So, you’ve had a successful career playing professional soccer and the time comes for you to hang up your boots and try a new venture. Naturally, most retired sports stars usually go into a coaching or a media role for their respective trade but not if you’re Jimmy Kébé. The ex-soccer hero has taken a more unusual path since quitting the game in 2016; he is now a pro poker player.
The seemingly unfamiliar choice of career has certainly raised a few eyebrows in England, where he was a huge hit for Championship side Reading FC, but Kébé is no different from the rest of us and can’t resist a game or two. After all, that is how he goes about making his living after retirement and who knows, you might even square up against Kébé in a game of Texas Hold’em right here –https://poker.paddypower.com/poker-school/texas-holdem/.
‘Lucky I had poker’
“Poker is different from football,” Kébé told Planet Football. “When you are in sport and you play your best, usually you win, but in poker there’s still luck so you can play your best and still lose.”
Kébé will be fondly remembered by the Royals faithful after serving them well for seven seasons, but not so much by the Crystal Palace and Leeds United supporters, who barely saw Kébé in action owing to his injury problems when he represented them.
It was those niggling injury concerns that eventually forced Kébé into an earlier retirement than planned, but he already had an ace up his sleeve in terms of a new career path.
“I knew the end of my career was coming,” he says.
“I didn’t really play much in England after Reading. There was a bit at Leeds and at Crystal Palace, but I got injuries, and when you get injuries later in your career is difficult.
“I’m lucky I found… well, I didn’t find poker because I was already playing, but I am lucky I had poker. [When you retire] you lose the routine and need something else, and a lot of footballers have found it difficult after they retire if they don’t have something.”
Career to date
Kébé is still a relative newbie to the professional poker circuit, and his GPI (Global Poker Index) ranking of 565 suggests that but he has his best years ahead of him to hone his skills.Kébé has been playing professionally since 2014, when he was still technically a soccer player, and he hasn’t done too badly in terms of overall earnings.
At the time of writing, Kébé has accumulated just over $290k in career winnings and earlier this year, celebrated his highest tournament finish (2nd, WSOP International Circuit, Marrakech)which also meant his biggest pay out ($99,960).
Kébé has played in a whole host of different tournaments during his tenure as a pro, these include: The Italian Poker Open, WTP Barcelona, European Poker Tour, WTP DeepStacks and the World Series of Poker to name but a few.
It’s fair to say that Kébé is making quite the impression on the poker circuit, as 2018 and 2019 have proven his most fruitful years in terms of earnings. The former Mali international will certainly be looking to continue his strong form and really carve a successful career in the game he loves most, poker.