The 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals may well be dominating the sports pages at the moment and as we reach the final set of opening Group Stage games today, which sees tournament favourites Brazil finally get their tournament underway, there is excited talk about another World Cup that is slated to take place in Las Vegas next year.

Only at this World Cup, instead of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr donning their boots, you will find a whole host of poker professionals lining up to represent their country at the 2023 World Cup of Vegas.

The tournament is the brainchild of Canadian poker professional and tournament organiser Timothy Adams, a keen football fan, who has combined his love for both poker and soccer to develop what has now become one of the most keenly contested subsidiary events of the summer alongside the World Series of Poker.

And while you may not be able to bet on the 2023 World Cup of Vegas at bet365 Sport, you can certainly assume that there will be plenty of poker players making side-bets on how their team will perform against their rivals at the event next summer!

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Poker Stars Love Football

Adams explained how the tournament initially developed.

“I always loved playing football tournaments growing up,” he explained.

“And the idea of the World Cup of Vegas started in 2014. I played a lot of football growing up and I noticed a lot of poker players on the tour played as well,”

“I bounced the idea around a few guys and there seemed to be a lot of interest.”

“I think a lot of the guys got hooked and the tournament has been growing ever since.”

Adams idea was a clever one. Seeing as many of the world’s top poker players would be in Las Vegas each summer for the World Series of Poker, and while these players would be busy at the tables for a large proportion of the time, they would also have significant spare time to amuse themselves in too.

Why not spend this spare time representing your country, alongside a group of other poker professionals competing in the WSOP in a football tournament as a little added attraction to the action at the poker tables?

Growth Into A Very Competitive Tournament

The first tournament was contested back in 2014 and seven countries participated in the event, which was won by the hosts the United States thanks to a last-minute goal from Jeff Gross, who married a couple of top ten finishes at the 2014 WSOP, by being the hero for his national team against poker players from Brazil.

However, since then the number of teams competing has steadily grown as an increasing number poker players have decided to try and organise a team of compatriots to compete in the tournament.

Each team has a captain, who is vital to the running of the tournament as Mr Adams explained.

“Over the years we have anywhere from 12 to 18 teams participating. I spend a lot of time coordinating and talking with the captains of each team, so there’s lots of organizing happening behind the scenes.”

“I don’t spend my summers in Vegas as often anymore so when I’m not there, Las Vegas Sports Park help me massively, as well as a few friends. I really appreciate that.”

“At times, it’s not always easy to coordinate and there are definitely bumps along the ride but for me, it is totally worth the time I put into it.”

And following on from the 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar, it looks a solid bet to assume that the 2023 World Cup of Vegas is going to be another smash hit success.

Previous Winners

A football tournament consisting of competitors at the WSOP may sound like it is not the most competitive or highly skilled tournament, but Adams explains things differently.

“The level is quite high. And of course, poker players are ultra-competitive. You see a lot of guys taking great pride in representing their country and at times, things get heated.”

“For me it’s cool to see so many different champions through the years. You really get the feeling that any year, there are about five or six teams that can win the entire competition.”

“USA vs Brazil is always heated. Germany vs USA have always had big matches too. The day is a combination of fun, very competitive and for me personally, it’s very hectic.”

“Although it’s hectic, I really enjoy organising it. There’s a good amount of satisfaction that people enjoy it and that now it’s become a tradition.”

Since the tournament was first contested back in 2014, there have been six different winners of the event, with just two teams, France and the United States, winning the tournament on multiple occasions.

The full list of World Cup Of Vegas Winners is outlined below:

  • 2014 – United States
  • 2015 – Brazil
  • 2016 – France
  • 2017 – Germany
  • 2018 – United Kingdom
  • 2019 – United States
  • 2020 – Not played due to Pandemic
  • 2021 – Austria
  • 2022 – France

While the roll of honour continues to grow, Adams explains that some of the best teams are yet to make it onto the winners list for the tournament.

“Over the last few World Cup of Vegas tournaments Spain has been very good and lost in finals twice (2019 and 2022). Croatia have also been very good and lost in the finals in 2021. The UK is always in the mix as well,” he explained.

“Nowadays, Austria has been the tournament favourite. They are a bunch of young guys and captained by ex-pro footballer Mario Mosbock. They put on one of the most dominant performances in 2021 and they were favourites in 2022 but ended up losing in the semis.”

Famous Names From The Worlds Of Poker…And Soccer

A number of WSOP bracelet winners have competed in the tournament in recent years including the likes of Adrian Mateos, Ognyan Dimov, Andre Akkari, Byron Kaverman, Damian Salas, Nacho Barbero, Romain Lewis and Manig Loeser.

However, it is not just Mario Mosbock who has represented professional soccer in the event.

In 2016, the Norwegian team was able to call upon John Arne-Riise, who had entered the WSOP main event that year.

The former professional earned over 100 caps for his country and spent a large chunk of his career with Premier League giants Liverpool and he certainly made an impact at the tournament as Adams recalls.

“He had an incredible left foot and was able to blast it top corner from all over the field. Riise was super competitive and actually showed a lot of emotion when playing, it was really cool to watch. But amazingly, Norway lost to France in the finals. So again, it shows just how high the level [of competition] is.”

So next summer, if you have enjoyed what is on offer at the current World Cup, remember that poker’s football fans will be having their own event in Las Vegas and it may be every bit as competitive as the real FIFA World Cup!