EPT9 Prague: Soccer hot-shot Sergej Barbarez takes his chances at the tables
There is a well-trodden path from sports stadium to poker table, with the likes of Rafa Nadal, Fatima Moreira de Melo, Boris Becker and Shane Warne only four of the stars to trade early mornings and liniment for late nights and Red Bull.
Today in Prague, we are also joined by another ex-professional sportsman: the footballer Sergej Barbarez, who made 436 appearances in 17 years in the German Bundesliga, scoring 143 goals.
Barbarez, who is 41, is probably not a household name for many in either the UK or the United States, but his record for his native Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the best from those parts. He scored 17 goals in 47 matches in an eight-year international career. Only five players have made more appearances and only three have scored more goals.
He was also captain of the national side, before retiring in 2008. Take a look at his showreel if you need further proof of his talents.
Barbarez was spotted in the field today by Robin Scherr, PokerStars Blog's German correspondent, and a pretty handy footballer himself. Scherr used to play in the fifth or sixth league in Germany, from where he graduated to the media room of the EPT. Barbarez, as a former top-flight performer, has graduated instead to the tournament floor. (That's how it works, it seems.)
That said, one gets the impression from looking at Barbarez in the early stages of Day 1B that he is not here just to make up the numbers, nor simply to have a bit of fun in his post-playing days. He is unadorned by sponsors' patches, he is plugged in to some music and is evidently quite at home at the tables.
He is far from the goofy, "does a straight beat a flush?" type of player. One suspects this is a genuine attempt to have a second career in a second highly competitive marketplace.
He won his seat in a live satellite here, so he is not even just wildly punting some of his lavish footballer's wages. Scherr says that Barbarez has been at EPT Berlin and maybe in Las Vegas in the summer, but has never made much of his former celebrity.
Barbarez remains on the board of directors at SV Hamburg, and has also taken his Uefa Pro Licence coaching qualification, so clearly hasn't entirely given up on football yet. It will be interesting to see how he fares on the EPT. With the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Tony Cascarino and Vikash Dhorasoo now apparently absent from the high stakes poker tables, there is a vacancy for a former soccer star to step up.