Gigi Buffon was the first pick on Cesare Prandelli’s list for his Euro 2012 squad. No surprise there. A Serie A regular with Parma and Juventus since making his debut as a 17-year-old back in 1995, he’s been Italy’s No 1 goalkeeper for over a decade and has passed the 100 caps mark with many more to come.
He’s vital to the Azzurri’s chances of success in Poland and Ukraine this summer after helping Juve to Lo Sucdetto this season. But he could continue his sporting career long after his football life is over – swopping the green turf for the baize of the poker tables.
Italy’s World Cup winner was introduced to poker a couple of years ago when he participated in a charity poker event. Gigi says that his love of competition is one of the reasons that he took up the game. Since then, he continued to work on his poker game and he eventually caught the eye of online poker giant, PokerStars.com.
In 2010, Gigi joined the ranks of Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker when he signed an agreement with Team PokerStars. As part of their deal, Gigi has become the brand ambassador of PokerStars' Italian market and plays in a number of online and live events particularly on the European Poker Tour.
PokerStars are delighted with the partnership. Spokesperson Barbara Beltrami says: “It’s a union that combines the qualities often found in both sport and poker – those of skill, hard work and mental concentration. It also highlights that the very best players relish the challenge, whether it’s on the football pitch or at the poker table – a passionate pursuit of victory,”
While few can beat Gigi on the football field, players will have an equal chance when they play with him online under his nickname "gigibuffon". Gigi's competitiveness is known by many football fans and that his competitive spirit will become a huge factor in his success at poker.
Italy, who leave for Poland on June 5, have two friendlies lined up against Luxembourg on May 29 and June 1 against Russia. Buffon then will head the Azzurri challenge against Spain (June 10), Croatia (June 14) and Republic of Ireland (June 18). Football fans will be hoping he won’t have time to concentrate on his poker until after the Final in Kiev on July 1.