The road to Wembley is often reserved for the world’s most prestigious club football competition; the FA Cup. But earlier this year, poker players were lucky enough to grace the hallowed turf, or should we say ‘felt’.
In June, Wembley hosted the inaugural International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT) and brought some of the most talented players from across the globe to compete on the pitch for a jackpot of €1 million.
The brainchild of Ros Yong, the owner of Dusk Till Dawn, the tournament featured a series of live and virtual events with a mix of experts and beginners just getting started in their careers battling it out at the iconic Bobby Moore suite.
Wembley is the most expensive football stadium in the world so it was fitting that the championship should feature the largest guaranteed first place prize in poker history- a cool million. The first of its kind, the ISPT welcomed 761 players onto the pitch to battle it out for victory at the home of football. One of whom is professional champ and national favourite: Sam Trickett.
Trickett is the UK’s best player and has live tournament winnings of almost $20 million but the appeal of playing at Wembley was a huge factor in him becoming an ISPT ambassador. Having had his footballing career cut short in 2005, after being on the books of Sheffield United, Trickett suffered a cruciate ligament injury that forced him to turn to his second love, poker.
The competition was the first of its kind to be held in a major sports stadium and hands were dealt in inflatable bubbles on the pitch. Polish number one player Jakub Michalak was eventually crowned champion after seven days of both live and online poker; fending off the challenge of Nottingham-based Peter Linton in a tense final round.
But of course it was the Englishmen who got the last laugh at the 90,000 capacity stadium, beating Poland to book their place in Brazil next summer (in football terms at least!)
Football and poker have become synonymous with each other in recent times with not just players like Trickett joining the action but also top professionals such as Teddy Sheringham and Ronaldo revealing their love for the game.
Sheringham walked onto the Wembley pitch many times during his 24 years as a professional and scored over 300 goals for club and country. Since retiring in 2008, ‘Teddy’ has become an avid poker player, competing in the World Series of Poker, and has total career earnings of over $300,000.
Expected to attract both ex-football pros and beginners alike, the ISPT is looking to next year’s exciting World Cup summer for its next venue with the sandy shores of Brazil looking the perfect place to bring the stadium poker carnival.