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From Pique to Buffon 5 top poker-playing World Cup stars

With Spain’s World Cup defence ending early, Gerard Pique could be better off at the green felt: By Jack Beresford

Football and poker share a few similarities – both are played on green surfaces, require nerves of steel and can change in the flourish of a hand or even foot.But for Borussia Monchengladbach star Max Kruse the lines between the two have been blurred further after the player reacted to the news of his exclusion from Germany’s World Cup squad by heading to the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for a spot of poker-based fun.One of Die Mannschaft’s brightest young stars, Kruse didn’t let the disappointment of the situation get to him, heading to the States, where he has made money at the green felt ever since.

But the 26-year-old isn’t the only World Cup star, past or present, to impress on another green surface.

Teddy Sheringham

Part of England’s squad at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, the former Manchester United and Tottenham hotshot turned his hand to poker upon retirement from football, amassing $329,477 in his first seven years as a player.

The ex-striker was particularly prolific in 2009, finishing 14th at the £10,000 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event, as well 49th at the European Poker Tour event in London. He followed that up the following year with fifth place and €93,121 in prize money from the EPT Vilamoura event.

Tomas Brolin

A star of the Sweden team that finished third at the 1994 World Cup in America, Brolin’s football career took a nosedive after a move to Leeds United, where a love of food combined with a lack of effort in training saw Brolin balloon out before a quiet exit.

He had the last laugh in 2007 though after finishing 23rd at a €4,700 EPT Main Event held in Prague, taking home €12,6509 and at it again the following year, reaching the Grand Final of another event in Monte Carlo, where he took home €38,000 for finish 38th.

Tony Cascarino

Called up by Ireland manager Jack Charlton despite question marks over his heritage, Cascarino went on to play for Emerald Isles at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups , though he failed to find the net in either.

Upon retirement, the former Chelsea striker got into poker via a job at a radio station, winning over $500,000 in a live tournament. A series events over the following years saw him build an impressive reputation, culminating in a triumph at the Grosvenor United Kingdom Poker Tour Grand Final of 2009, taking home £168,800 in the process.Gigi BuffonA World Cup winner in 2006, Buffon has appeared at five World Cup finals and is arguably among the most famous sportsmen currently plying their trade in Italy with current Serie A champions Juventus.

An avoid poker fan, the 36-year-old is particularly fond of the online format, making him something of an unknown quantity when it comes to assessing his impact in the world of cards. That didn’t stop Pokerstars signing the goalkeeper up on a special sports star contract back in 2010.

With the potential for one more World Cup with the Azzurri, he may be the greatest World Cup poker star of them all come 2018 in Russia.
Gerard Pique

Last but not least, the man famous for being coupled alongside Colombian hip-shaking songstress Shakira also has a sideline in poker, which can only be a good thing when you consider the disaster of a World Cup defending champions Spain have experienced.

Coming in off the back of his worst ever campaign with Barcelona and the national team, Pique will be relieved that he has his poker to fall back on, having competed in the Annual World Series of Poker, as well as winning a EPT event based in the Catalan capital in recent years.

by Jack Beresford

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