From the Football League to World Poker
Ever since the unprecedented poker boom that started in the first half of the 21st century, the time-honored card game has enjoyed immense widespread acclaim amongst a broader and more diverse range of people spanning various countries around the world. Online poker websites have taken full advantage of the ubiquitous popularity of state-of-the-art gadgets such as smartphones and tablets to port over their game rooms into the mobile realm. Furthermore, athletes from many different sports like tennis, hockey, basketball, mixed martial arts, and skiing (just to name a few) have taken up poker for a wide variety of reasons: raising funds for all sorts of charitable organizations and worthy advocacies; a new competitive outlet while recovering from injuries; or simply as a way to let off some steam and maybe earn a nice chunk of cash in the process.
Of course, football players have left a tremendous impact on the international poker scene. And as it turns out, football and poker – at least in England – both have devoted followings that have overlapped in some fascinating ways throughout the years. A fine example would be the 2008 partypoker.com Sports Stars Challenge, a 36-player tournament that included heats for footballers, cricketers, sports presenters, snooker players, rugby stars, and darts players. This particular event also introduced a stand-alone tournament for football fans made up of six players who qualified online through special partypoker.com tournaments on Football League club websites. Sheffield United fan Douglas Haig beat SheffieldWednesday fan Peter Booth to win £7,000.
The football heat was certainly a star-studded affair featuring Ray Parlour, Tony Cascarino, Norman Whiteside, Steve Sedgley, John Aldridge, and Lee Sharpe. Most of these retired football legends had paid their dues and made their bones playing for clubs in the Championship, League One, and League Two.
Ray Parlour spent three productive seasons as a midfielder for Championship club Middlesbrough; Sharpe started his senior career playing for League Two club Torquay United; Aldridge honed his skills as a striker for League Two clubs Newport County and Oxford United. Moreover, Sedgley had memorable stints as a midfielder and defender for League One clubs Coventry City and Wolverhampton Wanderers as well as for Championship club Ipswich Town.
The poker and football connection runs even deeper. International poker superstar Sam Trickett – who showed such tremendous potential on the football pitch that he was invited to official tryouts by both Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United – eventually transitioned to a full-time poker career after suffering two nasty cruciate ligament injuries.