by Rick Dacey
There are two types of people that you could be. You're either a poker player who may have heard that a guy called Teddy Sheringham final tabled EPT Vilamoura, or you might be someone who heard that England football legend and treble winner Teddy 'Ooooh, TEDDY, TEDDY' Sheringham finished fifth at EPT Vilamoura for €93,120. The chances are that if you're reading this in North America, then you're in the first camp and if you're reading this, well, anywhere else in the world then you'll be in the latter.
So for those of you who don't know who Friend of PokerStars Sheringham is (i.e. aren't football/soccer fans) then here's your FBI factfile:
Born in London on April 2, 1966, Edward Paul Sheringham played as a striker for clubs including Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Nottingham Forest and Millwall. It was at Man Utd that Sheringham sealed the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League treble when, in stoppage time of the European Cup final, he not only equalised against German giants Bayern Munich but also moments later flicked the ball to Norwegian super sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to bury the winner. Sheringham also represented his national side at two World Cups during his 51-cap international career, scoring 11 goals. He eventually retired from competitive football in 2008 at the age of 42, and his record of being the oldest outfield player in the Premier League at 40 years and 139 days will likely stand for many years.
Sheringham was widely regarded as the thinking man's footballer given his propensity to link play as well as score goals, and what he brings to the poker table is that never-say-die attitude, calm composure, tireless endurance and clinical finishing that he displayed on the football pitch. Now you can dismiss this as PR spin, but when you look at his results his tournament credentials really do hold up. PokerStars EPT main events played? Five. EPT main events cashed in? Three. Final tables? One. Any player would consider that a damn good scoring ratio. Add to that a 14th-place finish in the £10,000 WSOPE main event for £40,481 and you can tell that he must have some game about him. His EPT Vilamoura cash last month takes him up to $260,201 in live winnings.
We caught up with the Brit in the evening cool of the Algarve where he was dining post-final table with a large party of players and PokerStars staff, including Team PokerStars Pros Daniel Negreanu, John Duthie and JP Kelly. Over the raucous celebrations of Vilamoura winner Toby Lewis and Sam Trickett's crew at the table behind us we managed to ask Sheringham if, having had such a well-decorated career as a footballer, he really appreciated what an achievement his fifth-place finish was? "I do. The calibre of players that I'm playing against, I can see it. I know that everyone travels around to play these competitions because that's where the big money is. I understand it and I'm glad I'm in there making cashes. It makes it all worthwhile."
He knows only too well that success comes through hard work and that the amount of practice directly relates to the results produced. "I don't feel that I'm playing people on an equal level. I think I'm chasing. I know the difference between a professional standard and a fun game player. Even though I take my poker seriously, I'm nowhere near where some of these boys are. Whether you're talking tennis, football, golf or poker, when you're professional, you're professional for a reason. I feel that I have to work very hard to get on any sort of level to where they are."
If anything, Sheringham is being a little hard on himself, claims Team PokerStars Pro JP Kelly. "I think he's a good solid player, more on the tight side, but he plays to win. I've sat with him in cash games and he is certainly one of the best so-called celebrity players. He plays as hard as anyone and is picking up the game quickly. He doesn't splash about too much but he's obviously got a good brain."
While Sheringham may be flattered that Kelly and co rate his game at the baize, the player that he picked out from Vilamoura as the best he faced was fourth-place finisher Sam Trickett: "Sam played as many pots as anyone I've seen play in this tournament. While I was at the table with him he probably played just over 50% of the pots. He was always involved and that's unusual from my point of view because I don't play poker like that. I don't know the game well enough to get myself in as many scenarios as he does. "Everyone plays the game differently. If we all played the game like Sam the game would be chaos, wouldn't it!"
Trickett and Sheringham were two of three players from the UK on the EPT Vilamoura final table which was won by the other Brit Toby Lewis. For some time it looked like it would be an all-English podium with the three players holding well over half the chips in play. That didn't happen, mainly due to Trickett's terrible showdown luck where he got it in nine times, more often than not as favorite, and lost eight times. As tournaments go, though, Sheringham was thrilled with where he finished: "I've had a successful tournament by coming fifth so it looks like I've done the right things. That's why I'm quite happy it wasn't televised because I'd rather people didn't see my cards. I know the way players talk about the game and scrutinize it. I don't want them knowing how I play or to give away the idiosyncrasies of my game."
Footballers and cards go together like beer and crisps (that's chips for US readers) and in their downtime between games and practice, squad members usually pick up a set of golf clubs or a deck of cards. Sheringham was certainly no different and the fact that his first strike partner, Tony Cascarino, was an avid card player sealed his fate at the baize. "It's all his fault. I've always played cards since I was little but it evolved from Kalooki into poker when I was at Millwall (football club). Cas and I have always talked over the years but the topic has changed from football to poker. He's a very good player and his knowledge of the game is far more advanced than mine because he's played a lot more than I have."
Cascarino has himself had a very successful spell in tournament poker, winning $553,054 in live events, which includes a couple of big wins and a 14th place finish at the EPT London in 2007. If Cascarino is the best (poker) player that Sheringham has played alongside, then who is the worst? "I tell you what, because people know him, James Collins. He's just signed from West Ham to Aston Villa. The worst poker player I've ever seen. Whenever he's got a hand he'd have a big grin across his face and couldn't wait to get his money in."
Sheringham isn't about to make the decision to turn 'pro' at the table, he's happy playing when he wants, where he wants at any level. And really, could you blame him? "I've got no plans in my life. I love waking up everyday thinking what do I want to do now? I'm enjoying my life since I finished playing football and long may it continue. I've enjoyed playing here in Portugal. The sun's shining, I've been by the pool, played golf and poker and had a few beers. What better way to spend your time?"