Wayne Rooney on the Roulette and other footballers’ casino exploits
Let's face facts; betting can be a fun and way of whiling away your time, but it does create both winners and losers. The fun is in the game itself and the hunt for wins, which is why games like poker appeal so strongly to competitive footballers and sports people in general.
There are a number of players who've booked big gains when gambling and there are a handful of former professionals have forged successful poker careers. Then there are players like Wayne Rooney who have suffered well publicised losses at the roulette table, but that's not the whole story.
Was Rooney an experienced roulette player? Perhaps if he’d tried practicing roulette for free online beforehand, he might have been famous on the tables for different reasons.
Here are some of the players who have a passion for betting and continue to indulge this pastime successfully.
1. Teddy Sheringham, Retired
We start with a man who is the poster-boy for betting successfully post-professional football, with Teddy Sheringham having earned in excess of $300,000 during a lucrative poker career.
The former Millwall, Spurs and Manchester United striker (who also scored 11 goals in 51 appearances for England) has also shown that age is no obstacle to forging a career as a professional gambler, as he continued to earn well beyond his 50th birthday.
Sheringham's biggest win to date came at a European Tour poker event in Portugal back in 2010, when he performed superbly to claim a top prize of €93,000. This represented a major breakthrough for the former footballer, while also serving as an inspiration for anyone who wants to make a similar career move.
Sheringham is no longer as active as he once was, while he has also yet to reach the heights he scaled back in 2010. Still, his achievements are extremely impressive, and proof that a winning mentality can prevail in any competitive environment.
2. Mario Balotelli, Nice and Italy
In truth, you'd probably be surprised if the free-spirited and endearingly enigmatic "Super" Mario Balotelli did not feature on our list. Now plying his trade in France with Ligue One side Nice, he is most famous for his tempestuous stay at Manchester City under the management of Roberto Mancini.
There are a number of anecdotes surrounding Balotelli's time in England, some of which tread the blurred line between fact and fiction. The Italian striker's trip to John Lewis is legendary, for example, as is his impromptu trip to a local school to defend a child who being bullied.
Back in 2011, Balotelli also hit the headlines after a trip to the 235 Casino in Manchester with Blackburn Rovers centre-half Christopher Samba. In total, the forward walked away with more than £25,000 in winnings, and while this was one of many successful trips to the local casino for Balotelli it stands out as his most well-known.
Typically for such an easy going man with a passion for roulette, Balotelli was quick to share his good fortune. He is said to have tipped a waiter £1,000, for example, while also gifting another £1,000 to a homeless man outside the casino.
We'll never know whether this is true or not, of course, but like many other things it's part of the fascinating myth that is Mario Balotelli.
3. Gerard Pique, Barcelona and Spain
Despite his exploits for club and country, it's easy to forget that centre-back Gerard Pique is actually a footballer.
Between his pop-star wife (it's Shakira, in case you didn't know) and love of games of chance, Pique could also be the type of enigmatic maverick who would have probably solved crime in a 1980s' American television show.
Poker is Pique's game of choice, with the defender earning his breakthrough as an amateur at the EPT Barcelona event back in 2011. He eventually came third in this tournament, winning an impressive $56,000 for his troubles (we know this is less than his weekly wage, but it's still not to sniffed at!)
The Spaniard also made a much publicised and often criticised appearance at the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas back in 2014, after his national side had been dumped out of the World Cup at the group stage (they were the defending champions at the time). Like his teammates, however, he was knocked out on day two by American professional Michael Aron, although he can console himself with the fact that he was 140,000 ahead in tournament chips at the time.
Like most amateur players, Pique's luck seemed to run out eventually, but he has still performed quite well by most measures. In total, he's earned a respectable $87,288 from poker tournaments, while he holds 143rd spot in Spain's All-time Money list.