Leave the poker to the poker players

Warning to readers in the United States: shameless European soccer content below

You might not think it these days, but there was once a time when football wasn't on television. People tucked their rattles under their arms, put their bobble hats on their heads and spent Saturday afternoon watching 22 blokes kick a two-stone pigs bladder around a muddy field. Some people consider those to be the golden days. Some people are wrong.

The equivalent is also true of poker. Back before some wise-guy thought of putting a television camera beneath a table to peek behind the poker face, the game was scarcely noticed through the cigar smoke. If you had tried to put a poker game on television in the 1970s, the viewers most likely would have thought the cable for the aerial had fallen out the back of their set.

How things change. Footballers still turn up once a week to boot a bladder about a bit, but they're paid millions of pounds to do so. Poker isn't far behind. In fact, if you can't turn on the television and watch either poker or football or both, then you're living on a different planet to me. Footballers are the new poker players and poker players are the new footballers, something that has never been more true than here in Copenhagen, where Jan Molby, Stig Tofting and today Thomas Brolin have joined the EPT.

Molby and Tofting are Danish legends of the game. The former was a linchpin of the dominant Liverpool team of the late eighties, before going on to manage Swansea City. Tofting, also a Dane, played for Bolton Wanderers in the English Premiership, renowned as one of the hardest hard-men. Thomas Brolin was a Swedish centre-forward, one of the stars of the side that finished third in the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Today he made his debut on the EPT.

He might wish he hadn't bothered. This afternoon he met Luca Pagano, currently playing for Team PokerStars, but still dreaming of a call up for Juventus. The Italian had only been moved to table 14 for about half an hour when he picked up ace-king, raised, and found a willing caller in the former Parma, Leeds United and Crystal Palace forward. The flop had a king, jack and an eight and both players checked. The turn was an ace and now Luca bets, Thomas raises and Luca calls. The ace on the end wasn't bad for the PokerStars centre-forward, making him the full house, and when Brolin sticks all his chips in, he can't say call quick enough.


Luca Pagano: leading the line for the PokerStars select XI


Brolin, who England fans will remember as the man whose goal knocked their team out of the 1992 European Championship, showed queen-ten for the top straight. Not good enough.

Did he not like that.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in European Poker Tour