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Beyond Goals and Glory: Neymar's Fascination with Casinos and Gambling

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Jun. 10 2023, Published 6:30 p.m. ET

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Many consider the Brazilian footballer Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. the most prolific goal-scorer in his country’s history. He presently enjoys a contract until 2025 with French champions Paris Saint-Germain, where he shares the front line with Mbappe and Messi. But it’s not just Neymar’s football skills making the news recently. Thanks to a sponsorship deal with internet casino Blaze, a spotlight has been illuminating the player’s penchant for the poker table.

Passion for Poker

Apart from football, his greatest passion is poker. During the 2014 World Cup in his home country, Neymar started to dabble in playing the game. There were many similarities comparing the competitive elements he experienced playing soccer. In fact, he’s known across various poker circuits as being an aggressive, committed player. Whether shredding the football field, turning a card in a land-based casino, or when he goes to play online casino poker, his desire to win is a driving force. The following year, in fact, paparazzi spotted him in Barcelona enjoying the European Poker Tour Championships.

Throughout the early days, he tried to maintain a low profile. This was in spite of being the face of Team PokerStars and hosting regular charity games. But in 2018, after Brazil lost to Belgium in the World Cup, Neymar appeared at the Brazilian Series of Poker acting like a high roller. However, considering he started among a field of 300 semi and professional players, he still managed to finish sixth. He landed prize money of 80,000 Brazilian Reals.

The 2020 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) saw him manage a very respectable 12th place with total winnings of $6,719. Two years on, he entered Event #26: $10,000 Limit Hold'em Championship to compete at the World Series of Poker gold bracelet event. Out of a field of 92 players, Neymar wasn’t able to reach the competition's second day.

His infatuation with the game is on display thanks to a poker tattoo on his right calf. Furthermore, Neymar actually named his dog "Poker." As for his variation of choice, he enjoys Texas Hold’em, yet sometimes plays Omaha and 7 Card Stud. His favorite hands are a pair of Tens and Jack Five. It’s obvious the footballer takes playing very seriously. Neymar states there’s a similarity between football and poker. For example, how one reads the game and opponents. Also, the moment to attack. He goes on to say he used to play cards a lot while with Barcelona and often played at PSG. The player claims to be a difficult read for opponents whilst castigating himself for playing too many hands. Every time he sits down to play, his sole aim is to win – whether it’s a contest with friends, online, or in a tournament.

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Partnerships

Back in 2015, Neymar joined the world’s biggest online card room, PokerStars, as a Brand Ambassador. His biggest payday throughout the period was hitting a Royal Flush to land a pot of €17,810 which had a probability of 1:2,598,960. His contract with PokerStars hit the rocks when the UK Gambling Commission banned using his photo to promote the company. That's because someone who is under 25 years old cannot use their image to promote gaming. Neymar was 23 then, resulting in UK-facing PokerStars affiliate websites needing to remove his likeness. Then, in 2020, Neymar rejoined PokerStars to become their brand ambassador, working closely with some creative promotional projects.

In December 2022, Neymar signed a lucrative four-year deal with Curacao-licensed Casino Blaze. He’s now the online casino's official “Global Ambassador”, bringing millions of social media followers to watch his live-streaming table games via the Twitch platform. Though a number of football players play poker at online websites, they would struggle to find the same public reach with a much smaller social media footprint. But if you account his massive 201 million Instagram and 61 million Twitter followers, it’s no surprise that Blaze is happy. The commercial partnership will help increase the company's brand visibility throughout Latin America.

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Streaming Gambling Sessions

The underlying controversy regarding the promotion of gambling came into focus at the end of a recent Twitch channel stream. Neymar cursed and appeared to cry thanks to losing €1m within a single hour playing at live tables at Blaze. The live stream was broadcast online in France, a country taking a dim view of both the promotion of online gambling and online casino games. Now the soccer player finds himself being investigated by the Autoridade Nacional de Jogos (ANJ) for breaking gambling laws and encouraging young people to gamble. The theatrics turned out as nothing more than a well-planned publicity stunt designed to gain global media coverage, with zero real money lost.

Looking at the reverse side of the coin, some might argue that Neymar is an adult and perfectly able to make his own decisions. Like gamblers around the globe, including those at the best online casino in Canada, Neymar isn’t doing anything illegal playing games of chance at online websites. Take note that Blaze isn’t like some shady anonymous offshore online casinos. They possess a reputable gaming license and implement proper KYC controls to ensure minors cannot gamble.

The association with Twitch is proving a lucrative venture. Yet, there’s still the possibility that live streaming of online games may end sooner rather than later. The streaming platform's parent company Amazon, banned the unregulated crypto offshore casino Stake last October. Looking ahead, Neymar sees a full-time professional career as a poker player once it’s time to hang up his boots. "It's true I plan to turn pro. I feel very comfortable playing poker and think I can play in major tournaments after my football career is over," he said.

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