (11 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $32,131

The most expensive footballer ever, Neymar is also a PokerStars ambassador and has a best live cash of over $21,000 making up the majority of his $32,131 poker earnings. Although that is chump-change to a player who earns well in excess of $87 million in salary alone, plus more than double that in sponsorship deals.

Forward – Ronaldo (Brazil)

  • International Caps – 98 (62 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $45,760

One of the greatest players of all-time, Ronaldo had a glittering career despite being hampered by horrific injuries from the age of 22 onwards. Now a club owner, he has also earned almost $50,000 playing poker and has indicated that he would like more opportunity to play the game in the future.

Forward – Tony Cascarino (Ireland)

  • International Caps – 88 (19 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $595,809

The former Irish international striker played for a number of clubs including Millwall, Aston Villa, Celtic, Chelsea, Marseille and Nancy. He began playing poker when still playing and has amassed over half a million dollars playing poker and is ranked 44th on the all time Irish money list.

Forward – Max Kruse (Germany)

  • International Caps – 14 (4 goals)
  • Poker Earnings – $246,021 (1 WSOP Bracelet)

Ranked 155th on the all-time German money list, Kruse is one of the few professional footballers to have a WSOP Bracelet after winning a tournament in 2022. He last played for Wolfsburg before being released from his contract in November 2022.

Who Makes The Bench?

There are a number of other soccer stars that could make the bench for the team who have also enjoyed success while playing poker.

  • David Levy (Israel)
  • Francesco Totti (Italy)
  • Andrei Shevchenko (Ukraine)
  • Jan Vang Sorensen (Denmark)
  • Vikash Dhorasoo (France)
  • Tomas Brolin (Sweden)
  • Steve Watts (England)
  • Ian Bishop (England)
  • Hipolito Rincon (Spain)
  • Fernandinho (Brazil)
  • John Terry (England)
  • Douglas Costa (Brazil)
  • Arturo Vidal (Chile)

So what do you think? Will this Poker XI cause more ripples on the football field, or on the poker felt and do you think they’d prefer to win the World Cup, or a WSOP Main Event bracelet?

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