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18th May 2021

Top 5 footballers who would make good poker players

Danny Jones

In partnership with partypoker

When it comes to the thinking side of the game, who would be well suited to swapping the pitch for the poker table?

Football is a game that thrives on several aspects: a player’s natural ability to navigate the pitch, play the right passes and pull the trigger at the right time; the intelligence to spot runs and make them, as well as taking a step back to absorb the game and see how all cards are falling.

With that in mind and speaking of cards, we were wondering which footballers would be best suited to swap their feet for their hands and try their luck at poker. We have no way of testing our theories, and we’re willing to bet you’ll disagree with our choices, but that’s all part of the fun.

If you also think you could best these guys in a poker fixture, head to the bottom of the article for info on our very special JOE Poker sessions to be in with a chance to bag some top prizes.

So, without further ado, here is our list of the top 5 footballers that we think would make good poker players:

1. Andrea Pirlo

Andre Pirlo holding off Xavi

We’d hope this first one would be very self-explanatory: that aren’t many players with the footballing brain that Pirlo had. Not only was he able to set the tempo of play – a quality that’s very valuable in poker, as you want to be the one dictating how opponents play, not the other way round – but his game intelligence was virtually unparalleled.

The way he could see how things were unfolding on the pitch was to such a high standard that he’d probably be able to predict every card as it fell too. ‘The Mind Reading Regista’.

2. Rúben Dias

Ruben Dias standing up Kylian Mbappe

Of course, there have been plenty of defenders to possess these qualities but simply because he’s fresh in our mind after City’s incredible display against PSG, we’ve gone for big Rúben Dias next.

Not only has he been an absolutely unmovable force all season for Manchester City, but it is his composure under pressure and ability to draws other players into making the first move that makes us think he’d be a dab hand when it came to, well, either playing or not playing his own.

3. Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes

There’s already been plenty said about Scholes‘ footballing brain over the years: the vision and technique to ping a pass from 40-50 yards; the raw instinct to strike a perfectly-timed volley etc. But, we’ll be honest, we picked him just purely for the poker face – that man could have a royal flush in his hands and not even blink.

4. Fernandinho

Fernandinho fist-bumping the referee

Our penultimate player turned poker prodigy is Fernandinho. Though the 36-year-old, admittedly, may not quite qualify as a prodigy these days, it is precisely his vast years of experience and learning the nuances of the game that we reckon would make him a crafty cardholder. He might fold on a hand or two but, most importantly, he’d stay in the game.

Touching on Man City’s semi-final victory once again, the performance was yet another example of how deftly deceptive a player he can be: committing numerous fouls and yet still somehow avoiding picking up a booking. It’s something he has done very well throughout his career and that understated game management is precisely the kind of thing that would both fool and rattle other people around a poker table.

5. Neymar

Neymar going to ground

Following along similar lines, our fifth and final choice – probably the best out of the lot – is Neymar. As well being, obviously, one of the trickiest players in the world – full of feints and totting up more fouls through diving than he does goals and assists – but he actually loves playing poker in real life. He even named his dog ‘Poker’.

Back in 2017, we actually played poker with Neymar (no, seriously) and he even led the European Poker Tour (EPT) main in Barcelona for a while, which he’s competed in several times. Not to put too fine a point on it but Neymar doesn’t just love the game – ergo his dog and the sponsorships – but he even plans to become a professional poker player after he retires from football.

Honourable mentions

Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes

Once again, we all know he’s an intelligent footballer, adept at fooling both the player and the referee, whether it’s letting the ball run through his legs or sticking a leg out to con a soft penalty/free-kick. With such a regular habit for bluffing, ‘Penandes’ feels like he’d have a penchant for poker.

David Luiz

We can’t get past the idea that the most conniving professionals would be the best at poker but, in this instance, Sideshow Bob didn’t make on to the list proper purely because of just how highly volatile a player he would be. While Luiz has been known to get one over on the ref, we’d wager he’d be just as likely to win it all as he would go bust. He’d be the Viktor Blom of the table.

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos scores the winner

We’d hope this one speaks for itself; there aren’t many players who step up so regularly during the big moments and the big games as Sergio Ramos.

Moreover, when combined with his experience and being more than capable of getting in people’s heads and playing mind games before the match has even started, he’d likely be a decent poker player. However, he didn’t get into our top five simply because of the red cards – it’s not easy to be dismissed from a poker game but he’d probably find a way.

While we reckon these guys would make great poker players, we don’t really have a way of testing our theory. What we do have, though, is a bunch of JOE poker games that you can join in on. Here’s all you need to know:

Dates: Thursday 20th May and Sunday 23rd May @7:00pm 2021
Prize pool Guaranteed: $2,000 + Lucrative prize (A Nintendo Switch this week)
Buy-In: $5.50
Password: JOEPOKER
Starting Chips: 50k
Blinds: 7 minutes
Late reg: Until end level 16
Re-Entry: Yes (x2)
Game: NLHE
Format: Progressive Bounty
Players per table: 8

You will be joined by some special JOE bounty players to test your wits around the table. To sign up and find more info, click here.

Who do you think would make a good poker player? Let us know down in the comments and on social.