BY Paul Seaton

Football and poker go together like the tackle and the shin pad, like the through-ball and the dinked finish, like Tim Sherwood and memes. Often, when players have finished playing the most popular sport in the world for a living, they need something to replace the adrenaline rush that they’ve only ever felt when they score a goal.

That is where poker comes in. The rush of winning a big pot, the buzz of lifting a trophy, the strategy, mental training, atmosphere at the table and camaraderie outside the action – it’s a potent cocktail. Like Paul Gascoigne in 1996, footballers can’t help imbibing themselves of that cocktail.

The first of our three-part series looks at five British players who’ve swapped football boots for three-bets. They took one look at the biggest poker tournaments in the world and thought ‘I’ve played in the Champions League final – and I’m all-in!’

Teddy Sheringham

‘Oh, Teddy, Teddy, went to Man. United and he won it all’ as the Old Trafford chant went. Since hanging up his Size 10’s, Teddy has played everywhere from Las Vegas to Monaco and back again. His greatest poker moment is probably reaching an EPT final table in the one-stop-and-gone Vilamoura, which he discussed with this reporter back in the day.

Sheringham has a keen eye for poker and the former Millwall, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United legend has won $329,475 at the live felt, though he hasn’t cashed in a ranking event in eight years. Poker needs you back, Teddy.

Tony Cascarino

A former team-mate of Sheringham’s, Irish poker player and former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino has long been a poker player and loves the game.

The former target man has won $595,810 at the felt, with the biggest prize he’s won in tournaments a massive £168,800 he won for taking down the 2009 GUKPT £3,150-entry Main Event, where he beat Frenchman Antoine Arnault heads-up. Sacre bleu!

Anthony Gardner

The former Spurs, Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday player Anthony Gardner is a current poker player and while he favours London cash games, having played on the circuit with British players such as Chris Da Silva and Arron Fletcher, he’s also won $109,319 in tournament poker too, as his Hendon Mob page details.

The biggest win during that period was the £20,550 he won at a Dusk Till Dawn event in Nottingham, beating players like Luke Flack, Ben Vinson, Yucel “Mad Turk” Eminoglu, Paul Jackson, Richard King and Jack Allen in the event. As he said on social media at the time:

“Some Sunday Grind. Thanks for the support. My best live tournament to date. Visualising this one for a while. Thoroughly enjoyed.” Who knows what might be to come from the multi-talented Gardner in his poker future.

Steve Watts

Watts, a former Leyton Orient striker who dominated the penalty area, might have a claim to being the most successful poker player ever to have been a British footballer. Having cashed for $849,671 overall, Watts’ best four results aren’t even victories!

Watts’ best result to date remains his 59th-place finish in the 2013 WSOP Main Event, a result that netted him an enormous $123,597, marginally more than he received for coming 5th at the 2012 Irish Open. Having won a WPT National event in Marbella, Watts is a popular member of the poker circuit in Britain and credits it for replacing that daily banter he enjoyed with teammates, bonding with groups such as The Hit Squad when he started out in the game. Having learned from some of the best, Watts’ best days in poker may well be ahead of him.

Ian Bishop

You remember Ian Bishop. Played for West Ham. Oh, and Manchester City. What do you mean you can’t recall him? He also moved to Florida and is a famous bird lover.

If Ian Bishop isn’t on your radar as a poker player, we actually don’t blame you. But despite not having the most stellar of poker careers so far, he’s a huge personality and loves the game, even if he did suffer a great bad beat story, as he details here with more relish than a burger salesman with shares in tomatoes.

When it comes to poker players, the British might be able to lay claim to being some of the best. What about European footballers or those from the Rest of the World? We’ll find out in the second and third parts of the series.

We’ll leave the final word to a British poker player in Teddy Sheringham, who gave some of his thoughts on the game to PokerStars while at EPT Vilamoura:

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