PokerStars Championship Barcelona: Gerard Piqué makes his annual return
When you come to Barcelona for the PokerStars Championship, you're guaranteed a bunch of things:
1. Beautiful weather
2. An amazing tournament schedule
3. Great fun away from the tables
4. Plenty of money on the line
That list could go on and on. But one majorly exciting thing that's pretty much guaranteed at this point too:
5. Gerard Piqué will turn up and play some cards.
The beautiful game
For you see, Piqué loves poker. It's just that simple.
The FC Barcelona and Spanish international centre-back and is an absolute legend around these parts, so much so that he's pretty crafty about getting around. He'd get absolutely mobbed if he were to just roam the Casino Barcelona hallways, so Piqué tries to keep a pretty low profile.
Of course, it's hard to keep a low profile when not only are you one of the most famous footballers on the planet, but you're also playing a €25K High Roller tournament in your own city.
You'll likely be aware of his footballing achievements (countless La Liga wins, a World Cup and Euro championship, and one of only four players to ever win the Champions League two years in a row with two different clubs).
But what you might not be aware of is his poker resume, which is as follows:
EPT13 Barcelona 2016: €2,150 NLH Hyper Turbo - 3rd for €31,700
EPT10 Barcelona 2013: €10,300 NLH High Roller - 19th for €21,150
EPT8 Barcelona 2011: €5,200 NLH Six Max Turbo - 3rd for €40,950
You see? He's pretty much here every year. And when he is, Piqué often wins some money.
When I started writing this article, Piqué was battling with the likes of Martin Jacobson, Bartlomiej Machon, Andrey Andreev, Sam Greenwood and Bryn Kenney (all of whom are on his table).
He was on his second and final bullet, which meant Piqué was in this one for €50K. There was no time for sitting around.
"I've played over 400 [football] matches, but I still always have this feeling in my stomach and some nerves. For me, the experience before playing poker is the same as before playing a match."
That's what Piqué told me when I interviewed him at EPT13 Barcelona last year.
"On the pitch you never know what will happen, which is the same as poker. You can have your strategy and know how you will play, but you never know how the cards will be, and you have to adapt to every situation.
"During a match you have to make decisions that are risky, and some are not on the pitch. This is the same as poker. You have to control the risk. If you're a striker you can take higher risks, because if you lose the ball you have the rest of the team behind you. If you're a defender or goalkeeper you can't take as many risks, because if you lose the ball you can concede a goal. You need to evaluate the risk and think about the reward."
Unfortunately for Piqué, his stint in today's High Roller would be a short one. Already on his second bullet not long after arriving, Piqué would eventually bust for a final time with pocket jacks against the pocket queens of Sam Greenwood. GG Gerard. See you later in the festival, or if not, next year.
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Jack Stanton is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.