Some of the biggest names in soccer such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr are known to be huge fans of poker, with the latter having a hectic year at the tables. The Brazilian superstar secured his first cash at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in the summer and was unveiled as the Cultural Ambassador for PokerStars 12 months ago.
However, despite being a fully-fledged member of the poker community, it may surprise you to read that Neymar doesn’t come anywhere near the top when it comes to soccer players who have won the most money playing poker.
Using data collected by The Hendon Mob, the Paris St Germain ace has only recorded $32,131 in live tournament earnings; flagging behind the likes of former teammates Gerard Piqué and Arturo Vidal who recorded six-figure paydays at the 2019 PokerStars European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona.
So, with the World Cup underway, PokerNews has taken a deep dive through the poker history books to find out which soccer players have performed the best at the felt.
David Levi – $4,134,982
Those who have played or followed poker for a while would have definitely heard of Israel’s David Levi. However, what they might not know is that Levi was once a professional soccer player before going on to win over $4 million at the tables.
Levi played for Hapoel Ramat Gan Givatayim Football Club in his native country before his career was cut short by a knee injury. He then swapped the field for the felt after moving to Los Angeles in 2002.
Prior to his move to the United States, Levi had some poker experience with his first recorded result coming in a $50 tournament in 1995. Overall, Levi has 429 registered cashes with his biggest coming in 2007, where he placed third in the WPT $10,000 Mandalay Bay Poker Championship for $229,540.
Levi also has three third-place finishes under the World Series of Poker (WSOP) umbrella which make up the majority of his $857,728 WSOP earnings.
David Levi’s Top 3 Cashes
|May 2007||WPT $10,000 Mandalay Bay Poker Championship||3rd||$229,540|
|June 2014||Deepstack Extravaganza III $1,100 NLH||1st||$183,506|
|April 2002||Bellagio High Buy-in Tournament Series $3,100 NLH||1st||$159,468|
Jan Vang Sørensen – $2,263,518
Another former soccer player who seamlessly transitioned their skills to the poker table is Denmark’s Jan Vang Sørensen. Sørensen, like Levi, was forced to abandon his career at Odense BK following injury.
Whilst traveling with the Danish club, Sørensen learned poker and picked up a knack for a variety of poker games. Remarkably, Sørensen became a poker champion and won two WSOP bracelets in the early 2000s.
At the 2002 WSOP, he triumphed over Ben Carter in heads-up play in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha bracelet event for $185,000. Three years later, he got his second piece of WSOP hardware after taking down the $5,000 Seven Card Stud tournament for another six-figure score of $293,275.
Sørensen also holds the record for the biggest cash by a soccer player after he won the Master Classics of Poker High Roller who a whopping $800,972. Overall, Sørensen has $2,263,518 in recorded live tournament earnings with his last cash coming in October 2022 at The Norwegian Poker Championships. It was his first MTT result for over eight years and could mark a comeback for the Dane.
At the 2022 WSOP Europe, VfL Wolfsburg striker Max Kruse became the latest soccer player to win a WSOP bracelet. The German topped the 413-entry field in Event #7: €1,650 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Handed to end his decade-long bracelet pursuit.
Jan Vang Sørensen’s Top 3 Cashes
|November 2008||MCOP €6,200 NLH||1st||$800,972|
|June 2005||WSOP $5,000 Seven Card Stud||1st||$293,275|
|May 2002||WSOP $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha||1st||$185,000|
Steve Watts – $889,933
Those who have ground the British poker scene would’ve definitely come across former professional soccer player Steve Watts. The 46-year-old is best known for his five-year stint at Leyton Orient, where he made over 100 football league appearances for the club.
Watts, who now plays poker professionally, is a regular at the WSOP, EPT, and WPT kicked off his foray into Texas Hold’em in 2008 where he won a tournament for £9,000.
Since then, Watts has amassed nearly $1 million in live tournament winnings with his largest score coming in the 2013 WSOP Main Event, where he took home $123,597 after bowing out in 59th place.
Steve Watt’s Top 3 Cashes
|July 2013||WSOP $10,000 Main Event||59th||$123,597|
|April 2012||Irish Poker Open €3,500 Main Event||5th||$102,759|
|January 2012||WPT Dublin €2,750 Main Event||5th||$51,063|
Gerard Piqué – $668,155
Other soccer stars who have performed well at the poker tables include the aforementioned Piqué, Tony Cascarino and Vikash Dhorasoo.
Piqué, who retired from soccer last month, was widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world during his extremely successful career. The Spaniard boasts one of the best careers of all time having won a World Cup, a Euros, and countless other titles during his stints at Manchester United and FC Barcelona.
Most of Pique’s successes in poker have come at EPT Barcelona. In 2019, he missed out on becoming a poker champion and was the runner-up in the series’s €25K High Roller. The $392,950 payday makes up most of his $668,155 earnings and now with Piqué stepping away from playing soccer, he could soon be a staple at several poker stops around the world.
Gerard Piqué’s Top 3 Cashes
|August 2019||EPT Barcelona – €25,000 No Limit Hold’em||2nd||$392,950|
|August 2017||PokerStars Championship Barcelona – €25,000 No Limt Hold’em||5th||$152,467|
|September 2011||EPT Barcelona €5,200 6-Max Turbo||3rd||$58,996|
Tony Cascarino – $595,809
After terrorizing defenses across the United Kingdom and France, Tony Cascarino became a titan in the British Poker scene.
In the late 00s, Cascarino was a consistent performer and picked up high-profile wins on the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour. The highlight of his poker career came in 2009 when he collected $283,412 after winning the £3,150 GUKPT London Main Event.
Did you know that the former Chelsea forward competed at the EURO 1988 and made appearances in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups for Ireland?
Tony Cascarino’s’s Top 3 Cashes
|November 2009||£3,150 GUKPT London Main Event||1st||$283,412|
|September 2008||£1,060 GUKPT Bolton Main Event||1st||$96,205|
|September 2007||EPT London £5,400 Main Event||14th||$44,883|
Most Money Won in Poker by Soccer Players
|Player||Country||Tournament Winnings||Best Cash|
|Jan Vang Sorensen||Denmark||$2,263,518||$800,972|
Calum has been a part of the PokerNews team since September 2021 after working in the UK energy sector. He played his first hand of poker in 2017 and immediately fell in love with the game. Calum’s proudest poker achievement is winning the only tournament he has ever played in Las Vegas, the prestigious $60 Flamingo evening event.