It is not a secret that many high level athletes love poker and gambling in general. Rafa Nadal and Boris Becker are known tennis players who love to play poker, we have seen Michael Phelps at this year´s WSOP, but Man United players seem to get an extra kick from poker and gambling in general.
Teddy Sheringham is probably the most well-known former Manchester United player who plays poker. He began his interest in poker when he played in American casinos while still a professional football player but only became a contender when his retirement from football allowed him the time to concentrate on his new interest. In 2009 he took part in the World Series Europe tournament where he finished an amazing 14th, even though he was up against many players of a really high calibre. In 2010 he made it all the way to the final table at the European Poker Tournament Vilamoura Main Event. Here he came 5th and won over $100k.
But Teddy is not the only one from Manchester United to enjoy poker and casinos. Manchester United players have a tradition of celebrating important events in Manchester casinos. This year after their 3-0 victory over Aston Villa, Manchester United players headed to 235 Casino in Manchester to celebrate their 20th title win. Needless to say, it’s pretty likely that a lot of gambling was done, whether at the poker tables or perhaps on the slots.
However Manchester united star Wayne Rooney doesn´t need a party to head to the casino. In 2008, he was reported as losing £65k in just two hours at the 235 Casino. England national team had flown out of Belarus’ capital Minsk just after midnight on October 15 and landed at Manchester Airport just before 3am to drop off Rooney and the other Northern-based players. Probably wanting to take advantage of his wife being in London at the time, Rooney went directly to the city center casino instead of instead of driving 10 miles to his Cheshire mansion. He went straight to a blackjack table and started to play hands at the maximum £500 a time.
A source from the Casino said “”He was quickly into a serious losing streak. At first he was joking with the dealer that he must have stepped in some dog dirt on his way in. But when he kept losing, the mood at the table changed. Normally, dealers are totally detached from punters but this was Wayne Rooney and he was losing tens of thousands. He switched to roulette and put hundreds of pounds on each spin of the wheel to try and recoup some of his losses. But his luck didn’t change.”
The club closed at 6am and he was £65k down. The dealer was mortified, but everyone who gambles knows the risks and Wayne Rooney is no different. I can only imagine the conversation they had with his wife when she came back home from London and found that his husband lost £65k in just two hours. On the other hand, considering he was making £80k a week from Manchester United at that time, he only lost approximately 5-6 days of work. Considering he joined Rio Ferdinand for his birthday party at the same casino just a month later, his wife must have gone easy on him. Reportedly, Manchester United stars went on a £250k gambling spree during Ferdinand´s birthday party at the same casino.
Recently retired legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson mostly ignored this news with the exception of a single known case. In 2009, the 17 year old Italian wonder-kid, Federico Macheda, followed his teammates to two of their favorite casinos in Manchester just to learn that his boss had made a call to each.
“Sorry, you’re too young – Fergie’s already warned us.” He was told by the Casino security.
Poker rooms and casinos already tried to use athletes to draw more attention to their games but the success of this kind of marketing stays a mystery to most. It definitely helps brand positioning and prestige but does it draw in more clients?